Posted by Tim Stobbs on July 18, 2007
A friend of mine recently told me that they estimated that out of their last power bill half of it was due to using their air conditioner in the summer. He noticed my house was fairly cool, but I didn’t have mine on.
I have to confess. I have central air in my house, but I almost never turn it on since I know it is such an energy hog. This summer for example, I don’t think I have used it yet. I typically only turn it on with the house temperature gets above 27C (80F) and then I only use it to cool down the house so I can sleep at night.
So how do you live without air conditioning? Fairly easily, but there are a few steps.
Step 1 – Plug leaks – Most people wait until fall to install weather stripping and prevent air leakage in your house. I have never understood that. I did as soon as I move in because it keep the heat in the house during winter and also keeps the cool in during the summer. Plug every little leak you can and watch your power bill drop in the summer.
Step 2 – Overnight Cooling – If you overnight low gets down to under 21C (70F) make sure you open all the windows you can in your house. If you have a basement door open that as well before you go to bed. This will create a natural draft in the house which will dump out the hot air from your top floor and bring up the cool air from your basement. I can typically get my house down to the overnight low if I open up my windows an hour before sunset and close them first thing when I wake up the next morning.
Step 3 – Manage Daytime Heating – Close all your drapes/blinds that get sunlight on them. For example I close off the north side of my house first thing in the morning since that when I get sun there. In the afternoon the south side of the house gets baked so I close those off too. Try to avoid drying laundry, using the oven and stove top to produce extra heat during the daytime. Summer is about BBQ season for a reason, you want to keep the house cool. Also try to use the microwave more if it saves turning on your stove top.
Also if you haven’t switched to Compact Florescent Light bulbs I suggest doing it now. As regular bulbs are the worst in hot weather. You pay extra power to run a regular bulb which generates extra heat in your house (since 80% of the energy is converted to heat) and then you pay more money to use your air conditioning to cool off the house to get rid of the extra heat.
Step 4 – Cheap Man’s Air – My last trick I use before turning on the air is just a modification of step 2. Except I use it during the day. I open up my basement door and turn on a fan at the base of the basement steps to blow cool air up. Then I go upstairs to the top floor and turn on both bathroom fans to suck out the hottest air in the house. The again creates a draft to cool the house, but this time I’m helping it along with a fan in the basement. The trick here is to avoid opening a window which could move the hotter outside air into your house (since heat tends to move from a hot area to a cool area). Powering fans is MUCH cheaper than running an air conditioner compressor. I recall reading on a website that you can run a ceiling fan for an entire month for about $3 to 5 dollars.
So best of luck to everyone as you keep cool this summer.