Living Without Air-Conditioning Can Save Big Bucks This Summer

by Linsey Knerl on 18 June 2007 66 comments

 Living in 90 degree weather with over 70 percent humidity the past few days has not been easy here in rural Nebraska. Hearing others complain about it only makes it worse -- especially knowing that they probably have air-conditioning. My family and I have gone without it the past two summers, and I have learned a thing or two about foregoing a very expensive luxury that most people really can live without.

Why would anyone want to go without the AC? Well, it is becoming more costly each year, and some people really can't afford it. Many just choose not to. Think of all that extra electric bill money put towards vacation, credit card debt, or even a nice vacation!

The key to surviving hot, sticky summers without cool air really has been about adjustment. When I am home all day, taking care of my children, working out in the yard, and not going into places with air-conditioning, I don't even notice much how hot it can get. Your body adjusts to a certain level of heat, and it does what it can to keep you cool. Drinking plenty of liquids, staying in the shade, and avoiding the outdoors during the hottest hours are key to staying safe. Do not go into places with air-conditioning if you can help it, and don't run it in your vehicle. You won't miss what you can't experience. Remember back in the 70's when almost no one had air-conditioning? We survived then, and we can now.

If you are diligent about taking steps every day to keep your house cool, it is possible to maintain a nightime low temperature during most of the daytime hours. First thing in the morning, shut up the house by closing all windows and doors. Cover every window with a shade or heavy drape (heavy quilts work nicely, too!) If you have control over your outside landscaping, look into planting trees or shrubs that will product shade onto the sunniest sides of your home.

Use heat and electricity sparingly in your home during the day. Cook outside if possible (food tastes better on the BBQ anyway.) Dry clothes outside on the line, and run a fan or vent while showering. Keep lights turned off in rooms you aren't using. Use ceiling fans in a counter-clockwise direction to cool rooms easily.

Once the sun goes down, open all windows to let in the cool air. Certain rooms will be cooler due to airflow and insulation, and these are the best rooms to sleep in. My family likes to sleep in the living room because it has the best night breeze. The children call it "camping" and it really has been a fun experience.

Because of our decision to go without air-conditioning, we can expect to save $65-150 a month on our electric bill. With a little dedication and cooperation from everyone in your household, you can too!

 

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Andrea Karim's picture

Most people in Seattle don't have AC, and that's because we only get a few scorching days every year. Last year, I toyed with the idea of buying an AC unit, but I hate the clammy feeling they give everything. I settled for some sexy ceiling fans and sleeping in the buff. MUCH more frugal. Plus, Will and I apparently have a sort of competition to see who can be more productive naked.

I don't know what's wrong with us. Thank god we live a few states apart or there'd be some sort of serious problem.

Guest's picture
Bethany

Same here in Portland , Oregon, we don't usually have scorching days in summer. However, this year, we have a hotter than normal summer. Even it s too warm for my taste, I have found a way to keep my house cool without an air conditioner. I bought a window fan aside from the two ceiling fans I already own. The window fan really works wonder for me. I always keep every 2nd floor window open to let in the cool breeze during the night.

Guest's picture
Guest

My family and I lived without air conditioning for two Mississippi summers. One trick we used was to spray ourselves and our night clothes with a fine mist of water before going to bed. Then we lay under a ceiling fan. As the moving air evaporated the water, we became much cooler and thus were able to fall asleep comfortably.

Guest's picture
Guest

OMG I am from Mississippi why would you punish yourself by not using a/c. Are you poor? Mississippi has brutal Summers I cannot even imagine going without it.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have to agree with the other reply, and I also live in Mississippi. I just returned from spending three days with my girlfriends family in interior Mexico and I loved living without air conditioner. But their house was under a huge shade tree and had tiny windows. I don't believe most houses in America are built with consideration to how they will heat/cool because its assumed that the temperature will be controlled. There are also other factors to consider: Will the heat make your refrigerator break down more quickly? Will sweating on your mattress make it gross and yellow in a couple of years? I would love to live a nice small house under a shade tree with strategically placed windows, but unfortunately, that isn't the case.

Will Chen's picture

I put wet t-shirts into the freezer and wear them throughout the day.  =)

Guest's picture
Nomi

We don't use air conditioning at our home here in Spain either. It can get really really hot in the summer.

One thing I do is take hot showers. It doesn't really make sense, but once you get out of the shower, you feel fresh for a few hours.

Another thing I do is drink hot coffee or tea. If my insides are hotter than my outsides, it will feel cooler, right? My hubby tells me that's what the Arabs do and I figure they are smarter than me about these things than I am.

Guest's picture

Sorry, but I don't buy the hot showers/drinks thing. When I took hot showers here in FL (tropical-like climate) I would get out of the shower and immediately start to sweat...and would never get dry! Now I take lukewarm showers and have NO problems. Same thing pertaining to beverages...once I drink something hot I'm sweating for the next hour.

