Keeping Cool or I Love Air Conditioning
I mentioned in this week's Iced Tea Chat that I love air conditioning but you know the first years of marriage I lived without it. Not just during my first marriage but also the first five years John and I were married, too. We had window units but to run them cost more than we could afford. Our house was set up to allow for cross breezes. That's one fault to be found with many modern homes, you know. I remember Big Mama's home was built with plenty of doorways and windows that allowed air to flow from one room to another. Yes, there was a loss of some privacy since bedrooms opened off one another but not so much that you were bothered by it. And the result was a home that was somewhat cooler even in deep summer heat and a good bit warmer in the winter too because the heat could flow better.
How did we keep cool? Oh there was a science to it! It mostly employed using what we had and doing all we could to insure the indoors stayed cooler than the outdoors, no easy feat.
We put up reflective shades on the sunny side of the house. My 'reflective shades' were mostly sheets of cardboard with aluminum foil over them. On the big patio doors it was just straight sheets of heavy duty aluminum which was wider. I use duct tape to hold in to the glass. You'd be surprised how well this worked. Of course, the taped on foil did not get moved on a daily basis but the foil covered boards were moved from the shady window to the sunny one. I'd say it helped reduce the indoor temperature by at least 10 degrees. That's pretty substantial if it's 100F outdoors!
We pulled curtains and didn't let in any light on the sunny side. We put fans in the windows on the shady side and let them push air into the house. If it was mighty hot (and it was at times) I'd put a fan in a window on the sunny side that was blowing out, so it pulled that cooler air through the rooms better.
We had plenty of cold water and ice for drinks. I also made sure the kids had Gatorade and Koolaid so they didn't completely dilute their electrolytes. We encouraged the kids to wipe off with cool damp cloths during the day and each child was encouraged to take a cool shower in the evening. I'd tell you we ate cooler meals but with five hungry kids there are no cooler meals that fill them up. I'll confess that as broke as we were back then, on truly dreadful hot days, we ordered pizza delivered or went to pick up take out and brought it home. I had only a few meals that were lighter and more filling but we use them often and often during those days, too.
I think night time was the hardest. Those bedrooms were like ovens even with windows and doors open. It was also a little unnerving to sleep with open windows in town, to be honest. Fortunately our street was a dead end and that meant people mostly stayed off it unless they lived on the street.
Still, it wasn't unusual to lie awake into the wee hours until the night air finally began to cool ever so slightly.
I finally revolted after I'd gone back to work and faced working days and evenings at home on too little sleep. I declared that on Friday evenings we'd turn on the AC. It was just about bearable indoors by Saturday morning. By Saturday evening and Sunday it was cool enough to sleep and we all slept. A lot. But Monday morning the air conditioners were turned off and we suffered our way through the week. Despite just using it those three days we paid $350 a month for our electricity in the summer. It was ridiculous, but what else could we do? We went without all week but it was misery and everyone got pretty snarky as the week went on.
Oddly when we moved here John was adamant that we'd not sleep with open windows. I found it odd, because we are very isolated. You don't just wander over past our place. It seemed to me it was safer than anywhere we'd ever been to sleep with open windows. We discovered pretty quickly though that this house was much warmer than our former home. In town we'd lived on a lot that received some shade but at the time we moved here it was an open field. The sun beat us up from morning until night. But after our first month we discovered we had a much more affordable form of air conditioning. Even with it running day and night here we never paid as much as we paid in that previous house. Still our house payment was more than our rent had been. We needed to trim the budget. So we stuck with our previous ways of using fans to move air, and we shaded all the windows on the sunny side with foil. I found it worked best if I inserted the panels between the storm window and the regular window. This lowered our bill to a much more acceptable point, about half what we'd paid in the past. That was enough to make up the difference in what we'd paid for rent and what we were paying on our mortgage.
I think we lived here more than 15 years before the trees finally got big enough to offer some shade to help cut down on the AC running non-stop.
Over the last couple of years, instead of putting up reflective shades we've bought a better quality PVC blind for each window that actually are room darkening shades. We have insulated drapes at the windows now, too. These improvements had to be done a little at the time but they paid off in savings on our electric bill last summer. I think it's safe to say that last summer, with every window in the house covered with a good new blind and shades, we saved enough to repay us for the purchases we'd made.
If I had to return to living without AC I'd do all the things we did before. I'm grateful we have the funds to afford to run this huge appliance but honestly, it costs only slightly more than our winter bills generally run because we learned how to keep cooler in those years we lived without air conditioning.
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