Dog days of summer are just around the corner, dealing with a single hot day is easy, dealing with a week-long heat wave…yikes! If Air Conditioning is on your mind consider ways to select the right unit, ways to reduce cost or better yet, ways to go without air conditioning!
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Do you really need Air Conditioning?
If you’re elderly, have health issues or live in the deep-south the immediate answer is yes of course I need A/C! All too often North American’s see air conditioning as a necessity, often running central air conditioning from May to October no matter where they geographically live.
The necessity of air conditioning costs Americans some 11 Billion a year, puts an average of 2 tons of carbon dioxide in the air per house hold per year. Our personal desire to cool our space could be a factor in causing the global warming effecting those that don’t have the ability to afford air conditioning.
What about just reducing your demand on Air Conditioning?
When considering going without air conditioning or simply looking to reduce your use consider immediate action and long term solutions.
Immediate Action- what can you do right now?
Open doors and windows at night and close them during the day. The evenings are often cooler and can reduce some of the heat the house may have gained during the day.
Use heavy blinds or shades to reduce solar gain through windows.
Use fans to move air through the house. Often basements or lower levels have cooler air and fans can be used to draw this cool air to the upper floors. Dual function window fans work great as you can pull in cool night air or exhaust warm upper floors, pulling cooler night air through lower windows.
Use ice in a bowl to super cool the air as it leaves the fan. Some even use salt water ice to as it melts slower.
Close down areas of the house that are not used, there is no sense cooling the entire house.
Take a cool shower or use wet bandanas around the back of your neck, this simple trick will reduce your core temperature quickly.
Stop using clothes dryers, incandescent lights or internal cooking. Choose to hang dry clothes, cook on an outdoor BBQ and shut down non-essential lights and electronic equipment.
Escape to the outdoors, why stay inside on warm summer nights? Go outback and sleep under the stars in your outdoor swing or hammock.
Install a window shaker of an air conditioning unit in your bedroom. Yes personal air conditioners are not as efficient as central air however often window units are used to only cool your bedroom and less likely to stay on all day, the overall impact to both house hold expenses and the planet are reduced.
Long Term solution, continuous improvement
Plant trees, nature does quite well at cooling her guests. Trees have leaves when you need them (summer) and gone when you want the solar gain. Even the movement of leaves on a hot summer day has the ability to cool. Installing a pond or water feature, the trickle of water or the dip of a toe will make you feel cooler.
Check the insulation in the ceiling and upgrade, this will save money year around. Install new weather stripping around doors and window.
Install a whole home fan, nothing new here, in fact “tower cooling” was and is still widely used around the world and cost next to nothing. Exploiting the natural effect of warm air rising and giving it somewhere to escape the home makes perfect sense. By using built in fans in the ceiling of the upper floor of your house, cooler dryer air is pulled in through lower levels.
Still want to install Air Conditioning?
As you start to look or have conversations with heating and cooling contractors you will hear the term SEER. Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio which is simply a measurement of how much cooling a system is able to produce for each unit of energy it consumes, the higher the SEER number, the better…..not entirely true but for this conversation yes!
Energy codes in both Canada and United States are under pressure to increase efficiency and therefore some southern regions are required to use 14 SEER units while others 13 SEER.
Always look for the Energy Star certified products which takes the guessing game out of purchasing central air conditioning systems or window mounted units.
Make sure you clean filters and maintain the unit to ensure maximum efficiency.
Use of air conditioning is a personal choice however over-use is arguably a global challenge. Make sure you purchase a quality energy efficient air conditioning unit, control the use by implementing some of the strategies listed above. Realize that the human body was designed for tolerating temperature changes and resetting our internal thermostat might be the best for you and our planet.