Andrea Karim's picture

Nomi, I've met a lot of people who subscribe to that thinking. Part of it has to do with sweating a bit, as part of your body's own cooling system.

Where I grew up, we would occasionally use swamp coolers on the really hot nights where even sleeping naked wasn't helping. Those were nice, and cheaper than air conditioning.

Guest's picture
Cheryl

Yeah.....I live on the west coast of Florida. No ocean breeze. Humidity can get higher than the outside temps. Living without A/C is not an option. I do, however, keep it at a reasonable setting, 78 when I am home, and bump it up when I am gone for the day, turn if OFF when I am leaving for days. I have ceiling fans in every room, keeps the air circulating...but to not have it at all, in a condo with windows on only one side, so I do not get any cross breeze..nope. Not happening. In fact, the only time we get a breeze in the summer is when there is a Hurricane!

Guest's picture
Guest

I am also on the west coast of FL and our AC has been out on and off since AUGUST (aka hell in FL). Now the AC guys came back for the 4th time since August....and I overheard them talkin about 700 bucks or something and some sort of leak. Well, apparently our landlord has to give approval of course, which could take days. We live in a small townhouse with all bedrooms upstairs and windows which when open, have a slot where bugs, snakes (we have a lot of black racers) and lizards can get into. TO top it off, my 6 year old has the stomach flu and my 4yr old has a fever...and I am tapering off of my medication from a spinal surgery I just had. I had to stay on the medication for much longer than expected due to complications and therefore, my body got physically addicted even though I was not abusing it. So that...on top of my kids being sick..My husband being at work (lucky him w AC!!) ...this is very miserable. So I agree with you Cheryl....no AC in FL...no way! Not for me at least!

Guest's picture
Guest

I know that it's pricey but I have five animals and there is no way I'm going to let them get that hot. Even when the fan is just on, they are miserable on the hardwood floor panting away. I know that panting is what they do but it's just easier for everyone to have the AC on when it's 90 some degrees out with no breeze. I think some things you can't be frugal on at least for this one for me and my family.

Guest's picture
funkright

It acts as an AC as well, saves you money.

Bob B.'s picture
Bob B.

I'm ususally all about the frugal tips here, but this one seems a bit extreme to me. I just don't think the interruption to one's life is worth the money saved; having to have the whole family sleep in the living room, cook on a campfire, and put blackout curtains on all the windows for four months or longer just seems to be too much of an interruption to me. (Not to mention, it kills one of my favorite electricity savers: Don't use electric lights when free sunlight is coming through the windows; keeps Seasonal Affective Disorder at bay too.) I don't have kids, but what are those who do supposed to tell company when they come over to find the windows bricked up, the living room unusable because of sleeping kids, and the whole family subsisting on hot dogs and potato salad? I think I'd rather be able to enjoy life during those four months, acutally use my furniture, windows, and kitchen, and not have my neighbors and friends think I've become a survivalist. More power to those of you who can do this, but for me, I think I think the $300 spent on summer air conditioning is money well spent.

Guest's picture
Marie

Bob B:
I totally agree with you on this one, and I couldnt have said it better. I would pay the $3-500 gladly so that I can live normally and comfortably.

That being said: These are some good tips, I dont turn my air on until it is close to 90 anyway- so some of these tips are helpful for the more mild days.

Marie from Cleveland :)

Guest's picture
Guest

Couldn't have said it better myself, turn your life upside down to save a few dollars on A/C? How about not blowing drying or straightening your hair since you work from home since those two appliances use massive amounts of electricity. Or your husband driving an economy car (or dirt bike) instead of a pickup to work? If you really want to save the environment and money you could use cloth diapers on your kids, too! You could probably run an A/C for 1000 years and have less of a foot print than the plastic diapers on a kid until their potty trained. Everyone sleeping in the living room?! Wow. My Sister has a house that was built in 1900 (farm style) and her and her husband have a H.E. A/C and there bill is always below $200 and we live in Kansas and they set there thermostat at like 75. Ugh even the thought of sitting (not moving) inside and sweating your arm's sticking to leather furniture! I sweat extremely easily (I'm within a healthy BMI btw) and have since I was a kid, can't stand it (okay outside but not inside). I once visited some friends and if it wouldn't have been an hours drive home and I had not been drinking I would have gone home verses staying with them, it was so incredibly HOT in there apartment. I remember sitting still and sweat rolling down my face, ugh! If you want to save money do it the other way, I set it at 63 in the winter! It just has to be warm enough to keep my hands from going numb so I can use the computer!

Guest's picture
Guest

Both my mother and my ex-wife were not big fans of air conditioning (you could say they weren't too hot on the idea). When I was a kid, we fortunately lived near one of the Great Lakes and we had a summer room that was screened in on three sides (the other side was connected to the house) and I used to go out there to sleep, because it was too hot to sleep anywhere else in the house. When I got older, having air conditioning became real important to me; it was something I felt I had been deprived of as a child (even though few people had it back then).

