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I’d Die Without Air Conditioning!

Id Die Without Air Conditioning!

A tiny a/c for a tiny house - it doesn't take much to cool a small space

As I write this paragraph I’m enjoying 77° F (25° C) inside our cozy tiny house while Hurricane Isaac brushes past us, blowing and raining. We even uprooted ourselves a few hours ago because a tornado was spotted south of us, and we slugged through the mud holes out to the end of our dirt (now mud) road to be ready to get out of harm’s way in our vehicles if necessary. Thank the Lord it was a non-event, but a good drill. Now I’m very thankful for air conditioning while it’s hot and muggy outside, but even more thankful that I’m learning to be less dependent on it.

Growing up mostly in Central Florida, we had central air conditioning in our house since I was quite young. I’ve always been an inside person in the summer, venturing into the miserable heat only when necessary and wondering how people survived before the days of a/c. I definitely understand why some early settlers lived here only in the fall, winter, and spring months, as many people still do today.

Now we’re living off-grid and trying to become as sustainable as possible, and a/c is something I’ve had to start parting with. There are air conditioners with slow start-up technology, efficiently used with a small solar electric system like ours, but they are costly. We have a window unit in our tiny house that cools it very well, but runs only with the generator. Since our goal is to use generator power less as we get more solar panels up, we are working our way right out of an a/c. Sigh.

What can we do to make life more liveable during the hot and humid months? When I am hot, I am miserable. I detest sweat running down my back or dripping off my face. The heat saps me of strength and energy, and literally gives me a headache. It makes me irritable, it’s hard to think, and productivity wanes. I am a heat wimp! In order to rid myself of dependency on a/c, something needs to happen.

Here are some ideas we’ve been implementing:

- We did some research before setting up our little house to see what early settlers did. One idea was a dogtrot cabin. It is basically a house with living area on each side of an open porch that acts as a wind tunnel. Doors and windows off the “tunnel” catch the wind and create a breeze in both sections of the house. We set the camper parallel to our tiny house, and built a roof overhead. Daily we feel the benefits of this wind tunnel, even when there is not much breeze otherwise. Until late June when the hottest weather kicked in, our insulated tiny house stayed relatively cool because of the dog-trot effect. Now that it is really hot, it is usually still bearable on the deck between the house and camper, especially with our new roof and radiant barrier insulation.

Id Die Without Air Conditioning!

Our "dogtrot" effect

- We get out early to do outside work in the coolness of the morning as much as possible. By the time it’s hot (between 9:00 and 10:00am) we can come in and do something else, like schoolwork and piano practice. By then it is time to start the generator so we can run the a/c, the big well pump to fill our water tanks, and the washer for the daily load of laundry. We run it till the batteries are fully charged or we don’t need it otherwise. In the evening when the batteries are charged it cools off again and is comfortable without the a/c.

- We make cool and refreshing drinks that replenish electrolytes and keep us hydrated. This helps with headaches and feeling sapped. Freshly squeezed limes or lemons and a little raw sugar in cold water, or our solar iced mint tea are our favorites.

- At times this summer the generator had mechanical problems, or we cut back because our budget didn’t allow for so much fuel consumption. That meant going without a/c some days. Once Silver Oak was outside with the children using the water hose, and to their delight he sprayed them with water. As I strolled past he got ornery and shot a spray at me as well. It felt so good I asked for more. This may seem obvious, but when it’s hot it really helps to get wet. Swimming pools, ponds, water hoses…as the water evaporates off your body it feels refreshingly cool. Of course that is an “outside only” scenerio, but when it’s hot inside it feels better to stay outside anyway. When the heat of the day is over, taking a cool shower feels so delicious! I really look forward to it when I’m hot. It cools the body temperature, and then we’re ready for the cooler evening hours and staying clean until bedtime.

Id Die Without Air Conditioning!

Our pond looks inviting when we're hot, but we haven't been brave enough to try it yet

- Making a decision to rejoice even when sweat is rolling helps as well. A few months ago I was challenged by the song, “He’s all I need, He’s all I need, Jesus is all I need.” I wondered, “Can I really be joyful if it means going without ‘necessities’ like a/c? Is it true that He is all I really need?” I prayed and said, “Ok, Lord. If I don’t really NEED a/c, I’m going to trust You to supply my need in that area as well as other areas of my life.” I was tested on that sorely in the following weeks, and soon I realized that He really was helping me, and it wasn’t as bad as I had thought. This leads to the next point.

Id Die Without Air Conditioning!

This powerful fan is good for pulling air through the house and cooling it quickly

- After using less a/c, we discovered something: we actually started developing a tolerance for heat. Even I, the heat wimp, noticed a difference. The thermometer could say 82° F (28° C) and the humidity could be high, and it didn’t bother me as much. I used to be miserable in anything over 79° F, so was taken by surprise when I realized it was 82° F or 84° F inside! I never believed I could acclimate like that, but I can’t argue with proof. As I write (at a different time than when I started this post) the humidity is 77% and the temp is 81° F here in the house, and I feel perfectly comfortable. That is a switch. Now when we go somewhere with a/c our poor children complain of being COLD! Imagine.

