Sunday, August 22, 2010

How hot is it?

This summer has been a true test for those of use who don't have air conditioning.  When the HVAC guy came to sell us a new furnace, he asked us about air conditioning.  We said no thanks.  He shook his head.  We had lived in the area for 5 years, in houses without air conditioning.  Even though we're in the south, we are in the mountains so the summers are usually only hot enough to warrant the respite for maybe 5 days a year.  Why spend the money, we reasoned, and have to accommodate all the new duct work in our old house?

I've never lived in a house with air conditioning.  I grew up in New England, where if it got hot enough to need it, you jumped in a lake or went to the beach.  You might consider a trip to the grocery store, movie theater, or mall to cool off in the less rural areas.  For me though, the artificial cooling made the heat that much worse and harder to tolerate.    

This summer has been one of the hottest on record.  Even in the mountains, it has been hot and humid.  Somewhat unbearably at times.  The cat has probably felt the brunt of it since she spends all day every day inside, stretched out, hoping for a cool breeze, whereas we spend 8 hours a day at work in air conditioning.

But, you know what? We have 42 windows.  We have large shade trees.  We have roof overhangs and high ceilings.  We have an old house.  It was built for life without air conditioning.  During the day, the windows and shades on the south and west sides remain closed to keep the heat and sunlight out.  Most thunderstorms come from that direction anyway, so that keeps the rain out too.  The north and east sides stay in the shade and out of the rain, so the windows stay open there.  The ceiling fans keep the air moving, so other than being a little stuffy, it stays cooler than outside.  When we get home, the sun is lower in the sky, so we open the rest of the windows, add some box fans to pull in the cooler evening air, and enjoy our life without air conditioning.

If you think we're crazy, you might check out the book Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer) by Stan Cox, another proponent of an air conditioning-free world, to learn about how air conditioning has changed the world, and not always for the better.

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