But when my kids were small, we lived in the far north (near the Canadian border), where it rarely got above 85 degrees even in middle of summer (we had a few 90 degree days one year and the local paper reported it as if it were hot news). So we didn't have air conditioning at all for most of that time (I think I purchased a small window unit during the aforementioned "heat wave", over the protests of my ex-wife, but that only cooled the living room and kitchen, not the bedrooms). So today, my oldest son keeps the temperature in his home around 60 degrees year 'round, and my youngest is complaining about an apartment he moved into last winter because it has no A/C (didn't seem important at the time he moved, but it does now), and he will probably buy a window unit. I also noticed that when the kids were younger, they seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time during the summer playing in the home of friends who had A/C, and seemed rather cool on the idea of playing outside more, or spending more time at home.

My point being that you may think you are doing your kids a favor by teaching them to live without A/C, but when they grow up they may be the ones that keep their homes colder than anyone else. I'm the same way; I have no tolerance at all for summer heat (particularly on humid days) and I'll bet you won't have as much tolerance as you get older, either. I'm not saying that one shouldn't try to conserve energy, and I like the heat pump idea, but you can only take things so far. If you become too much of an anti A/C fanatic, you may find that when your kids grow up, they keep their houses cold enough that penguins would feel right at home (I have asked my son if he's raising them in his basement!)

Also, bear in mind that with most cars, fuel costs will be higher when you run them with the windows open (because open windows destroy the aerodynamic properties of the car, or to put it another way, they create more wind resistance), and significantly lower with the windows shut and the A/C on - and I sure hope you aren't making your kids ride in a closed-up car with no A/C on 90 degree days!

So what you call an "expensive luxury" a lot of us think of as worthwhile for our comfort. There are a lot of costly entertainment options that I'll forgo (like cable and movies) but no way am I going to go through the summer months without A/C, even though my mother still hates it on all but the hottest days (she was born and raised in the deep south).

P.S. The bad puns were inserted by my evil twin. ;)

Linsey Knerl's picture

I am thrilled at all the reponses to my view on A/C.  Now don't get me wrong, I am not an anti-AC fanatic!  I am simply in a 100-year old farm house with little resources to put in any kind of long-term cooling solution.  We have had to make it work for us, and I wanted to encourage others who may have to go without.  My kids are little, and they choose to play all day outside, so coming inside to even an uncooled house is a relief after a hard day of playing in the dirt.   Living in a farming community, it is not at all uncommon to see people without AC.  Alot of our businesses do use swamp coolers, and they work rather nicely.   

My dream is to one day own a heat pump.  The tax rebates are nice on these, and they also help with heating costs.  (Just wait until this fall, when I write my article on heating my home with a corn-stove!) 

In the meantime, we'll make the best of our current situation.  Isn't that what Wise Bread is all about?  Stay Cool! 

 

Linsey Knerl

Andrea Karim's picture

If you live in a sweltering climate, then by all means, do what you need to do in order to feel comfortable. But if you're like me and you live in a milder climate with only a few really hot days, well, it pays to just suck it up.

Wise Bread's intention is to figure out smart ways to save - for some families, this can mean using ceiling fans and cooking outdoors for a few weeks out of the year. But no one here is suggesting that anyone live in unhealthy conditions. Especially the elderly or frail - heat can be dangerous. These are just suggestions - not fatwas.

Guest's picture
AMMB

No way I'm giving up my a/c. Phoenix is HOT in the summer & miserably muggy during what's left of our biannual monsoon seasons.

However, I miss the heck outta the heat pump & programmable thermostat we had when I was still married to my ex. The savings on that unit were quite noticeable and now that we're divorced help him make the mortgage (in addition to keeping it cool when our son visits)

The apartment complex my current husband & I live in has no heat pump and prohibits installing of programmable thermostats. We keep our preferred comfort zone's 75 in summer affordable by not running the heater in the winter as it doesn't get cold enough to justify the expense.

Guest's picture
Carmen

I lived in Cairns (in tropical, northern Australia) for a while and had no air-conditioning. The climate in Cairns is similar to Florida and I adapted to the heat and humidity better than I expected. Making good use of ceiling fans and ventilation was essential to stay comfortable - as well as wearing cool clothes.

The house I lived in was partially shaded and had a big deck that was well protected by large trees. I spent a lot of time out on the deck in the breeze.

There are some companies in Australia that are working on good tropical house design - that doesn't require air conditioning - see here for example: http://www.solarhouseday.com/examples/nt01.html (I am not associated with them in any way, I just like what they're doing)

Bob B.'s picture
Bob B.

"Also, bear in mind that with most cars, fuel costs will be higher when you run them with the windows open (because open windows destroy the aerodynamic properties of the car, or to put it another way, they create more wind resistance), and significantly lower with the windows shut and the A/C on"

Actually, that isn't entirely true. I'm a big MythBuster's fan, and they tested this one in Season 2 (and again later, with the same results). The AC is only more efficient if you are traveling over 50 MPH; at speeds under 50 MPH (most city driving) turning off the AC and rolling down the windows is more efficient. I'm pretty sure the test was on 5 gallons of gas and the windows-down vehicle managed 15 extra miles, which would end up at a gain of 3 miles per gallon for leaving the windows down.

