How Not to Use the Air Conditioner

Ok, now it’s hot.  For weeks the temperature has been below normal in my little part of the world, so until yesterday I forgot how different I am to a lot of other people.  I rarely use my air conditioner.  I went for a walk last night and just about every house had the low hum of the air conditioner going full tilt trying to keep up.  Heck, even at work I could see the system load demand just keep climbing as the outside temperature rose.  Air conditioning (AC) is nice, but it sucks up a lot of power which costs money.  Here are a few tips on keeping cool on the cheap

  1. Seal the house.  Beyond saving money in the winter sealing your house keeps it cooler in the summer too.  So stuff cracks and fill gaps and keep out the heat.
  2. Cool the house overnight.  Open the windows the second the outside temperature is within a degree or two of the temperature in the house.  The air flow will feel good and overnight you can often get down to a comfortable 19 C depending on the overnight low.
  3. Close the windows and doors in the day.  Now you have cooled the house, keep it that way.  Shut blinds and keep doors closed and keep in all that cool air from overnight.
  4. Use Fans.  Keeping air moving sometimes can help a lot.  So consider turning on ceiling fans and getting a few portable fans in gear.  They are a lot cheaper than the AC to run.
  5. Hang out in the basement.  If you have a basement spend more time down there during the hotest point of the evening.  I found mine was a nice 18 C when outside temperature was over 30 C.  All for the cost of nothing.

So how do you keep cool without AC?  If you have an idea, please share.

9 thoughts on “How Not to Use the Air Conditioner”

  1. I’ve got a big square floor fan that fits perfectly in the bedroom window. Right before bed we stick it in the window on full blast for about 15min. and our room temp drops instantly! Often we’ll even need a duvet in the summer! Fan only cost $30 and since we only run it 15min/day, it’s quite efficient.

  2. When you’re using a fan, stick a low dish of ice in front of it. The ice will cool the air which gets then blown into the room.

    Also, if you only have one window open at night, turn the fan around so that it’s blowing the hot air out and drawing the cooler air in. (If you have more than one open, blowing into the room works just as well because you get proper air exchange).

  3. We just purchased some new blinds (cellular kind) and they work amazing – I face west in the condo and it really cuts down the heat in the early evenings.

  4. I guess its because of being north, but I just don’t think of Canada getting hot. 😉

    Anyway, I’m in SE Washington state, high desert out here, gets plenty hot. So far this year I’ve only used the A/C twice. I definitely follow your first three ideas, and then go a step further for number four.

    Install a whole house fan.

    Works so much better than just leaving the windows open, or even having a fan in one window. Its a 3′ diameter, very large bladed fan mounted in the ceiling in the bedroom hallway (approximate center of the house). Turn it on and the airflow is tremendous, cools down every single room (but be sure to open enough windows first). Only on the very hottest of nights will I let it run through the night, otherwise for an hour or two before bed, and another hour in the morning. If it gets down to 60F outside, I’ll have the house down to 65F. If I leave it running all night, it’ll bring the house down to the same as outside.

    And then close up the house in the morning.

    I love coming home when its 90F outside, and the house is still at 70F, with no A/C usage.

    Oh, and the two uses so far? Once was a day when it only cooled down to 75F overnight, the other was a day when it was very humid and used the A/C for a bit to dry the air inside.

  5. Oh, and the obvious one… if you do use the A/C, use a higher temp setting. If I’m going to use it, I’ll usually set mine to ~78F. That’s plenty cool when its 95-100+F outside.

  6. I’d like to see tips for not using the A/C when I:

    1. Live in Texas (half the air-conditioning is for dehumidification purposes, and the nights don’t get quite so cool);
    2. Rent a 2nd-floor apartment built in the early ’80s that still has its original windows (and is owned by a corporation rather than an individual, so there’s no likelihood of having them replaced by anything more efficient);
    3. Have an indoor-only cat, so I can’t go leaving windows open, even if we didn’t have disease-bearing mosquitoes.

    In fact, it bothers me quite often that personal finance blogs tend to be geared so much toward homeowners who live in actual houses with yards, when renting an apartment or condo is so much more frugal.

  7. My neighbours seem to switch directly from “heat” to “cool”, and never think about just opening the windows. Even on days where it is still quite cool, you will hear theri A/C kick on… it drives me crazy.
    As for how to save on A/C, we have a programable thermostat that only brings the A/C on in the morning and the evenings.

  8. Excellent tips everyone. Thanks for sharing.

    Kym,

    I was specifically thinking of Canada when I wrote the post. Texas is entirely a different ball game.

    PF blogs tend to focus on houses because that’s where their writer’s live. I haven’t lived in an apartment for over five years now. Also tips 2, 3, 4 could be used in an apartment (because I did use them when living in one).

    In your example you could pay the bill and accept it, move, or get rid of the cat. There’s always a choice with these things, even if we would never use that choice (ie: get rid of the cat).

    Tim

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