The Surprising Benefits Of Not Turning On Your Air Conditioning
We’ve entered the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmastime, but the shoulder months betwixt winter and summer when we can coast by without the use of heat or air conditioning. This climate control-free period provides the perfect opportunity to save money and breathe fresh air. It might seem like a minor shift in daily life, but we relish the chance to live without it. Despite the fact that we have a slew of techniques for keeping our heat lower than average, we’re still beholden to it during winter (to prevent frozen pipes and frozen noses). Hence, summer is our season to save.
Windows and Doors (and their proper use)
Our primary mechanism for enabling the absence of air conditioning is the window-n-door method. Yep, we open our windows and doors. Pretty advanced, I know. But there is an element of strategy involved–we wake up early when it’s still cool outside. By opening all of our windows and screened doors (ok, so we only have one screened door) before the heat of the day strikes, we’re able to take advantage of temperate breezes. Opening the windows upstairs gives us something of a stack effect and hot air is freed from the house.
Then, we close everything up tight before the temperature rises. And, critically, we draw all of the curtains and blinds in order to keep the sun out. Whereas we throw open all the shades in the winter to capture every iota of solar warmth we can, it’s the opposite while we’re trying to keep cool.
When using this patented Frugalwoods window-n-door method, it’s important to assign someone as the “temperature sheriff.” A job not to be taken lightly, the temperature sheriff is responsible for monitoring the outside temp vis-à-vis the inside tempt and then blowing a bullhorn* to signify when the two have equalized. Once this happens, the temperature sheriff deploys all family members to batten the hatches. If the outside temp rises above the inside, you’ll end up heating up your house.
While we can often repeat this process in the evenings, sometimes it’s not cool enough until much later at night. Hence the beauty of waking up early to take advantage of crisp mornings.
*The bullhorn is optional, but think of how much your neighbors will appreciate this public service announcement every morning! You’ll be so popular.
I should also highlight the terrific opportunities for closeness with your partner while living with doors and windows open. When your partner is say, taking a shower, while the main room windows are all open, you can be a good friend and close them before they emerge and say “whoops.” Not that
Mr. Frugalwoods anyone would walk out of a bathroom in a towel without first remembering that the windows are all open… Let’s just say it’s another chance to show your thoughtful love and devotion!
Good Morning, Let’s Start Cooking!
Doesn’t everyone want to start cooking dinner at 7am? I knew you did! Off-peak cooking is another key tactic we employ. The oven and stove heat up the house tremendously and so, Mr. Frugalwoods has discovered the novelty of cooking in the mornings. We’ve also started to trot out our no-cook summer favorites, like homemade hummus with raw vegetables, but some things still require a bit of heat. Mr. FW made our rice-and-beans, along with a red pasta sauce from scratch last Saturday morning while the doors and windows were still open.
Although the house gained a few degrees thanks to his culinary excursions, we were able combat the increase with our open windows. Had we delayed cooking until a more traditional hour of the day, we would’ve been forced to resort to AC in order to keep Frugal Hound’s panting at bay. I swear that dog is only comfortable in a 10-degree band of temperature: 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything outside of that and she’s either shivering or panting. It’s a tragedy, really.
Mr. FW and I also accept and ascribe to the idea that we’ll be warmer human beings during the summer months. Mainstream culture fights valiantly to squash every element of nature from our indoor dwellings, but it just ain’t natural. It’s cold in the winter and warm in the summer–this shouldn’t be a surprise to us.
Mr. FW and I change our wardrobes and our climatological expectations. Gone are the layered sweaters over sweatshirts we don in the winter, and out are the short-shorts and tank tops (ok maybe not quite, but we do wear less clothing). This is another beef I have with traditional workplaces–they’re climate-controlled to the point that the season is rendered unrecognizable! The AC is so frigid in my office these days that I end up in tights and sweaters every day… even though it’s 80 degrees outside.
Acclimating ourselves to accept, and even welcome, the gradations of each season’s temperatures enables us to save just that much more money and keep the climate control machines off for just that much longer.
Not Rocket Science
I’ll admit it, none of these tactics are earth-shattering, or even terribly inventive, in their approach. They’re just the result of considering options before immediately defaulting to the automatic switch of the AC. Before Mr. Frugalwoods and I were of the extreme frugal weirdo persuasion, we were sometimes guilty of auto-piloting our way through life. If it was hot, we’d flip on the AC without thinking.