- Fans are a must. With fans in our windows and over our beds, we’ve been very comfortable without a/c at night all summer.  Window fans pull cooler outside air in, and fans over our beds blow directly on us. Fortunately it always cools down at night. In fact, often by morning we need a light cover because it gets too nippy. During the day fans circulate air which makes it FEEL cooler.

Id Die Without Air Conditioning!

Each child has a personal fan in their bunk

Id Die Without Air Conditioning!

A lightweight fan in our master bed/bath window. These "O2 Cool" fans fit easily in our small windows and use either AC power or batteries.

Id Die Without Air Conditioning!

Swimming in Grandpa and Grandma's pool

This summer we went swimming in someone’s pool. When we went inside to shower it felt freezing cold because of the a/c, so we turned the water on nice and warm to keep from chilling. Suddenly I realized the irony of the situation. Taking warm showers surely made the a/c run more. So we were using electricity to cool the house, then using more to take hot showers because it was so cold inside, which caused more electricity to be used to keep the house cool. Growing up that way I never thought of it. Now that we make our own power, it seems a bit silly.

I’m happy we’re learning to cope with heat during July and August, the two “killer” hot months here. I have more hope about actually surviving without a/c if ever required to. But I also look forward to fall and the beautiful temperate weather we enjoy most of the year here. Soon we can remove the window a/c and stay cool using only the breeze, and hopefully charge our batteries using only the new solar panels on the roof!

Id Die Without Air Conditioning!

Blessings,

Id Die Without Air Conditioning!

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Id Die Without Air Conditioning!

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38 Responses to “I’d Die Without Air Conditioning!”

  1. Heidi says:

    Rose Petal,
    I am a candybutt when it comes to heat with humidity. I get irritable, uncomfortable, headaches too. This summer I have been trying to go without A/C like you and have seemed to handle the bad days better, but I still feel tired. I am rally looking forward to cooler weather. Your dog-trot design is really an interesting idea. am so glad you and the family are safe from Isaac. You are in my prayers.

    • Rose Petal says:

      Since it stresses our bodies and we get more tired when it is so hot, it probably means we need just a bit more rest to compensate during those months. An afternoon siesta may be an answer! Or retiring a little earlier in the evening.

      Thank you for your prayers for our safety. The Lord answered!

  2. Myra says:

    Rose Petal,

    Our central air went out so now we only have two small window units that are in two of our three bedrooms so I know how you feel! I live in the South as well so I completely understand that heat and humidity are NOT a good mix! LOL. Of course, with Hurricane Issac wreaking havoc in our neck of the woods right now, it has been much cooler so no air has been bearable. Hopefully it will continue to cool down and we can acclimate to not having air as well. We are running our small units at night only and toughing it out in the daytime. If it gets too bad, we will just go into our rooms and shut the doors. That usually happens right after dinner when the house is heated up from using the stove. The dog trot design was really interesting to us as well. We are looking to move out of town in the next three to five years and I am really interested in becoming more self sufficient so I truly enjoy your posts.

    • Rose Petal says:

      Sometimes we have to be forced into learning these things by our circumstances (at least I have to). Then we learn ways to handle them better than we thought. We also think of things we didn’t think of before, like the fact that an indoor stove heats up the house when we don’t want it to. It makes us appreciate the outdoor kitchens used in other countries. We cheated and purchased a second (used) stove to use out on our deck when it is hot so the heat stays out there.

      God bless you on your journey to learn to be sustainable.

  3. It’s hard! When we lost power for 8 days and the temps outside were over 100 everyday, I had horrible migraines from the heat. It was a long week.

    • Rose Petal says:

      I’m so sorry…that does sound miserable. It reminds me of when we were hit by Hurricane Charley (http://www.livereadynow.com/off-the-grid) and were out of power for some time (back when we still lived on the grid). I think it is much more difficult when it is suddenly forced on us along with the stress of a disaster. Which is one good reason to learn to cope without a/c when life is normal otherwise.

  4. alissa apel says:

    I like it much more warm than my husband does. I’m not sure why some people like heat and others like it cold.

    http://theapels.blogspot.com/2012/08/three-books-ill-never-throw-away.html

    • Rose Petal says:

      You’re right. I tend to get cold before my hubby, and he gets hot sooner than I. Yet he claims to LOVE it hot, and I hate it. Not everyone feels temps the same way.

  5. Pat says:

    Neat idea of having a personal fan in each bunk!

