Friday, September 3, 2010

Pre-Hurricane cooling thoughts. Why A/C's just aren't cool (pun intended)

I started writing this post, sitting on our building stoop, escaping the heat of our apartment. We watched as for the first time all week clouds marred the sky and a nice cool breeze soothed our skin. We even brought Atreyu (kitten) out in his cat carrier to enjoy the cool(er) air.

 view from our stoop earlier this evening
Of course, this breeze will tonight turn into hurricane force winds as Hurricane Earl comes blustering through Nova Scotia, first of the many hurricane season storms.

Wind was something I missed while living in Vernon BC. Nothing sounds the same as the wind passing through leaves, or the feeling of home when the wind makes the window panes whine and howl.

It's the heat that I cannot stand. This summer has had periods of hot, unusual for coastal Nova Scotia and this week gave us humidity of 40+ (celcius). Andrew and I do not have an air conditioner, only one lonely fan and three windows. Although tempting, we won't be getting one anytime soon.

Air conditioners are catastrophic polluters. Everywhere you look in the city you see the ugly boxes and huge contraptions suck huge amounts of energy as they give you the privilege of having cooler skin. Although most a/c's no longer have icky CFC's in them, their replacement isn't all that better. Many pump HCFCs into our air, which deplete the ozone layer and contribute to climate change through their coils. The "greener" alternative, HFCs are still considered a greenhouse gas.

A fan moving air across your skin will allow the sweat on your skin to dry and the body to cool itself. We've become so accustomed as a nation to feel cold all day, that coping in mid-twenties weather and using alternative means to cool our systems seems impossible. I'm not saying that a certain level of heat isn't dangerous, when you're elderly or a young child... or walking directly under the sun. But simply dealing with a week of heat a few times a year isn't worth the energy suckage and carbon emissions produced.

Sure, "cranky children" and "a bad night's sleep" aren't ideal... but then the reality is that neither of these things compare to destroying our climate. Sorry.

So, how to decrease you're addiction to the a/c?

1. Buy a fan. Fans use 90% less energy than a/c's and like I mentioned above, cool your body naturally. A few fans well placed can really make a huge difference. Especially at night.

2. Keep the window's wide open at night, allowing cool(er) air to flow through your home and shut your blinds and windows during the day. I was flabbergasted at how much cooler our apartment was the days this week that we kept the blinds and windows closed.

3. Drink a LOT of water. Seriously. Cool brita filtered water will immediately help cool off your body while hydrating your system with healing water. We really don't drink enough of it.

4. Make home made popsicles. We use smoothie juice with less sugar, but you can make your own smoothie mix from local fruits and berries. Now is the season!

5. Freeze your magic bag. Every night Andrew went to the freezer, took out his magic bag (cloth bag filled with beans) and used it to help fall asleep at night. Works like a charm.

6. Can't go cold turkey? For home systems turn your thermostat up to at least 26 degrees (celcius). Every half a degree below 25 degrees ups your energy consumption by 8%. Program your thermostat to start cooling only an hour before you get home from work.

7. Box a/c: try slowly adjusting the temperature each day to gradually get used to warmer indoor settings. Introduce a fan and start trying some of the alternative cooling strategies (like popsicles, yum!).

8. Reversible window fans are amazing at pulling the air and creating a much better cooling breeze!

9. Invest in non-hcfc air conditioners that are energy star- at least they use significantly less energy that conventional a/c's.

10. Check your coils- make sure that your a/c isn't leaking harmful ozone depleting chemicals into your home and planet's air.

For more fantastic tips check out "Ecoholic"; her website, or look into ordering her books (Ecoholic and Ecoholic Home).

Although Andrew would tell you right now that he would kill for an a/c, two weeks a year really isn't worth it for us. Even for the two years we lived in semi-arid Vernon BC, no a/c was had and we survived just fine.

Atreyu chillin' out on our floor- he might be warm but he still had the energy to go all "kitten" on me and attack my fingers. thank goodness he drinks about a cup of water a day. I heart that cat fountain.
Now, my yoga practice and productivity (ahem, wedding is t-minus 5 weeks) definitely suffered this week. But then, Yoga will always welcome me "home" when I return :)

Safe wishes to all my Atlantic Eco-Yogi(ni)s out there! I'll be enjoying the powerful beauty of the Atlantic Wind.

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  1. I've been enjoying the breeze, finally coming in off the water in Eastern Passage. We don't have air conditioning either, I never have.
    I turned the a/c on in my car for about 10 minutes in the extreme heat and had a headache almost immediately. I seem to react to it strongly in my car.

  2. May I add #11? I use my high-efficiency gas furnace's 'fan' feature - just by circulating the air it takes things down several degrees.