Frugality encourages us to be aware of our surroundings–it causes us to stop and think, and it results in creativity. If we rely on the easiest, laziest, paid-for solution, there’s no incentive to innovate and to optimize our lives. But since Mr. FW and I are always on the hunt for opportunities to realize efficiencies in our spending, we enjoy the luxury of a life truly lived.
This might sound a bit extreme for simply not turning on the AC as early as everyone else does, but I think it’s indicative of the larger message of living this delightful, frugal life. Mr. FW and I are deeply conscious of the choices we make on a daily basis and very few things are executed without careful consideration. This process isn’t arduous, it’s liberating. We’re in control of our spending and consequently of our impact on the environment in a way that unconscious, automatic spending doesn’t allow for.
This Is About More Than Not Turning On The AC
There are a plethora of benefits to frugality beyond the obvious one of saving a ton of money and, oh yeah, being able to retire early. Several readers, including my introspective friend The Goblin Chief, pointed out in the comments section of last week’s Is Frugality Sustainable Without A Goal that the very act of frugality is an ethical stance.
I agree. Frugality causes us to use fewer resources (such as less electricity), to be more thoughtful about our waste (can’t remember the last time Mr. FW or I threw out any food), to consume less (haven’t bought any clothes in 16 months and counting), to expel fewer carbon emissions (indicated by our one tank of gas per month), and so much more.
And plenty of frugal folk do even better than Mr. Frugalwoods and me. We consider ourselves to still be in a largely consuming state–in other words, our household consumes more than it produces at this stage. One of our hopes on the homestead is that we’ll transition away from consuming so many resources and start generating more of our own.
Beyond the positive environmental implications of frugality, I love the peace, simplicity, and joy that it brings to our lives. We have fewer decisions to make because we don’t buy much, we’re constantly mastering new skills as we need to fix or repair or build things, our entertainment options are uniquely original since they’re free, and our marriage has been strengthened by the clarity of purpose that leaving the rat race delivers. And we haven’t even quit our jobs yet!
I’m practically giddy with anticipation to discover what frugality will yield for the rest of our lives and the ways in which we’ll grow and evolve. I see frugality as a gift of lifelong creativity, learning, and contentedness that we’re giving ourselves. After all, we don’t waste our time or money lusting after the next big thing–we find happiness right here at home, with our doors and windows open.
Does frugality make you more creative or conscious? How do you manage summer temperatures in your home?
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You guys are awesome!! We live in NC where temps reach high-90s in the summer (this will be our first summer here!). Our neighbor’s AC broke about 7 years ago and they have yet to replace it! They open all their windows and doors, like you guys, early in the morning and then in the afternoons rely on fans. I’ll admit…I’d be a little too hot with temps in the high-90s, but I’m definitely comfortable at 80 degrees or slightly higher. We definitely plan on keeping AC use at a minimum this summer. After all, the mornings and evenings are cool so there is no reason to use it. We will turn it on as-needed though since I work from home and we have our two little ones here.
Great tips – and great idea to cook in the morning!! I will definitely have to start doing that 🙂
Yeah, once it gets into the 90s and above, the open windows cooling method can have its limitations :). Like you said though, keeping AC use at a minimum is a great solution. Anything other than just turning it on and forgetting about it!
I had gotten to the point where I felt I wasn’t getting anything from pf blog posts. No one’s fault, it’s hard to keep it fresh when you read as much as I do. But I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed this post, I learned something new and free that will help me be more frugal. Awesome. You two are smart cookies.
Many thanks, I really appreciate that! Glad we could offer something new 🙂
We love this time of year too. The in-between no heat or AC time. Windows and door open early or late and closed mid-day when it gets too hot. We certainly still use them both when it’s too cold or too hot, but have lower the heat a few degrees over the last few years to cut cost and raised the AC temp to do the same.
We’ve found those few degrees can really make a difference in overall bills! And, anything short of using climate control year-round is a good thing 🙂
I grew up in southwest FL with no AC. So did my parents and grandparents. My grandparents still don’t have it. You know how we dealt with the summer? We were just hot all of the time. I always imagined FL summers without AC to be like New England before central heat. Nothing got done in the summer. We would all sit around under the ceiling fan drinking iced tea (SO much iced tea) and complaining about how hot and humid it was. It was hard to sleep in the summer. My brother and I would get in trouble for sneaking out of bed to put our sheets in the freezer.