  6. Dawn says:

    I am just wondering what the cost comparison is running all those fans? Isn’t that comparable to one A/C unit? It seems like the cost would even out in the end?

    • Rose Petal says:

      Good questions! When you generate your own electricity you find yourself measuring the power of every single appliance. All the fans in the house together (on high) take about 233 watts, which is a little more than using three 75 watt bulbs. If we run the big powerful fan for a while to cool things down quickly, it adds another 143 watts, or about the same as two 75 watt bulbs. Our little window unit a/c, which is very small compared to a central a/c unit, uses around 1,000 watts. So there is really no comparison as it uses much more than the fans.

      Even if the fans took almost the same amount of power to run as our a/c we would still need to use the generator to run the a/c because it takes so much power just to start it. Our inverter is only 2,000 watts and it takes more than that to get the a/c going. So with the small system we have now there is a major difference in cost between running a bunch of fans (on solar and battery power) and one little a/c (which requires the generator).

      Of course the fans must be efficient to make that much difference. We had some older fans that took more power. The new little O2 Cool fans we use in the windows move a lot of air for their size and only use 9 watts each. They also can run with batteries.

      Another option would be using 12V fans powered directly from the batteries instead of going through the inverter which always has some loss. But our little house was already wired for 110V so for now at least that is what we are using.

  7. Janknitz says:

    I’m not sure if you have an attic space in your home, but if you do, solar power attic fans are really helpful. They pull the hot air out of the attic space and keep the whole house much cooler. I can tell when the sun is getting low, because that’s when our house begins to heat up, but it stays cool during the hottest part of the day as long as the sun is powering the fans.

    When people stop by, they often comment on how great our “air condtiioning” feels, and I always laugh because we have none. We are fortunate to live where the climate is generally mild and almost always cools off at night, but we have our 100+ degree days, too.

    A few other things help, as well. All but one side of the house has an overhang, so that there’s no direct sunlight into the house except on the east side, and then only briefly in the morning (perhaps awnings could help if your house isn’t designed this way). We keep windows shut during the day with drapes and blinds drawn to keep heat out. In the evening, we open up the house to let in the evening breezes.

    On really hot evenings I make slushies in our ice cream maker (ice tea or juice), and we take cool showers and go to bed with ice packs to place wherever feels best. And fans help, of course.

    • Rose Petal says:

      Thank you for the very good ideas. We do not have an attic, so can’t do an attic fan, but my hubby well remembers the one they had when he was growing up and how it kept their house cool. We have considered buying a solar vent fan that could be installed near the ceiling on a back wall, which would also help.

      Overhangs are very important, so glad you mentioned it. Most old houses had porch roofs that blocked the direct sunlight. Another idea is planting bamboo near the house and windows which natually cools the air. We plan to add bamboo along the north side of our house which is exposed to the sun. Awnings over the windows would help a lot too.

      Thanks for sharing!

  8. Nancy says:

    We didn’t have a/c growing up and although the summers likely are not as muggy as yours, we would sleep in the basement all summer where it was cooler. The things we take for granted. :)

    • Rose Petal says:

      That makes sense. We can’t have basements here in FL because the water table is too high, but I’ve thought of it that once we get our covered deck screened in it may be an option to sleep out there if we would get in a really desperate situation (if for some reason we would have no ability to generate power for fans or if the nights got really hot).

  9. Tami Lewis says:

    I totally enjoyed this post and as usual am processing all the info for when we build. This has been put off since we literally ran out of money but hopefully the new year will bring a new house!

  10. Jo Anne says:

    Two summers ago we went without a/c. We live in the very humid Southeast and have one large window unit for a large house, so we also use ceiling fans and box fans. We did acclimate, but our books began to mildew. That fall we bought a dehumidifier, but it puts out a lot of heat, has to be emptied every few hours when the windows are open, and only keeps up with the moisture in part of the house. Since then my husband wants the a/c on all the time, so our books won’t mildew.
    When I lived in Panama, even though the house had window units, there were light bulbs in each closet which stayed on to keep clothes from mildewing. How does one deal with preventing mildew without a/c and without a lot of electricity?

    • Rose Petal says:

      Mildew has been a big concern of mine as well. So far we have not had a problem, with the exception of some growing in the shower in the camper where no air moves, which happens in air conditioned houses as well. Evidently we are using a/c enough to keep mildew at bay. Keeping the air moving must also play a part. The early pioneers in this area had houses that were not at all tight, but had cracks between the siding, allowing a lot of air flow. Maybe that is why. It would be good to learn more about mildew in case even partial a/c is not an option. I would welcome tips about that.