  3. 1. Your cat is sooo cute!

    2. Love this post - I talked B out of buying an AC this summer. Who needs one in our climate with our short summers? Hopefully, he won't want one next year!

    3. I laughed so hard picturing Andrew going to bed with a bag full of frozen beans! That's such a great idea!

    4. Stay safe in the crazy weather over there!

  4. Batten down the hatches, eco-yogini!

  5. So two years ago I would have totally agreed with this, but I have to say living in humid, hot Louisiana these options would make life unbearable. I really don't know how/why people decided to colonize down here, nor how in the world anyone actually functioned during the heat of the day in petty skirts and everything else. This year we've survived much better than last (which was the first year), but opening windows isn't possible with the constant humidity. We do adjust the AC based on the day and turn it less when we're at work. I definitely am for using less AC and decreasing unnecessary energy expenditures, but give me no TV/dryer/other electric options and give me a bit of AC anyday instead. The same concept applies to transportation. I come from a city in Oregon where biking is the norm and people couldn't understand why I didn't make the hub ride his bike the 16 total miles to work last summer so I could use the one car we had....since I wouldn't ride 8 miles to work in a heat index of 90-100+ F, wearing long sleeves/pants, and working outside already 8 hours of the day....I definitely wouldn't ask him to either...

    I think these ideas are definitely fabulous for short term hot flashes of summer though! Idk, maybe Louisiana is making me an environmental sell-out. :)

  6. We don't have A/C either. It's been 28.5 degrees in our house at night, so we've been sleeping in the basement family room which is much cooler. I'm loving this last bit of hot summer weather though!

  7. Living here in the Desert without A/C, I affirm your observations! Timing what windows to open and when and when to close the curtains, use fans and all the rest you mention keep us quite comfortable even when it's 106 degrees F!

    One other thing: put grapes in the freezer! When hot, a handful of these frozen grapes totally chill you out from the inside, and they taste so good!

  8. Have to admit, it's hard NOT to enjoy AC. Especially if you're in crazy-humid places like much of Asia. Not only is the heat unrelenting, but so is the humidity. It can get a bit nuts.

    That said, I don't have one where I live. I do have central heating for winter, but in a place like Melbourne, you need heating or things get mighty uncomfortable in winter. I do try to use it sparingly though, and stay mindful of the thermostat. And put on an extra layer before I turn up the heat.

    But yeah, when one thinks of the impact on the planet for the sake of personal comfort, it's kind of nuts.

    I remember being in primary school on ridiculously hot days with no AC. I used to colour in the edges of my school notebooks with various shades of blue and green in an attempt to visualise cooling down. I think it worked, too!

    Seems it's all part of our consumerist/instant gratification mentality... must have what we want and NOW.

    The five weeks I spent in Thailand a couple of years ago taught me both ends of the extreme. Living in a bamboo hut where it was already humid by 6am AND having no respite other than jumping in the dam and drinking water... to spending time in Bangkok where you could walk between air conditioned shopping malls without having to go outside. So strange.

    I like to experience things as naturally as possibly, BUT there are some extreme kinds of weather that make AC a blessing. As long as we don't become too reliant on such things.

    A little discomfort is good for us :)

  9. My apartment is really warm most of the year, but I still won't buy an A/C. I have been tempted this summer, because I'm home all the time these days. But I figure the initial cost, plus trying to install it by myself, plus the extra energy costs was not worth it. I have a ceiling fan in my apartment, and a table top fan in each room. Works ok, except for weather like we've been having.

  10. Love this! We only have one a/c unit and its been in the basement for the last four years (sitting, unplugged). With the installation of new windows a few years ago, our house has a lovely breeze blowing through all day. In the super hot weather a few weeks ago, we simply put fans in the windows of rooms we were occupying. I MUCH prefer fresh air to A/C!

  11. Thanks for adding tips for those of us who can't do away with AC! DH and I have temperature sensitive pets (reptiles, amphibians, chelonia) and even with window fans we can't keep the apartment cool enough. We do use thermostats and are careful to keep an eye on the outdoor temps so we can switch them off and open up windows as needed. Maybe one day we'll be able to live somewhere temperate enough that we won't need them at all, even with our fussy pets! I doubt it, though. DH has been talking about moving further South so things will only be getting hotter.

  12. You only have one fan?? Get some more darling. Agreed that fan placement is important - you want to make sure you can feel the air cirulation in bed. Ceiling fans are great
    too. I was able to convince my last landlord to put in a light with a ceiling fan when he wanted to replace a kitchen light - so it never hurts to see if your landlord is open to ceiling fans. I also recently heard the strategy of wearing a wet tshirt under regular shirt in summer for natural cooling, not sure how practical that is in reality.


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