Anyhow, we now live in NC and we leave the AC off as long as possible. We have a lot of shade trees, that helps. We do open windows and turn on ceiling fans. But we do turn the AC on when it gets to be proper summer. I am so grateful for it, especially right after we get back from visiting my grandparents.
Ahhh yes, air conditioning certainly does have its wonderful merits :). There are just those days when it’s necessary and we are grateful to have it as well! Not being able to sleep due to the heat is the worst feeling… that’s always our cue to turn it on.
We are big fans of avoiding turning on the hair, though when it’s repeatedly 90 degrees we do break down and set it to 80. For cooking, we grill a lot and I’ve found a lot of things I can use the toaster oven for instead of heating up the whole oven. The crock pot also doesn’t put out much heat. I used to cook in the morning to avoid the heat but then I read the tip to cook in late evening so your house won’t retain the residual cooking heat throughout the day when it’s hottest. (Of course this doesn’t work when you’re too exhausted to do anything by the time the sun goes down!)
Haha yes! We go to bed on the early side, so we’re not much good late at night :). Grilling outside is a great point–we love doing that too. So nice not to heat up the house at all!
BAH! Way to rub it in. I hadn’t had the heat on until two days ago. The only reason we did was because of poor planning on my part and a sick kid. We forgot to open the downstairs windows and then my daughter was sick and my wife had to stay home with her. It was 80 inside our house at 7AM and was going to hit a hi of 90 so I gave in and turned the air on for that day only.
It has been off otherwise since April and that even included one night where it dropped to the 30’s! We wore extra blankets then. 🙂
I wish I had an awesome temperature sheriff. Those outfits are getting more and more ridiculous, and I love it!
The temperature sheriff is integral to the plan–you should look into getting one ;). We’ve had a pretty cool spring as well so we’ve been alternating between trying to keep the house warm enough and then cool enough without the heat or the AC. It’s become something of a game!
Well, I live in South Florida so A/C is not optional. But I delay putting it on as long as I can. I use a crock pot for cooking which does not heat up the house. The entire winter for me is no heat or air conditioning (OK, I don’t even have heat). I love having windows open and I also utilize my screen door.
Ahhh, that’s so nice you don’t have to use heat all winter! But, I can see how A/C would be a requirement! Crock pot cooking is a great tip as well.
We try and do some similar things to avoid needing to turn on the A/C as much – our only problem is our oldest two like to go re-open the windows after Mrs. FR or I shut them prior to getting out of the shower. Anyway, I can empathize with your beef on the traditional workplace – that always drove me nuts. There’s no reason why any person should have to dress like it’s a frozen tundra when it’s 90 outside because the internal environment is so controlled.
Oh dear, I hadn’t factored in the possibility of window re-openers! Sounds dangerous :). It really bothers me how cold my office is every day… in addition to it not feeling like summer, they must be wasting so much electricity. Just doesn’t make sense!
We’re pretty much the same, but our warm season is much longer, living as we do in S FL. The big exception is that we close everything up shortly before bed and turn on the A/C at night from probably May – September/October. This removes the humidity from the air (VERY IMPORTANT for preventing mold over the long term) and keeps us sleeping like babies when sometimes it’s still 80+ and 100% humidity outside when we’re going to sleep.
But by keeping our A/C off pretty much every day, we have much lower electricity usage than most everyone.
As for low-heat generating cooking, try getting an electric pressure cooker! You’d be amazed what you can cook up in it without hardly generating any external heat at all!
That’s a great point about removing the humidity to prevent mold–very smart. We don’t have much humidity up here, but mold is not something you want to mess around with. Funny enough, we actually have a saved Craigslist search for a used pressure cooker–it’s definitely something we’d like to have!
I do love my A/C and when it is 97 degrees with about 99% humidity here in central Illinois, there are time when I’m tempted to kneel before the air conditioning gods and give thanks for the man who invented it. However, I love the fresh air more and love having the doors and windows open. I’m pretty wimpy when it comes to heat but I really try to stretch the “no A/C season” as long as I can. Then I pray for autumn to hurry up and get here so the windows can be opened again.
I used to live in southern Illinois and then in St. Louis and I know exactly the temperatures you’re talking about–definitely an A/C-required type of situation! Ugh, so so hot. I’m grateful for A/C too–there are just those times when life is too uncomfortable without it.