Guest's picture
Guest

"(Just wait until this fall, when I write my article on heating my home with a corn-stove!)"

Yikes! With the price of corn per bushel - even that's gonna hurt this year.

Guest's picture
Guest

"The AC is only more efficient if you are traveling over 50 MPH; at speeds under 50 MPH (most city driving) turning off the AC and rolling down the windows is more efficient."

Shhhh, don't tell people that, they will be doing 50 in a 35 MPH zone just to justify running the A/C! ;-)

The trouble is that inside a city is where you most often really need the A/C, since cities often tend to be 10 to 15 degrees warmer than the surrounding rural areas (depending on what percentage of the city has been built on and/or paved over). Of course, if you are riding alone then feel free to swelter in the heat if you like, but if you have passengers then you have to consider that not everyone may have the same heat tolerance that you do.

There are two types of parents that really worry me, those that subject their kids to the overheated interior of a car (whether moving or parked), and those that smoke in a car when there are children present. Of course, smoking is probably the very worst thing you can do for your financial situation (literally it can be the difference between a family making it or not making it), so I doubt there are many smokers in this crowd, but it always really ticks me off to see an adult smoking inside a closed car with kids riding inside.

Guest's picture
Guest

One thing important to remember about car A/C is that it must be used at least once per week or it will start to fail. The compressor has seals around the shaft that the belt drives. Also the hose joints are sealed by rubber O-rings. The A/C also contains an oil charge. When the A/C is running this oil is circulated through the system to keep the seals moist. Long periods of not running the A/C will allow these seals to dry out and the freon will leak out. Then the A/C will not work when you REALLY need it. The repairs will be quite expensive.

Guest's picture
zoom

Just about everybody here has A/C, even if they only use it in July and August. I don't have A/C because I'm tough and cheap. On the most brutally hot and humid days (and really, it's the humidity, not the heat, that beats you down), I just take my lawn chair and park myself in the frozen food aisle of the Superstore.

Guest's picture
Jessica

I live in Houston. Yeah, land of not just heat, but humidity. It's been pretty nasty here, but I've been doing pretty well without the AC.

It's so hot here that my AC unit, on full blast, can't keep the house cooler than 81 or 82 most days anyway, so I gave up on trying to make it work so hard. Now, I just bump the thermostat up to 82, so it only comes on for about an hour total every day. I could probably handle 83 or higher, but my boyfriend's limit is 82. Anyway, by setting it so high, we get basically the same effect for a LOT less money.

It's surprisingly comfortable. We have lots of overhead fans and I keep a tabletop fan on my desk in case I need it. I wear skirts and shorts pretty much every day, and I never sweat while I'm inside. I work at home, so I'm just sitting at the computer during the heat of the day anyway. Basically, I just don't move around a lot. Laundry, cooking, cleaning, Wii playing and other more active stuff just gets put off until the evening when it's naturally cooler.

The really strange thing is, I'm losing weight, despite being sedentary most of the day. I think it's because my body has to work harder to regulate temperature. Either way, things are working out and I think it's pretty cool (no pun intended). Other Houstonians, though, might think we're insane.

Guest's picture

Thanks for the ideas! I also like taking an ice cold shower right before going to bed and using window fans to bring in the cool breeze from outside - if there is one.

Guest's picture
vh

Probably not in southern Arizona... Summer has just begun, and it was 112 in the shade on my back porch today. July 4 is supposed to hit something between 115 and 120 degrees, and weather gurus are predicting at least one 122-degree day this summer: Global Warming meets The Heat Island!

That said, it would sure help if new houses in Arizona were built as they were before the advent of air-conditioning. I spent 15 years in a wonderful old house that was built in 1929...it had a north-south exposure, 15- and 20-foot-high ceilings, a shaded front atrium that kept the worst of the heat off the front of the living structure, and north- and south-end doors and windows designed to let air flow through the house even when hardly a breath was stirring. The interior was comfortable until temperatures exceeded 100 degrees.

If a house is built intelligently you shouldn't need to use the air conditioner on a 90-degree day.

Guest's picture
Guest

This is the first summer we are going without AC and of course we've had near record-breaking temperatures -- 107 degrees in Reno. However, I made this decision becase of our power company -- we had been on an equalized bill-payment plan -- when it came to re-adjust, we had a balance of nearly $1,000 due. Too much for a family that was already doing its best to cut back. We want to get this balance paid off and we are doing that by keeping our power bills to about $75 a month.

It's not a bad thing though.

You know, people got along without air-condition for most of the existence of humanity. That's at least 12,000 years. We are now at a point where people will eventually be forced to make change - when we will hit peak oil. Plus, who wants to contribute to the tearing up of our finite land resources by insisting they need to run the AC. Sure, there are some days when it's needed, but you've got to take a look at your imprint. We would be running the AC if we didn't have bills to pay off but it would not be because of the all-the-time because-we-can attitue.

