If you have an energy star rated air conditioner and solar panels (aka: free electricity) than this post is probably not for you...But for the rest of us who are limping along with old worn out AC's and not enough in our budgets to upgrade (and go solar), we'd like to find other greener options to help us beat the heat...and save a little green at the same time :)
Just a few weeks ago, we had a stretch of days that were in the 90's. Thankfully it didn't get as humid as it usually does here when it gets hot (most days it's 90*F/90% humidity...gross...) but still, it was nice and hot! And usually we turn on the AC when it gets that hot. But I wanted to try a different way of keeping the house cooler without raising our energy costs. Besides, it always seems that the moment we turn on the AC, the outdoors seems so...HOT...causing us to not want to venture outdoors for the fear that we might burn up and expire!
So I decided to turn back the clock and try out the old fashioned methods of dealing with rising temps. In addition to turning on the ceiling fans, I opened the windows.
Breathe In, Breathe Out...
First thing in the morning the air outside was nice and chilly. By utilizing low energy using window fans (not to be confused with window-shakers) I set them to intake so that they would pull the cool air from the outdoors into the house. We have about four, so I spread them around the house, creating a chilly spread of fresh air.
A little after lunchtime, I noticed that the air outside the house was starting to feel just like the air inside. So, with a quick flip of the switch, I set the window fans to exhaust, pulling the air inside the house out. This worked out great, keeping the house well below 75 all day long.
Up, Up, and Away!
On the more hotter days, when the indoor temp was raising above 78, 79, 80...I tried something that my grandmother always used when I was a kid. We have a fan that helps cool off our attic, but our attic is closed off to the rest of the house unless we open the trap door in the ceiling. So there is a ton of hot air trapped down in the house that would otherwise escape up through the attic and out the fan if it were open.
To my 5 year old's delight, mommy opened the attic door, which is nicely situated in the middle of the upstairs hallway...and I kept it open, just about a foot'ish, all day and night, allowing that air to get sucked up and out of the house. (Thankfully he's still short and can't jump to get the ladder down yet! ;)
Create a Cross Breeze...
To create a huge cross breeze effect from this, I opened the front door and left it open to the screen door, allowing the cool air from the front door to get sucked up to the attic opening. I'm not good with all the engineering details of all of this, but it did work! Just use a little inginuity and creativity to find what works in your house.
Get Outside :)
Honestly, if you start using this method now you'll find that you stay more comfortable letting the airflow do the work longer and than rushing to turn on the AC. The body acclimates to this method (the Amish say within 3 weeks you won't even notice it anymore) therefore you can keep the AC off longer, saving money.
I know I found myself spending more time outdoors - which is really good for all of us (most Americans spend 90% of their days indoors!). There wasn't that huge shocking factor between the temps outside and inside, so it was just as easy to be inside as it was to be out. We all know it's easier to stay indoors all day if it's 65 and chilly, the AC chugging along... Who would want to go outside in the 90 degree heat then?! And the kids didn't complain a bit. They'd rather be outdoors too ;)
Do What You Can Do...
I know - with the way summers are here where I live on the east coast - there will be days that are way to humid and hot that we will cave in and use the AC. But knowing that I can use this method more than using the AC this year, I can't wait to see just how much money we will save.
Interestingly enough (as explained in minuet mind numbing detail by my HVAC expert hubby) using the ceiling fans, window fans, and attic fan all together, all day long, will costs less over the course of the summer than if we were to use the air conditioner all day and all night. That really makes me want to try this method as many days as I can throughout the summer. We need to save money anyway we can, and this is one of those things that we can rather easily.
Above all, living green is about doing what you can do whenever you can. Don't get yourself down about not being able to do it all...especially if you're just starting out on this green venture. We all grew up with quite a few non-green conveniences, so sometimes it can take a stretch to think about what we can do differently to be more green, and to keep implementing those ideas rather than falling back on the not so eco-friendly ways...
So focus on the little green steps that you make everyday and get excited about the compounding effect it'll have on the way you live!
This is one of my an experiments anyway...
I'll let you know how well it works out! ;)