The climate is kinda confused down here in Virginia. We had a very cool, wet spring that actually resembled late winter.
Then it warmed up! BAM! But we have had two cool days this week where one has to wear a sweater or jacket!
It’s supposed to steam up again starting this weekend and off comes the sweater and on goes the a/c.
I live with someone that starts turning on the a/c when it hits 70. I say “What are you going to do if it actually gets hot?”
I don’t like a/c until it is about 85 or if in the low 80s and humid. I like me fresh air! I am originally an Okie (I can say that as I am from there!) and we Okies like our breeze and sun.
Unfortunately, the windows and balcony door on our condo are not set up so we can experience a cross breeze. Yuck!
One thing I used to do in an apartment I had in an old building a few years back was put the window fan blowing OUT during the day and reverse it at night. I didn’t have a/c in that apt. but people used to remark how cool the place was. There was a huge leafy tree right in front of that building that kept the sun out and it was an old brownstone that retained cool air. I never got hot in that apt. unless the temps soared above 100!
I never even had a/c until almost 2000. I had always lived without it and done fine with fans! But I am weird.
I’d like to know when commercial and governmental enterprises are going to clue into this a/c problem. Many days in my office, even in the middle of summer, you have to wrap up in a Snuggie or flannel blanket because they run the a/c on full blast.
It has gotten so bad that I sent some research links from Cornell U. about how productivity goes down when the office temps. are too cold. People can’t concentrate when they are either too hot or too cold. All their energy goes into try to warm up or cool down. Not to mention all the money these places would save! Our Republican controlled legislature yammers on about debt, taxes, etc., yet lets state government buildings waste energy and money by cooling them like the places are supposed to be refrigerated units. They may not give a darn about climate change but you’d think the money saving angle might interest them. Probably too many of them are beholden to Dominion Resources (the power company hereabouts) to care about state budgets.
We’ve had that same sort of oddly cold and then blazing hot spring–it’s been a challenge to vacillate between trying to keep warm and then keep cool without the use of the heat or the A/C. I thought we were on a warming trend, but then it’s actually quite cool this morning… who knows. A fan in the window is a great tactic; we have one we use in our bedroom and it really does work wonders! And, I wish my office weren’t so frigid–I’m with you, they must be wasting so much electricity! Ugh.
I have to NOT cook with the oven in the summer. Otherwise I feel like I’m gonna pass out 🙂
For sure! We start to ease off our usage as it gets warmer. Good thing we like a lot of raw foods ;)!
We don’t have AC (this is not uncommon in Europe) in our house, and it is not something that bothers me… In the summertime, we sometimes have a week of temperatures above 35ºC (95ºF) and that can be a little uncomfortable, but it doesn’t make the installation of an AC necesary. We also open doors and windows when it’s still cool out and then close everything down.
In wintertime, temperatures have dropped to 13ºC (55ºF) in the house, but we have a pelletstove in the livingroom that kept us nice and warm at 20ºC (68ºF) all winter for +/-120€ this year (and I am home all day, so the stove was on all day….). Our bedrooms don’t have heating (we just add an extra duvet ), and neither does our bathroom, but that’s entirely interior so it doesn’t get very cold in there…
I guess a lot depends on where your comfortlevels are… I don’t need one constant temperature or humidity in the house to still be comfortable…
That’s wonderful that you’re able to get by without heat or A/C. I completely agree with you on adapting to different temperatures. We try to accept the seasons for what they naturally bring and we’re just colder in the winter and warmer in the summer. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy the change of seasons so much–makes life interesting!
We are unfortunately in a climate where AC isn’t optional. 😉 Check out the historical development of the USA. None of the southern cities really took off until the early to mid 20th century, the exact time when air conditioning entered the market and became prevalent.
We are also cursed with seasonal allergies that makes “fresh air” toxic and painful at times. Nothing like stale filtered air to keep us breathing comfortably. 🙂
Yeah, we’re wusses. We’ll see how we do in Mexico when we’re without AC for 6 weeks. It’s supposed to be cooler and less humid than North Carolina (which kind of boggles the mind), so hopefully we’ll be okay. I bet after the first week or two we’ll get acclimated and be fine.