Entitlement will screw you and your progeny in the end when you find a striking inability to adjust and to adapt simply because you've never believed in resourcefulness, discipline and the future.

Guest's picture
ammbd

I grew up spending time both here in Phoenix & up in Lansing. Here, the AC only came on during the hottest days that the swamp cooler couldn't touch & up there, there was only a window unit in the living room.

I have to say, I keep the AC cold as I hated essentially cooking every year. Didn't matter where summers were spent - roasted is how I felt.

I'll gladly cut everything but the essentials as needed however AC is an essential to me :)

Guest's picture
Guest

Because I have respiratory issues and allergies, I find it hard to live without air conditioning. We didn't have it when I was a kid and I used to GASP for a breath of air, especially when it was humid. How about standing in front of an open refrigerator, trying to breath? Well, with the economy in the tank, my husband unemployed and energy costs through the roof, we are trying to cut down on AC use. It's not comfortable, but we are trying to get use to our current climate ( economical and temeperature! ) My electric bill last summer was over $800, just for August ( we live in New Jersey. ) This will NOT be the case this year!

Guest's picture
Dennis

The experiment I describe on my blog enabled me to cool the house much faster, using less electricity.

You are right about water. Evaporation of water can cool the air by over 6 degrees by absorbing latent heat.

It also makes your air conditioning more efficient.

Guest's picture
Elizabeth

I've cut back on using AC, but I don't think it's necessary to have an all or nothing approach. I live in a one-bedroom apartment in Northern VA with lots of windows and little, if any, direct sunlight. When I'm home I open all the windows and run the ceiling fan in my bedroom. I also use a column fan to cool the living room. I close all the windows when I leave and run the AC to keep the apartment at about 80 degrees. I also have a room thermometer that I use to monitor the temperature in the apartment.

I have two Louisiana cats, one of which is a shaggy, long-haired Maine Coon mix. Both of them find their own ways to deal with warm temperatures. Sometimes I find my short-haired brown tabby hanging out in the bathtub or relaxing on the kitchen floor where it's cool.The MC mix hangs out under the bed. I keep plenty of cool water around at all times and brush them. Sometimes I even wet down a paper towel and rub them with it - the water evaporates and cools their skin. They love it!

Linsey Knerl's picture

with most people that you don't have to go totally A/C free.  For some folks, it is too expensive, and the tips I have provided should help.  For others, central air in a large home (like ours) is just impractical, so it's easier to try to cool one room and use the tips on the rest of the house.

We did just recently buy a small energy-efficient portable A/C for very hot days.  We really haven't had to use it much yet.  We thought it would come in handy for when we had guests over, as most people aren't used to not having it, and it wouldn't make us very a good host/hostess to have them subjected to our non A/C ways.  I admit, that having it on for the hottest hour of the day on a few days has helped my allergies.

Whatever works is best for you and your family.  If you use it sparingly, or only when you REALLY have to, you can see tremendous savings!  And if you choose not to use it at all, more money to ya!

Linsey 

Guest's picture
Andrea

People used to go year round without AC, but I think part of the reason was1) housing that was suitable to the location and to the climate, and 2) attitude.

In many areas now, housing is not built according to climate, but to a preplanned idea of what a house should be. Or it is built to maximize density. In either case, houses are hotter than they might otherwise be.

We alos expect to be comfortable no matter what the climate is outside!

that said, I do run my AC, but mostly to quell the humidity. I grew up in Texas, in both high humidity (60-90%) and lower humidity (40%) areas. Even then, in the 60s, most people had AC. Without AC in high humidity areas, there was mildew *everywhere,* which may be why my allergies are bad now. Without AC in lower humidity areas ....well, let's just say I really found the comments about "breezes" and "cool night air" amusing. It cooled down at night, all right--to 85 degrees by 3 am. (On the other hand, I have since lived, blissfully but alas, briefly, in Eastern Washington State, where there were only three weeks of hot weather at least by my standards, and where there *were* breezes and cool nights, and where I never ran my window unit.) Down here I keep the house around 85 during the day. It's the night where I am spendthrift, pshing it down to 79 at night or even 76, if I am sick.

One can survive, and do quite well without AC. But in southern locations there is a REASON for long afternoon siestas and concomitant late night dinners!

Guest's picture
Lizzie Tish

my family has never had it and it is currently 98 degrees here with 90 % humidity. just dress light, use a ceiling fan, and take cold showers...
I hate when i go to the store or movies and they have AC on!

People complain about cold temps all winter
so why recreate winter during summer with AC!

Guest's picture
Bob from Houston

It's still 83 degrees at midnight here. I work so that I can have refrigerated air. If I didn't have A/C, why would I bother having a house? I might as well just live in the yard.

