LIVING WITHOUT AC

By reducing our dependence on air-conditioning, we can not only save energy but also become more resilient human beings. And we’ll need that resilience. The coming decades will test our ability to adapt and create, and we can’t leave it to technology to bail us out this time. – Stan Cox

We were spoiled this summer!  While most of the nation sizzled, it was So Cal’s second coolest summer ever recorded.   More sweater time than swim suits.

But Nature sure wasn’t going to let us go into fall and winter without one hot blast and, boy, is it a good one.   Yesterday, it was the hottest day ever recorded in downtown LA. 113 degrees.  Yep, hottest day EVER!  Pasadena broke its very own record high temperature coming in at 111 degrees!

I’ve lived without AC all my life.   Even in the hot & humid south where just sitting still you’d drip buckets of sweat.  I sure miss the South but not the humidity.

Moving to the dry heat of California was rather nice.  Heat is one thing; humidity is another animal.   Thankfully, we live in a pre AC house that has high ceilings, lots of windows and wood floors.   Sure, some days are just unbearably hot but we deal with it.   Our bodies have become acclimated – naturally.  I rather hate going into AC stores or even cars blowing that ice cold artificial air even when it’s not even hot out.

As [urban] homesteaders it’s not just about what we do but what we don’t do.  Of course,  some of the choices are sometimes rather unpleasant.

A Step Backwards is Progress

How can one ever survive without AC? I mean it’s one of the greatest modern invention, right?    Or is it?

The case against AC

… this invention has changed how people live, determined the population patterns of entire continents, and affected everything from when we have babies to why we feel so tired in the morning. It’s gone from being a salvation, literally sparing lives, to a possible health risk to an environmental demon because it could alter the planet’s climate.

Waking up from the air-conditioned dream

AC: It’s not as cool as you think Artificial cooling has had a profound effect on how, and where, we live and work.

No Air-Conditioning, and Happy

In the heat wave, the case against air conditioning

The big chill: how air conditioning changed the world

Now you’ve read the case against AC and are courageous enough to pull the plug – now what?

How to to Keep Your Cool

8 Ways To Keep Cool Without Air Conditioning

Keeping Cool Without AC

Cool Yourself Without AC

Care to share some natural (or fun) ways you have found to keep cool without AC?

Comments(23)

  1. Judith says:

    Great post! We’re getting the 100+ degree weather up in the Bay Area, too! And living in an efficient, AC-free house makes it quite comfortable. Right now it’s 89 degrees outside, 70 degrees inside. Those cool nights make a big difference!

  2. 1916home.net says:

    We too have no A/C. Our neighbors think we are crazy. Maybe we are. One friend came over on the weekend and we had a beer and then he had to leave it was so hot inside. And it was, it reached 92 degrees INSIDE the house, but thats still better than 113 outside, inst it?

    We have a young couple that just moved in next door. Apparently, the parents (who own the house) pay for everything because their three window AC units run continually 24 hours a day 7 days a week. I know thats not cheap! We dont have AC to save money. I could not imagine $200 or more per month electric bills like many people I know. And if ours hits $20 I get upset!

  3. Hop Devil says:

    Great read! Nice to see I’m not the only one who likes to ride through the valley on the 101 with windows down and have the heat scorch my face-lol. Anyhow, I get a tad nauseous with AC in the car so in a round about way I guess i’ve been blessed. I say kill your AC and all fluorescent lighting 🙂

    Cheers!

  4. Dog Island Farm says:

    Since moving out on my own I’ve never lived in a house with AC. While our current house isn’t too bad in the heat, our last house was horrid. It was made of concrete block and as summer wore on it would continually heat up and we could never cool it down at night. That’s the only time I really wished I had AC. Well, I guess I kind of wish I do now that I have rabbits, which can’t handle temps over 80 deg. At least the misters and fans give them some reprieve in this heat.

  5. Linda says:

    To be honest, we have a good-sized window unit AC that we use to cool the front part of the house when it gets hot (and runs at 82 degrees), but here is what we do to not use it MUCH:
    1 – cool the house at night. We open windows and draw air through the house with box fans in windows, the attic access (it’s a make-shift whole house fan), and more windows. We draw the air through the places we hang out (bedroom and living room), so we benefit from the moving air. If the nights get below 70, we have a very comfortable house for most of the day. After we wake in the morning, we close up the windows and seal in the cool.
    2 – ceiling fans. We have ceiling fans in every room of the house, and use them all when we are in those rooms.
    3 – green shade. I grew green beans along the sunrise side of the house, to shade us from that strong morning sun. Works like a charm! The southern side of our house has trees from the street, shade trees from our front yard, and a front porch shade – all good things.
    4 – plastic shade. From April – October we put up two large sunshades right next to the western side of our house. This helps shade us from the strong afternoon sun
    5 – night watering. Watering the potted plants on the western side of the house at night helps moisten and cool the air.
    6 – night clothes drying. This is new. My clothes line runs right next to the bedroom window, so if I hang up wet clothes right about bedtime, we get some cooler/moiste air drawn through the bedroom. This also works out because when it is THAT hot, I don’t like drying my clothes on the line for fear of fading.
    7 – wet window coverings. Also new. Similar to the clothes on the line, wetting a light window covering cools and moistens air as it is drawn through the house.
    8 – wet washcloth/pareo/sarong/bandana. This is the item of last resort. It is is just too darn hot to sleep, wet a washcloth/pareo/sarong/bandana and drape it over you as you lie in bed. Over your forehead is nice, on the neck or your chest – really, where ever you are hottest. It helps cool your body down so you can sleep comfortably.
    9 – no cooking, morning cooking, overnight cooking or outside cooking. It’s too darn hot in that kitchen to make anything other than sandwiches or salads!
    10 – new windows. Last year we invested in new windows for our house and it has made all the difference in keeping the temperature stable inside.