  11. Rose Petal my ac has not been working in my car so relate I was running around picking up trick candles and balloons for my sons 15th Birthday festivities and I was getting grumpy! I have been soooo spoiled since I am married to a Commercial HVAC expert :) but I venture out in the heat as needed for sure! Oh and thanks for linking up to “The Ole’ Saturday Homesteading Trading Post Monthly Blog Hop” Every 1st Saturday of every month :)

    • Rose Petal says:

      The other day I was having trouble starting the generator and got so hot and tired I finally started up the Suburban and sat in the a/c for about 10 minutes to cool off. I had a headache and wasn’t feeling well otherwise, and that gave me a little boost. I did get the generator started then and the house got cooled off too.

  12. Sue says:

    Hi Rose Petal
    I have never had AC–we grew up in IL and it was in the mid-upper 90′s most of the summer with high humidity. We opened our windows at night, and closed them early in the morning. We never had a problem with the heat unless we had to go to town–being in and out of air conditioned stores made it seem unbearably hot when we came outside. I always chuckle when people say how much they love summer–but they spend it inside in the AC. Talk about irony.
    I’m glad you’re adjusting to the heat. And it does make one appreciate the coolness of autumn, doesn’t it?’

    • Rose Petal says:

      Wow! I guess you are one of billions who have grown up without a/c and survived. :) I agree that it is worse when there is an air conditioned place to go into…it makes the hot outdoors feel hotter. And it is ironic to enjoy when it is hot outside by staying inside. I’ve always been more of an inside person, but now I’m really learning to enjoy God’s outdoors more. And yes, I love it when it cools off in autumn.

  13. Bibliotecaria says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evaporative_cooler this is something I heard of in relation to India, where I think they use clay pots filled with water to add some coolness to their houses. Something worth looking into.

    • Rose Petal says:

      We’ve spent two summers in Kazakhstan adopting two of our daughters, where it gets very hot during the summer, but is very dry. It was hotter than here in FL but didn’t feel as hot if we stayed out of the sun because we didn’t sweat much. The evaporating principle really worked, as it does in the Western states in the US. If it wouldn’t be so humid here we could benefit from that as well.

      That is a very interesting idea about using clay pots with water. There are ways of dealing with the heat if we just learn them. Thanks for sharing!

  14. Bonnie Toney says:

    I live in Central Fl also and one day while out in the garden it started to rain. I had a cotton duster on and it got damp. I went in the house and it felt wonderfully cool. I decided that if I lost my ac, I would spritz my dusters and stay cool!

  15. Thank you so much for writing this. I too have been wondering what in the world to do later on. We live in the city right now and it is HOT with all the pavement (plus, just being in Texas does not help). I think once we are out in the country like we are planning, I will be able to implement these ideas and start weaning off of the ac. First, I would like to move farther north (I grew up near Canada), but just maybe I can learn to handle it here in TX.

    I am a new follower, thank you so much for this post!

  16. Martina says:

    yes it’s possible to adjust living without a a/c, our a/c is barley on (we live in GA) and when its on its never lower than 85..my poor husband who works in a air conditioned office all day long, is the only one that sweats when he gets home from work..my and my boys could care less if the a/c is on

  17. 'Becca says:

    Nice article! I’m impressed that you’re managing so well in Florida–I have been there in the summer! I live in Pennsylvania, where it doesn’t (usually) get so hot, but we do have some hot weeks each year. Earlier this summer I wrote up our tips for surviving without air conditioning, and my brother who is a home energy auditor added a lot of expert advice in the comments.

    I definitely agree that using AC makes you “need” it more. I am so much more comfortable on summer weekends when I can spend the whole day at home (or part of it at my non-AC church) than on weekdays when I have to spend 8 hours in my office which is always too cold–the contrast is really hard to take and sometimes makes me feel sick when I leave work. :-(

  18. 'Becca says:

    Oh, the URL for my article didn’t show up. It is
    http://articles.earthlingshandbook.org/2012/06/06/survive-without-air-conditioning/

  19. Oh you made me smile. Lately I’ve been thanking the Lord…for air conditioning! I joke that of the things I can live with out, please don’t ask me to do without the AC. However, with our electric bill climbing to over 200.00 (has never been that high before) I’ve just started easing out of it. Being in Florida, there are ceiling fans in every room, but I recently bought a “bedside” fan, and upped the thermostat a couple of degrees (baby steps) I cannot sleep if I’m hot and anyone within ear shot will hear of my displeasure, so my husband is impressed. (smile). Btw, the reason I haven’t made good on my promise to come visit? the heat! LOL Wish me luck in my baby steps!

    • Rose Petal says:

      I think I know where you are. I’ve been in a similar position, so there is hope! :) I’ve always KNOWN that I should be able to be fine without a/c because most people in the history of the world have lived without it, but when it came right down to it, I didn’t think I would survive. You’re willing to take steps, even if they’re baby ones, so you’ll make it. Much easier that way than being forced into it cold turkey some day.

      When it cools off a bit, come on over. You have a/c in your car for the trip and then you can sit in our breezeway and enjoy the lovely breeze. :)