Guest's picture
laprns

It is over 110 degrees right now in Central Louisiana. Many elderly and or sick individuals are dying from heat exposure as well as their pets. These people are not foregoing ac just to prove they are better able to "tough it out". For many it is a matter of paying for prescriptions or electricity. Those who do have power use fans and that seems to kill them quicker. If this weather is hot enough to kill people then you are probably not being sensible. In the 70's it used to get all the way up to 88 and my parents would remark that it was hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. It is that hot in the morning now. Use sense people.

Guest's picture
Guest

It's easy to keep the air conditioning off this year. But, let's start talking about heat now!

We have found a way to get solar water heaters for free using the proper incentives in Maryland.

Too bad it isn't this easy to put in a geothermal loop for air conditioning.

Guest's picture
Nichole

I grew up in a house without A/C for over 15 years. We had to because it was just too expensive. What's the point anyhow? We were always outside playing, sometimes in a little wading pool to keep cool. Summertime is not the time to be inside!

When night fell, we always used box fans to cool off the bedrooms. It made sleeping way more than pleasant.

That said, even now that I live on my own, I do without the A/C. Over the course of the summer I save about $400 on my electric bill which is mighty fine to me. Plus it's my little way of helping the environment.

So yes! Yes, it is possible to live without A/C! People today are just spoiled on certain things, that's all.

Guest's picture
Guest

There were two modern conveniences that we did not have put in our house when it was built 15 years ago -- a dishwasher and air conditioning.

We put the dishwasher in a few years ago when we were about to bring out child home.

I am working right now on licensing as a family day care so that I continue to care for our son at home while my husband looks for work (he lost his job in the downturn) and the licensing agency requires that you have a cooling plan for when temperatures exceed 85 degrees.

We will convert one of the windows in the study to a slider and put in a room air conditioner that exhausts onto the shady side of the house. The room is about 16x12 and I figure that the four of us (me, hubby, son, and my 78-year-old mother who lives with us) can all make palettes on the floor (alright, we'll use a cot to raise up the bed for Mom if the night is really sweltering).

There are probably 4-5 days per summer in southern Michigan where this would be a real relief.

We have a full basement and in addition to closing and opening the windows and using fans as Linsey described, we run the blower during the day to further circulate the air (and the basement air is cooler when it first comes up). We also use box fans for spot relief. We live about 7 minutes from a lake, and walking down for a quick dip is another cooling option.

Before deciding to do the child care thing (and worrying that fans would not be adequate cooling for little bodies whose sweat glands are not yet operating on a real scorcher), I was looking into a whole house fan and cupolas. Still may do those things some day.

Guest's picture
Guest

One other thing about humidity -- in preparation for our child care business, we had to get a radon test & found that we have radon (a problem in almost all parts of the country), which we are required to fix in order to get licensed.

One of the first things they will do is seal the sump pump to prevent the gas from entering there. They will also run an exhaust pipe with a continuously circulating fan from below the foundation out to above the roof line.

The contractor who is doing the work told us that this solves the problem with basement humidity for most people and that there are parts of the country where people use the system to solve basement humidity problems rather than radon problems.

It will be interesting to see what it does for us.

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I like peas

...Or just compromise. Turn your thermostat up to 80. 80 is actually a very comfortable temperature. The AC will run MUCH less but will keep the humidity down when it does. During the particularly hot months we tend to keep it 85. And yes...at night the AC is off and the windows are open.

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this is such an interesting article. what a great read.

Guest's picture

This is a good idear,Once the sun goes down, open all windows to let in the cool air. Certain rooms will be cooler due to airflow and insulation, and these are the best rooms to sleep in. My family likes to sleep in the living room because it has the best night breeze.
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Guest

A/C is not a luxury - it is a necessity just like heat is necessary during the cold winter months. When temps soar into the 80s & above & are coupled w/high humidity, I have trouble breathing. I've also had heatstroke. People & pets can die from the heat. Also, health issues aside, why would anyone want to go around all sticky & sweaty? Who wants to smell other people's sweat? Gross.

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Guest

I live in southeast Georgia and because of the economical situation and my unemployment as of present, I have been going without using the air at all this year. It gets very hot here and very humid as well but am trying to finfd ways to keep comfortable thru this sweltering heat. I use a dehumidifier to take out the moisture in the air and then have box fans and ceiling fans thru out the house. AT night, I open the bedroom window when humidity and heat is lower and have it blow in the window on me. The only thing I worry about is getting mold and mildew in my house. Anyone have any other suggestions to stay cooler? I simply can not affordd to use the air at all...

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Guest

I live in New Jersey where it gets hot and humid enough to require A/C, at least during the afternoon. On the warmer nights when it only drops between 65-70 F (which is cool compared to say Florida), it is still warm to open up the windows. Plus it doesn't get that "cool" until maybe 3 or 4 in the morning, several hours after bed time.

With that said however, I do try to use the A/C sparingly. Often I don't turn it on until late afternoon or early evening and I usually turn it off before bed and switch to the ceiling fan. Thankfully I'm far enough north to get the occasional break from the heat and humidity where I won't need to have the A/C on for a few days. On those days I leave the windows open for fresh air and just use the ceiling fans if necessary.