    Whew! Plus, there is all the reveling in lethargy that you do when it’s hot – enjoy the laziness is my feeling, we work hard enough most of the time. Read a book, watch a movie, take a nap – all viable options for non-movement.

    • Eloise Martindale says:

      @Linda, We open the house at night, keep the blinds closed during the day, have double pane windows, and wet our hair on hot days. It’s amazing how much cooler I feel with wet hair. Then when necessary we run our heat pump air conditioning off our solar panels. Looks like we may break close to even this year on power…. Clothes on the clothesline sure dry fast in the hot weather – that’s the plus side.

    • Anais says:

      @Linda: Wow what a GREAT list of tips. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Ginger says:

    I grew up in Phoenix, AZ with no AC at home or anywhere really. I lived in Seattle with no AC. That was easy. I lived in Hawaii with no AC and learned to enjoy the windows open 24/7/ I lived in Southern UT without AC. Older houses make all the difference. Year around I carry a baby quilt and cardigan with me everywhere I go to combat AC, where I don’t live. AC is not necessary IMO.

    • Anais says:

      @Ginger: Tell me about it. In some places you can get frost bite! LOL

  7. Genevieve says:

    Ooh, interesting topic. My input is a bit different: what to do when you can’t cut out A/C altogether.

    I know my limits. I’m pale as a ghost, blue-eyed, freckled, asthmatic, and can sunburn in 15 minutes. With my extremely heat-sensitive nature, I’m just not a functioning person for several months out of the year unless I have a way to cool myself off (Heat waves literally commit me to the couch with headaches, nausea, and feelings of faintness). I do understand what many people have said about just needing to acclimate, etc.–and I’ve tried. But I don’t think everyone is capable of adjusting to such extreme heat. That includes the elderly, ill, expecting, and otherwise infirm. This technology has gotten out of hand, for sure–but we needn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater instead of learning how to use the technology judiciously.

    Now, winter? I have zero problem with even the record-breaking cold temps that seem to strike fear into the hearts of so many of my neighbors. I took hour-long outdoor hikes here all winter–including when it was ten below, and kept my heating costs well below those of my neighbors.

    My point is, we’re all different, and so we each have to find our own way when it comes to energy conservation. It’s about balance, and compromises. If you know you have to run the A/C, like I do, don’t feel bad about yourself. Just do your research, understand the damage it does, cut back as much as possible, and find other ways to conserve energy and compensate for it. There are several organizations that exist to help you purchase and plant trees to offset carbon emissions, and I’d suggest starting there once you’ve done all you can do to conserve at home.

    Just my two cents! Thanks for raising the topic. 😀

    Genevieve

  8. Pudgey says:

    I really appreciate this post. It’s great to make the case against A/C, but then it is essential to give people the info they need to stay healthy in the heat. I used to work summers in the northern Arizona desert, and managed 12 hr days outside in full sun with mostly no problem. BUT, the work started in spring, so we could gradually acclimatize through the summer, and our house didn’t have A/C so our bodies didn’t suffer extreme temperature swings. One day reached 116F, though, and that afternoon we did simply wait out the heat in the shade and rub ice on our foreheads and arms until it passed. Other things – we froze water bottles at night so we could drink cold water; one of us had a bout of water intoxication (very mild), and so we started bringing salty snacks and fruit with us as well. Also, cold water foot soaks (wonderful).

  9. Jenn says:

    I have never had A/C. And while I may live in Canada where we spend half our year in snowsuits (okay, not nearly half, more like a quarter of the year… but you know!! LOL) our summers get really, really hot. We hit the 108-111 range during 3 separate heat waves this summer and they were ridiculously humid as in the actual temperature was “only” roughly 90, but with the humidex it was up to 111.

    We lived in the basement and drank gallons of water, that’s how we survived. I have two very young kids, it was rough, but they’ll thank me for it when they’re older.. I hope!!

    For ever car, every house, every mall that uses A/C, it pumps that much more heat into the atmosphere for the rest of us. I think A/C is a life saving device needed for some, but it’s overuse is contributing greatly to the adverse effects on the environment.

