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Living without A/C

There aren’t many days when I really miss air conditioning at home, but Tuesday was definitely one of them.

Unlike boxy modern condos, our apartment was built pre-a/c, so it’s designed for air flow. An open floor plan and lots of windows allow breezes to blow from one end of the apartment to the other. We’re on the first floor, so we generally stay cooler, and we can open the door to the basement to let the cats cool off down there. Second-floor decks shade the windows on the front and back, and we close the blinds on the sides of the house getting direct sunlight. Ceiling fans in the bedroom and living room move air when we need it. If the heat gets really bad we use a window fan, too, and showers at night help us sleep. All these things make our apartment comfortable on all but the hottest days.

Then there are days like Tuesday, when there’s no breeze and the humidity’s so high that the fans don’t make a difference. That’s when we go to a movie, mall, or restaurant—some public place with a/c.  It does feel a little hypocritical refraining from  a/c at home and encouraging it someplace else, but I guess using communal a/c is more efficient than having our own all the time. And many large electricity consumers, like malls, participate in demand response. They get discounts on their energy bill for being responsive to utilities’ needs. If there’s a danger of electrical demand reaching capacity and triggering a power outage, these customers are asked to reduce their use. If only they could be that efficient the rest of the year!


Comment from Sharon
Time July 9, 2010 at 9:01 am

I’ve long wondered: if all malls and movie theaters and public AC places turned up their thermostat just one degree, would that be a significant difference in power usage? Because they’re usually too cold. I keep my AC at 78 degrees, but I had hoped to hold out without it longer this summer.

Comment from Danielle
Time July 9, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Yeah, no, Tuesday was just brutal. Usually having windows on all sides helps with cooling–but in the midst of the heat wave it just meant that more sun poured in. If I’m working from home, I run around the apartment closing and opening blinds to either let in or block the sun, depending on the season.

I did relearn a basic law of the physical universe, though: At night, a box fan set in the window to bring in the even-slightly-cooler air from outside is way more effective than the same fan in the room, even if it’s pointed directly at you.

Comment from Brenda Pike
Time July 11, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Our last apartment generated no breeze, even if you opened all the windows. And it was on the third floor. The central air was absolutely necessary, but I resented it so much. It averaged more than the heat!

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