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Guest

65 - 70 degrees? Time to turn on the heater!! haha! from south louisiana

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My family and I lived without air conditioning for two Mississippi summers. One trick we used was to spray ourselves and our night clothes with a fine mist of water before going to bed. Then we lay under a ceiling fan

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Miriam

This was an interesting article, and had some good points. However, the attempt to apply it across the board to everyone is unfortunate. The world has changed since 1700, and people can now live anywhere in the world. My family is from Northern Europe originally (think Scandanavia). Not all of us have a problem with the heat, but a number of us do. By problem I mean that we can easily get heat stroke just cooking–even in an air conditioned home. My pale, red-haired little niece develops a fever, hives and spends the night vomiting when she gets just a little overheated. It's happened to her even going from the house to the car (and waiting for it to cool down) on a 100+ day. This is not a problem of getting used to the heat–I've been living in the tropics for years.

Additionally, while it's true that many families could do as you have done, many cannot choose to avoid going out at the hottest times of the day or find shady trees nearby. Everyone sleeping in the living room is not a viable option for every family, and I think it's common knowledge by now that people do not get good sleep when they're hot–even when they do sleep fine they dream harder and get lest quality rest. Not everyone can choose that kind of lifestyle every summer.

I appreciate your thoughts–but it's not something everyone can do with a little cooperation and dedication.

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Guest

Why would you refuse to go to a place with air conditioning? That's not green at all. Your local Starbucks is going to be an igloo whether you patronize the place or not. Take your kindle or labtop, spend $2 on a small drink, find a cozy chair and become king of a wondrous ice palace for a couple hours. Your swampy uncomfortable house will be there when you get back.

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It's not really feasible to go without A/C in Florida in the summer. But when I moved here from VA almost 6 years ago, I couldn't understand why it was so hot in all the homes and stores. Then I got my first electric bill! Up north, it's common to keep your thermostat on 70 degrees during the summer, but in FL you'll not only go broke but you'll be very uncomfortable when you go outside or even inside other buildings if you do that. We had to slowly adjust our bodies to keeping the thermostat on 78. We did this by increasing the temp one degree at a time, running fans as you suggested, taking luke-warm instead of hot showers, and keeping the blinds closed during the day. Taking a slow approach and gradually introducing your body to less A/C is very possible, even for a very hot-natured person like me!

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Guest

We're just now getting a break from the sweltering "nights" not to mention the heat index being in the triple digits in the daytime. Lots of folks run the A/C even in the winter months in the region where I live because of the heat/humidity. Also, people with certain health problems like high blood pressure, asthma, and heart patients would DIE, or at least get very sick in the kind of heat we have been having. My husband is obsessively frugal, and even he wouldn't go for this. He works out in the heat, sometimes on top of houses or doing masonry work and even though he drinks plenty of fluids, he gets exhausted from the pounding heat. Having the A/C to cool him down when he comes inside is a blessing. And I do a lot of canning, freezing, and cooking veggies from the garden, and have to have the A/c to combat the heat the stove/oven puts off. I don't consider it a luxury, but a requirement for my health, not to mention my sanity! LOL

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happylady

No thanks. I would not want to be without air conditioning. The way houses are built anymore it is way too hard to get air circulating and cross-ventilation. I would rather not go back to the stone ages, if we did we might as well live in a mud hut, burn buffalo dung and die at the age of 40.

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Guest

Life without air conditioning in Florida is possible. My house has electricity issues, so the air conditioning goes down for days at a time. We are still alive.

In the rank of things, I would cut air conditioning to save money if it was my choice. However, I live under my parents' roof and they are not as thrifty as me. Sometimes the things I do to save money scare them a little. If I get an apartment near university, maybe I could convince my roommate to cut the air conditioning to save money (college is expensive). Sadly, many of those roommates do not exist.

I realize that no air conditioning seems crazy in Florida's subtropical climate, but keep in mind that I am a healthy individual with no breathing problems. My skin breaks out in rashes when the humidity drops to what people in the north would consider reasonable levels. After a few days in Florida's heat wave, my body completely adapts. The key is drinking lots of water throughout the day, and cool showers.

I would also contest the point that heat makes it hard to sleep. For some reason, when the heat goes up, I get more and better sleep.

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Guest

I've lived in rural Nebraska for 4 years now. Before that I lived in Chicago. In my 40 years I have never had central air conditioning. My husband and I are not fans of air conditioning. However during muggy and sunny heat waves I run the air conditioner for 2-3 hours max during the day and keep the curtains and windows shut until the sun shifts. It is possible to live without a/c. We will be moving to Arizona soon, Phoenix and our goal is to run the air conditioner as little as possible. I'm am looking forward to getting away for the humidity.