  10. Radhika says:

    One thing I love about the really hot days is how quiet my garden is, as everyone else is inside their quietly buzzing homes. I feel I have the whole world to myself when I brave the hot weather, even if only for 10 minutes. The air thick and hot like honey and dead quiet – its quite surreal.

    I live in Australia, and I refuse to use AC…I may be crazy. I should add that we have had such a long wet, winter and Summer is a long forgotten dream/nightmare.

    • Anais says:

      @Radhika: That’s great news. The rain that is! Ya’ll really needed it. I agree. We no longer enjoy the stillness, do nothing of a warm day. Nowadays like to keep our frantic pace on the freeway – going nowhere. Glad some folks like are taking the exit off!

  11. Helen says:

    we have recently installed window film on our lounge windows to cut some of the heat that comes in through the glass http://www.gilafilms.com/Residential/residential-window-film.htm. It’s not the easiest DIY job and requires two people to do it, but it’s relatively cheap and we believe it’s made a significant difference to how hot the room gets. It helps especially when you have a window that gets a lot of direct sunlight.

  12. Rachel says:

    I’m in the middle of Phx (with AC) but about half of my neighborhood doesn’t have it, and 5 years ago when my husband was still my boyfriend he didn’t have it. We have many days in the 110-115+, some nights don’t get below 100 and during the monsoons we get humidity on top of that and then evaporative coolers don’t work. Due to my 30 years of living here, I can survive the high temps with no AC, but it’s very hard to be productive, useful or even pleasant when the temps IN your house are in the upper 90’s.

  13. Kate says:

    We are originally from Texas but live in Africa on the equator AC-free. The climate is so perfect for it, too. I’ve only traveled back to the states once, but when I did, I FROZE on the airplane, in the cars, and in the shops. Even the artificial sound of the AC kicking on in the night kept startling me. I’m so used to not having it, and grateful, too!

    I loved this post!

    • Anais says:

      @Kate: A warm welcome to you. Glad you enjoyed the post. Your blog and project sound interesting! Many blessings to you all

  14. Dan Langhoff says:

    I cannot stand to turn on the air conditioner, when I hear it running, I envision a parade of coins running down a street drain. If it were just up to me, I would never run the AC here in Southern California, but I have to give in a few weeks every year to my family when we hit triple digits. Even then, our electricity bill is about a fifth of our neighbors who constantly run their AC to keep their home at supermarket temperatures.

    This year, I made the switch to CFL lightbulbs, cut back on vampire power sources and looked for other ways to save electricity, the result is our power consumption is down 60% from last year. Baby steps!

  15. Lily says:

    I grew up without AC. Even when we moved into a house that had AC I can count on one hand the number of times it was turned on.

    Now that we have our own house we still don’t run our AC. One of the first things we did after purchasing our house was to install ceiling fans in all the bedrooms and we use floor fans in other rooms. We also had double pane windows put in which, given the number of windows in our home (41!), definately makes a big difference. We are diligent about opening the windows each night and closing them each morning. One of our next projects is to put insulation into the unfinished spaces of the attic to further increase the energy efficiency of the house. We’ve only turned the AC on three times for a little bit this summer, when the house got over 90*.

    If you do have an AC unit on your house and you don’t use it I reccommend checking with your local utility about summer savings programs available. We signed up to have a device installed on our AC unit that allows the power company to turn our unit off whenever they need to due to high demand for power in exchange for a credit to our bill for four months. It has saved us a bunch; between that credit and our other power saving strategies our bills have been $6 the last two months.

  16. michelle says:

    OK, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to chime in here. I live and work in Houston, Texas where the temperature is above 90 and the humidity above 90% about 7 months of the year. On top of that, the night temps seldom drop below the mid-80s during that time.

    While I hate AC, and I turn it off as frequently as possible, I can’t imagine summers in Houston without it. And I work in an office building that predates AC.

    I’ve asked people who lived here pre-AC what it was like, and as a group they say “miserable.” As a corporate worker-bee in a near-equitorial climate, I must say I couldn’t live here without it. I spend a lot of time outside in the heat tending the yard, playing with the dogs, etc., but at the end of a long, hot, humid day, and facing the same at night, I have to say give me my AC.

    I’ve lived in the midwest and upper midwest, and agree there are places where you don’t need it.

    • Kerani says:

      @michelle, I’m with you on this – while I grew up in central Florida with no A/C, I agree that it is asking a great deal of people who aren’t used it.

      In fact, if one looks at the population demographics for the country, one sees that the Gulf Coast – land of heat, humidity and bugs – lagged far behind the rest of the country in population density for decades, until the invention of a) a/c and b) metal screens for windows.

  17. Dani says:

    On really hot days, or nights, we wet our curtains, wring them dry and hang them back up in front of the open windows – I even have an old sheet which I hemmed extra wide and hang as damp as possible on a pole in front of an open door. The action of the air coming through the damp items creates an air conditioned effect. It really works a treat!

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