Thursday, August 19, 2010

Keep Your Cool

The Conscious Shopper is doing her best to stay cool.

In May, I challenged my family to go all month without turning on the air-conditioning. At the beginning of the month, when daytime temps were still hovering in the mid to high 70s and the nights were still dropping down into the 60s, the challenge was a breeze. I thought, "Forget May. We could go all summer without AC, no problem."

Then I remembered that I live in North Carolina.

By the beginning of June, daytime temps were in the upper 80s and rising, and nighttime temps were creeping up into the 70s. And the humidity! Oh, the sticky, heavy, temper-inducing, patience-killing humidity! As soon as the challenge was over, the humidity won out, and the AC came on...but I stubbornly set the thermostat for 82 degrees, and that is where it has remained.

Why keep your thermostat turned up in the summer?

The EPA, Department of Energy, and utilities around the country toss around the magic number "78" as the temperature you should keep your house set at during the summer. For most people, 78 degrees is a fairly comfortable temperature, and for much of the summer, it's high enough that the air-conditioner will run less frequently.

But I find that if you use the tips below, you can keep your AC turned up even higher, saving energy and money. For every degree warmer that you set your thermostat, you'll save about 2% off your energy bill.

image by cat's_101

How to Survive a Warm House in a Hot Summer
  • Keep an eye on young children and your pets. As grown-ups, we're pretty good at self-regulating, but young children and pets need some extra help. Remind them to drink water throughout the day and to dress appropriately.
  • Use your fans. They don't actually cool a room, but they make it feel cooler.
  • Keep your blinds or curtains closed on the side of the house where the sun is shining.
  • Drink cold water.
  • Dress appropriately. Obviously this means fewer layers, loose-fitting clothing, short sleeve shirts, and shorts or skirts. But lately, I've also been thinking about how fabrics like lightweight cottons and linens can keep us cooler.
  • Avoid using your oven. Now you have an excuse not to cook. :)
  • Go outside. Inevitably after spending any amount of time outside, the first thing I say when I walk into my house is, "Wow, it's so cool in here!"
  • Avoid air-conditioned buildings. After spending time inside the frigid air-conditioning of most public places, it feels like the outside temperature rises 10 degrees. Because I've been so cold indoors, it suddenly feels SO HOT outdoors. When I go outside from my 82-degree house, it feels hot, but not SO HOT. I really think it helps my body become acclimated to summer when I don't subject it to the extremes of really cold air-conditioning.
  • Find an air-conditioned building. Now to completely go back on what I said above...Some days, it's so freakin' hot, you just need an hour or two of relief. Go to the movies or a restaurant and soak up the cool air while you can, or hit the pool.
  • Change or clean your air filter once a month. Your air conditioner will be much happier.
  • Keep an eye on the temperature. When nights start dropping into the 60s again, use that to your advantage: turn off your AC and open your windows to cool your house naturally at night.
What tips do you have for staying cool in the summer?


panamamama said...

Great tips. I didn't know that fans didn't really cool the room. Interesting!

Billie said...

I will second the tip on your filter. I hadn't changed my filter in a while and after I changed my filter, I actually had to turn up my A/C because the house started to get colder at the same setting.

78 degrees? Haven't made it that high. I do my saving of energy in the winter when I keep the house at 65 degrees.

Ivy said...

You know those old images of Southern ladies sitting on a porch in the shade, fanning themselves and drinking iced tea? They have a point.

I grew up in NC (in the mountains so a little cooler) and we didn't have AC the entire time. My parents have it now, but I always dealt with the summer by spending my days parked in front of a fan with something cold to drink and a book. I read/dozed while it was hot out, and didn't do much until after it started to cool off. (Or before, theoretically, but as a teenager i didn't rise that early.) Add a few trips to the nice, air conditioned library and it wasn't too unbearable.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

@panamamama - Yeah, fans don't actually cool the room, but they still definitely make a big difference on how you feel.

@Billie - I haven't made it that low in the winter. :) I can withstand heat, but not cold!

@Ivy - I'm convinced that those old Southern ladies actually all sat around in their underwear all day. Can you imagine wearing one of those big poofy dresses in the humidity!!!

Kathryn Grace said...

Fans cool us! They dry our perspiration, and that lowers our body temp. Keep 'em running! Like Ivy, I've spent many a dead-heat afternoon in the public library. Of course, if you have kids and a public pool, that's always an option, if you don't mind the chlorine and the noise.

My sibs and I used to hole up in the 100 degree plus afternoons with a stack of books. We'd read and doze and dream and wake and read and doze and ... Even better in the shade of giant elm tree, if you're lucky enough to have one these days.

If you're really miserable and there's no pool, library or shade tree handy, try soaking your feet in a basin of cool (not cold) water. Cold water could shock your system too much and make it work overtime heating you back up. Cool water helps cool you down.

Melissa @ HerGreenLife said...

We keep our thermostat right about where you do, Erin (82 or 83 degrees) -- that seems to be a pretty perfect temperature. If you've been outside working up a sweat during the day, a quick shower before bed really helps. Ceiling fans are fabulous.

Ivy, I like your Southern lady image :)

Daisy said...

Keeping air moving helps, as does staying hydrated. I live in Wisconsin, so I don't have the experience with heat that you do. Thanks for the advice!

Now when the blizzards hit and you're looking for advice on staying warm, give me a call!

Maple Leaf Red said...

Here is how we did last summer summer


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