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Guest

I live without air-conditioning here in Houston, Texas. Our summer, especially in august, are 100+ degrees with 100% humidity, so i honestly feel like it is possible in any environment to live without the a/c. I wont sit here and say how easy or comfortable it is in the summer, because honestly the summers are hard to deal with, and the heat is un-avoidable, especially between about noon and three or four, but all the same its live-able. The heat of the day makes our 85 degree nights a joy, theres no need to cover up during the night, i can essentially sleep anywhere i want in the house, i occasionally will sleep on my porch if its a beautiful night. I applaud anyone who is willing to go without a/c. Although i understand that especially for the elderly or the very young a/c may be a better bet, especially if they cannot remember to drink enough fluids or are not able to do so for themselves.

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Guest

I grew up spending the summers on my grandfathers dairy farm in North Carolina. No air conditioning. There were some huge oak trees that gave some nice shade and the house didn't have gutters so no leaf issues. I never remember suffering from the heat. We sort of planned around it. We got up around 3am for the first milking of the day. We were done with that by breakfast time. We ate a cold cereal breakfast and then went back to the barn to scrub everything down. We then worked in the fields till the heat of the day when we would come in for a break (mostly nap).

We went back out about 4pm to start the process for the second milking of the day. We would take a dinner and then work till about 9pm, or when ever we got things wrapped up.

I also backpacked a lot in my younger days and we camped a whole bunch in the summer. What I remember was not the heat but, the terrible thirst from hiking in the heat of the day. I learned to tie a gallon jug of water to my pack frame. Not as pretty as yuppie bottles but, far more effective.

I think my standards for what was comfortable were different then. In the hottest part of the hottest day I would be happy under a big shade tree.

Then, when I enlisted in the Air Force we did basic training at Lackland AFB in Texas. Everything there was seriously air conditioned. But, from there I went to Shepard AFB in Texas and the dorms weren't air conditioned. I got there in the first of August and it was an adjustment to be sure. I remember how miserable it could be trying to sleep at night in the North Texas heat in August. Eventually I would just doze off and wake up covered in sweat.

My tolerance for heat is still pretty good but, I'm easily lured by the sweet siren song of cold air on a hot day.

Our central air is out right now. Long story. We got a new system about six years ago and it is a lemon that has been repaired twice a year since new. Junk. I bought a 12,000 BTU window unit to get us through till we get this junk replaced or fixed again (only to break on the hottest day of the year..again). But, I'm the whimp. My wife likes it kinda hot. If the house is 85 degrees that's fine with her.

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Guest

Just an update. I fixed the central air myself. It had a "tight" compressor so I added a 5-2-1 hard start kit and now it works great (and has most of the summer). It was good and hot before I got it fixed. Nevertheless, we kept it turned up pretty high all summer, 80 during the day and 78 at night. It's now been off for weeks since the temperature has never gone over the low eighties. We just let the window unit run at 78 to keep the dogs happy and safe and turn the central air off. I'll run it one more time this year so it doesn't go too long without running as I'll need it next year.

Anyway, it was bloody hot here for a few weeks this summer. My comfort range is pretty big as I condition myself for heat in the summer and cold in the winter but, relentless heat wears on you after a while.

If I had no other option I would at least get a cheap window unit at Walmart and cool a small space to sleep in.

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Johnny Florida.

Try living in Florida without AC. It is a death sentence.

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Tony

I live in Florida (near Orlando) in an old cracker house. It has an ancient and extremely inefficient AC unit. Because I'm kind of poor right now, I've been keeping it off for the most part. Some days I leave it off completely. Others I set the temp at 86. This time of year in Florida, it's about 90 degrees every day. During August, it gets just plain crazy. It's doable, but you have to know how to cool down or else you start thinking funny. Ceiling fans and any other fan help a lot. Also helps to freeze a pan of water and set it in front of the pan. Don't do jumping jacks in the house during the heat of the day. Drink cold things. Don't use the oven. Take cold showers. Use common sense.

Most houses here in FL do have some sort of AC unit, whether central or window unit. Obviously if you have some sort of medical issue, put the AC on. Nobody around here keeps it at 72 though. That's crazy. 78 is the lowest you should go, IMO. For me, 85/86 is fine, 84 is a treat. You can always head to the library or a coffee shop or wherever if you start broiling. Personally, I think people are nuts if they say 78 is too hot for them. And this coming from someone who grew up in Wisconsin. LOL! Oh that house didn't have AC at all.

I actually used to live in India. I didn't have AC there either, and it got crazy hot. Think: Oven. Still alive and flourishing. You just have to know how to conduct yourselves. As Americans, we feel like we have to go go go even when it is freaking blazing outside. Chillax and drink some iced tea!

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GuestC

Yeah none of those tricks ever work. Windows open, shut, blinds open or shut, fans on or off, it gets just as hot in this house as it does outside. Hotter even, and it stays hot long after nightfall.

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Guest

I'm one of the rare "must be cool, must have a/c" people...it's pricey, but it's legitimate as I have health concerns. Most people who come over are freezing, and I always suggest beforehand to bring a sweater if you get cold easily, as it's never above 72.