Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Keeping the House Cool

Let me start out by confessing that we just turned our air conditioner on Sunday afternoon.  Yes, this week.  There are several reasons for this.

We do not have central air.  When we bought the house it had baseboard water heat, powered by propane.  We converted a couple of years ago to a cornstove for heat and electric baseboards for back-up.  We have no ductwork in our house.  Our split foyer home is cooled by one window unit that I would guess to be twenty years old, and a network of box fans.

We live in the country.  It gets windy out here.  Most of the time we can use the breeze and our network of fans to cool the house enough that it is comfortable.  Also since we live in the country, the boys can run around in their undies at home.

Our electric bill nearly doubles in July and August when we run the air.  So my goal is to try to keep from using it until at least the Fourth of July.  We have managed to have a summer that is only peppered by unbearable days of heat, surrounded by more tolerable days.  On those unbearable days we try to go somewhere else, like grandma's house, my work (school), or the grocery store during the hottest part of the day to get a break from the heat.

I also keep in mind that people have survived the heat for centuries without air-conditioning.  It has only become common over the last fifty years.  As a society, we have become a bit spoiled.

So, the weather folks forecast a week of mid to upper ninety degree days, with heat indices in the 110 degree range and we turned on the air.  We hung a blanket in our stairway and closed off all the bedrooms.  We'll sleep in the living room this week.  We closed all the curtains as well.  It took all of Sunday afternoon and evening to cool the house to what most would still consider a bit warm.

I chuckled to myself yesterday morning as the kids complained about being cold.  I checked out thermostat (leftover from the propane heat days) and it was 75 degrees inside.  So I turned the air down, so it would run less.  The body does adjust to the warmer weather.  My boys being cold at a temp that most people would complain is too hot for an air conditioned house is proof enough for me.

What else do I do to keep the house cool?  I limit the times of day that I use appliances that produce heat (the oven, the dishwasher, and the dryer) to the early morning and late evening hours.  If I didn't have to bake for farmers' market I wouldn't run the oven at all.  I try to run the other two only overnight, although that doesn't always work.  We have been eating a lot of cold sandwiches or cooking in the crockpot since it produces less heat than the oven.  I am trying to teach the kids to keep doors closed so that we are not letting heat in.

When we do work in the garden (it still has to be done, even in the heat) or other strenuous activity, we take frequent breaks and drink lots of water.  We try to limit those activities to early morning and late evening as well.

What do you do to keep cool in the summer heat?

For more frugal ideas head over to Frugal Tuesday.  We'd love for you to share your frugal tips as well.


  1. I completely agree about the body adjusting for what is 'available'! we are lucky to have central air & yes its running 24/7 right now but I did bump up the thermostat last night for an hour to let it rest & sitting in the yard this morning I realized that it had shut itself off. GOOD SIGN!

    we spent 8-10:30 this morning in the yard playing in the 3 sandless sandboxes filled w/water instead. some on the sun & some in the shade & everyone had a water bottle available.

    yesterday for afternoon snack we had pizza rolls that took the oven & while they were baking, I mixed up some granola & baked it while the oven was cooling back down.

    I am thankful to have my childcare in the basement of our home where it is much cooler during the day.

  2. Great to see this post. I have a friend in a farmhouse and she says hers was designed to maximize air flow.

  3. We are lucky and have central air but I have it set at 78 during the warm part of the day and then at night when we are sleeping it bumps up to 79 or 80. We have a programmable thermostate so I don't have to try to remember to do the bumping up. Last November we replaced all of our windows which has really helped this summer. I also have my livingroom curtains lined with black out material and close them in teh afternoon since that room gets the hot afternoon sun. We only use the dryer to dry jeans, towels and undies and that is only done at night after dark. Everything else is hung on the clothesline. I try to remember to run the dishwasher at night also. Last summer we bought a toaster oven which I love! We use that in place of our big oven in the summer.

  4. Stacey, It brings back memories of when Joe and I lived in our big o'l farm house years ago when our kids were little. We understand that breeze you are talking about. We didn't have a/c of any type and just utilized our fans and once we opened up over 32 windows in this house , it would almost seem a little chilly at times! LOL!! We had a sun porch,an enclosed porch, and a front porch that was fully open with a nice porch swing on it. The kids were potty trained pretty easy out there. We loved it! Thanks for sharing your "keeping cool ideas"! Love ya! Pam