Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Acclimating to the Weather

The Climate Crusader is wearing her sweater in the summer - here's why.

I had one of my worst summers ever back in 1998. I was working at a cooperative education placement while I went to engineering school. The job was great - so great, in fact, that I went on to work for the company for a decade. The downside was the temperature.

The weather was hot that summer, and I was living in a small apartment with poor air circulation. I was also taking transit, which meant a long, hot, stuffy bus ride home every evening. During the day I was in an office where the air conditioning was turned on full blast. On top of that, part of my job involved working in an environmental chamber, where the temperature ranged from 45 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The constant temperature fluctuations were not comfortable, and I quickly learned to dress in layers so that I didn't get too cold or too hot.

From that experience, I developed a system to help me stay cool in the summer. Of course I do all the things you're supposed to do, like drink plenty of water and wear a hat and all that jazz. But one thing I also do is dress as warmly as is comfortable for the weather. When I get up in the morning and my house is cool, or when I visit an air-conditioned office, I put on a sweater. I've found that allowing myself to acclimate to the hot weather makes summer more comfortable. It also helps me cut down on my energy consumption, since I need to employ fewer cooling measures.

I live in the Pacific Northwest where it doesn't get that hot, so I don't have an air-conditioned home. I realize that in many parts of North America - and the world, for that matter - the heat reaches levels that aren't just uncomfortable but possibly even dangerous. I'm not saying that everyone should scrap their climate control under all circumstances. But just as you can keep your home a little cooler in the winter and adapt to that, you can keep your home a little warmer in the summer and adapt. If you allow yourself to get used to warmer temperatures, you really will adjust.

Think about it this way. If there's a cold snap during the winter and the temperature is 50 degrees Fahrenheit that feels warm. Balmy, even. On the other hand, if the temperature drops to 50 degrees at the height of summer it feels chilly and unpleasant. Temperature is relative, and something feels hot or cold, at least in part, in comparison to what we're accustomed to.

There are other things you can do to cut down on the cooling, too. Open your windows early in the morning to let the cool morning air in (providing the morning air actually is cool, of course). Close your blinds and curtains to block out the sun at the heat of the day. Plant shade plants outside your home to block the sun. Make energy improvements to your home so that the cool air doesn't escape. Even with those measures, though, little steps to help your body adjust to warmer summer temperatures can reduce your energy consumption, and maybe even save you a little money, too.

How do you cut down on your cooling bills in the summer?


Green Bean said...

When we moved into our current home, we installed ceiling fans in all of the bedrooms. With the window/shades thing, we don't have to use the fans often but it sure helps. We don't have air conditioning either - living in coastal Nor Cal - but the ceiling fans are a great, low-carbon way to stay cool.

Eco Yogini said...

we also live in a cooler climate, so no AC. that said- the previous summers our apartment would get to 35 degrees celsius, sometimes higher. it was really really really really hot- and dangerous for the cats. so, we were gifted an awful old AC that went in the window and it was ONLY on enough to bring the temp down to tolerable.
i'm very thankful that our current home has great cross breezes. what we tend to do is keep the windows wide open early morning, then once the temps go up close them all, shut the blinds to keep that cool air in.


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