Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Old-Fashioned Knowledge

I know many of my long time readers already know of our “Crazy Experiment.” Here’s an update on our progress.

Our heat pump gave out a few years ago. We love heating our house using the downstairs woodstove, so we didn’t worry too much. When we got around to getting an estimate on replacing our old system, $6000.00 meant we were faced with a big decision. We had the money, but we’d been saving it to build a barn. We knew we could heat our home without the central air, but could we live without air conditioning?

Most folks would just finance the barn and put in the new heat pump. Well, I guess we’re not most folks. We remembered (a bit vaguely) life without central air. We decided to try a summer without air conditioning and, if successful, build a barn in the fall. Little did I know, it would be a crash course in some good old-fashioned knowledge. Now, I doubt many people will choose to live life without air conditioning, but these common sense tips might just help you be a bit greener or save some cash.

 farm animals 056

The first thing we learned, is that it isn’t always best to have the windows open. It seems crazy shutting the windows on a 90 degree day, but in today’s super insulated houses you can catch that free, cool night air and bottle it up in the house by shutting the windows each morning and closing the blinds to shade the sun. A few well placed fans and a lot of begging a pleading with the children to keep the doors closed, and we have a pretty comfortable house where the temperature rarely creeps above 83 degrees. Wanna save money on those cooling bills? Catch cool night air, and don’t forget to close the blinds to keep the sun’s rays from heating up your house.

Now, 83 degrees may sound hot. I guess it is pretty warm, but this amazing thing happens to the body when living without air conditioning. Believe it or not, it is possible to get used to the heat. I remember going to summer camp and feeling like I might melt that first day out in the heat. Funny how by the second day, we all adjusted to the temperature and rarely found it bothersome. It’s the same way now. Our bodies adjust to the warmer temperatures. It’s so nice being able to go outside to picnics or to work in the garden without feeling miserable. It really does make a difference. We adjust to the temperatures so thoroughly that going to an air conditioned restaurant can actually be uncomfortable. We don’t need to live without air conditioning to benefit from this knowledge. Just turn the temperature up one degree each day and see just how warm you can live comfortably. It may be surprising just how enjoyable it is living above 70 degrees.

The clothing we wear has a dramatic impact on how cool we feel. Contrary to what seems to make sense, it’s not the amount of clothing we wear that makes us hot, but the kind of material that makes a difference. A summer blouse made of cotton will be cool in any weather, whereas a similar shirt made from synthetic materials will make anyone miserable in a very short time. It’s amazing how much more comfortable natural fibers are. Next time you are going to the amusement park or an outdoor wedding, check the tag in you clothes. Natural fibers will keep you looking cooler and crisper than the folks wearing polyester.


We built our little barn and decided to spend this second summer without central air.Likely, we’ll keep on without that new heat pump for a few more years and a few more home-improvement projects. We did invest in a few cheap window air conditioners for the few days when the heat index jumps way up above 100 degrees. It’s nice to have the relief when we have guests who are unaccustomed to the heat and in the kitchen when I’m canning. All in all, we’re happy living a little warmer with the windows open. The frogs sing to us at night and those cool night breezes carry the scent of honeysuckle. Doesn’t hurt quite so much getting that electric bill, either.

Here are a few more tips to beat the heat.

  1. Plant shade trees strategically around your house. Deciduous trees shed their leaves in the winter, letting the sun warm the house. During the summer they provide shade, sheltering your home from the harsh summer sun.
  2. Save those hot jobs for late in the evening or early in the morning when it is cooler outside. Take advantage of that hammock or a downstairs room during the heat of the day. Relax and read a  good book, feel free to sip some iced tea.
  3. Hot nights are tough. Get those fans blowing and give the kids some damp bandannas to sleep with instead of those heavy blankets they love snuggling with. It makes all the difference.
  4. Keep a mist bottle filled with water and a few drops of lavender oil to spray on faces and arms when the heat is too much.
  5. Do your cooking on the grill. Hamburgers taste best fixed there, but so do many vegetables. Zucchini, quartered and drizzled with olive oil before grilling… Oh, yum! We even make pizza on the grill. It’s amazing. Experiment and have fun.
  6. For cooking that must be done on the stove top, be sure to use a lid and the lowest heat necessary. When the corn on the cob is cooked, remove it from the water and dump the water on that nasty patch of weeds in the driveway. That will kill the weeds and keep your kitchen from heating up too much.
  7. Throw away the to-do list on the hottest days. Eat ice cream for supper and go swimming at the lake. Keep a sense of humor and have fun.

Got a tip for keeping cool or saving a bit of money? Hope you’ll share it with me. :)


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  1. Good ideas! And use that damp bandanna around your neck in the daytime too.

    We have no AC.. and I've had 3/4 of my babies at the tail end of summer! :P It's doable, and surely saves a ton of $$. It's just not fair to get all sorts of incentive notices from the power company to reduce your rate if you let them install some sort of thingy to make your AC more efficient. I don't even HAVE AC, but am I entitled to that discount? NoooOOOoo..!

    Now, would you consider telling me about your barn.. it's use, it's planned uses, dimensions, problems/perks/etc? :D

  2. You can grill corn on the grill too (leave it in the stocks!) and it is SO good. I think it doesn't even need butter when it's been grilled. Great tips!


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