That’s a great point about A/C correlating to development! It’s one of the things I always reflect on at history museums–life was fairly uncomfortable a lot of the time for our ancestors. Especially up here during the winter… I can’t even imagine how cold everyone must have been all the time.
Good point on the allergies too–I know we’re lucky not to suffer from them. Oddly enough, we both had terrible allergies as kids and Mr. FW had awful asthma, but somehow neither of us seems to be allergic to the Northeast… I guess we better not ever live in the midwest again!
I’m sure you’ll do fine in Mexico–it’ll just be part of the immersion experience :).
I think we’ll be fine. We’re going A/C free today and it’s warm but not bad. We ate outside by the lake because it was breezy and cooler than inside. And used the fans. Now we get to hear the symphony of bullfrogs, birds, herons, geese, and crickets for the rest of the night (plus the random fire/police siren). The upside of skipping the A/C and keeping the windows open.
Haha, I hear ya on the sirens. We get a lot of random city noises with our windows open… keeps life entertaining.
I totally agree that frugality is great for the planet! Hence, my blog name. 🙂
Like you said, our constant temperature controlled world drives me absolutely nuts. It is not normal for us to live this way. And, I personally think it is aiding the obesity issue. I look at the warm months as a no-brainer way for instant appetite control. I mean, seriously, who wants to eat greasy, heavy food when it is 90 degrees outside? I much prefer fresh fruits and veggies at that temp!
I recommend a great book called “Losing Our Cool”, by Stan Cox
Your blog name is perfect! I agree that it just doesn’t seem normal to try and climate-control our lives to “perfection” every day of the year. And, seasonal eating is a wonderful thing!
Have you read about the folks who ascribe to the idea of being cold as a means for weight loss? It’s an interesting concept. Essentially, their idea is that the body has to work harder to stay warm and so the metabolism ramps up.
Thanks for the book recommendation!
I think frugality does make you more conscious, it’s also the realization that you are in charge of paying the bills. So when you leave the room and turn off the light, you are saying that you prefer to pay less money for items that you don’t really think are necessary. Approved on the no A/C, it’s a fun battle to fight.
Paying the bills really does make you conscious about how much energy you’re using! It’s a good way to keep spending in check and efficiency at the fore.
I also love this time of year! Partly for the financial savings, but also because life feels so much simpler when I can just throw the doors and windows open and not rely on any heat or air to be comfortable.
I’d be curious to hear how you all feel about travel in a future post. I know you visit family during off-peak times (go January!) but I’m thinking more of a getaway for the two of you. I have very frugal relatives who have mastered the art of points/mileage to travel incredibly inexpensively, along with finding steals via VRBO, etc. for housing (where they can largely cook instead of eating out). They travel to South America, Europe and Central America pretty regularly. Still, vacations do require some money to be spent . . . . public transit, local food, housing. I get the impression that you two are very adverse to most spending, and am curious if you just don’t have the desire to travel (or maybe you do and I’ve missed it in your posts) or if it just doesn’t trump your desire to homestead? Either way, curious about how you feel about international travel…
Great question on travel! We love to travel and have travelled internationally a fair amount. It’s one of those areas that we absolutely prioritize spending on. We use points as well and are huge proponents of various forms of travel hacking (no surprise there 🙂 ). If you’re like to read about some of our past travels and our tactics for travel on the cheap, check out our Travel category and feel free to shoot me any questions.
Our microwave died, six weeks ago…and guess what? Our electric bill went down more than $30 per month! We are not replacing the microwave. Plus after a small amount of investigating we discovered it was not doing our bodies any good either…you should investigate the evils of microwave ovens.
That’s a great discovery! Our microwave actually lives down in our basement and doesn’t see much use.
I get actively grumpy when I get too hot. Like, sometimes I’ll be feeling frustrated with everything for no apparent reason until I realize it’s 80 degrees in my house. As soon as I feel those breezes from the AC I calm back down. So, needless to say, this Mississippi-born Georgia girl succumbs to the AC. It’s broken in my car right now and I’m not a happy camper. We do use a Nest thermostat, though, and it regulates our loft pretty well without going overboard. I do switch it off and open our patio door and turn on a fan on the days when it’s nice enough, but in Georgia those days end about now. After this it’s 90% humidity all day erry day.
You are definitely in a region that needs A/C :)! There are just those temperatures at which it’s a miracle worker. That’s great you’ve got an efficient thermostat–nice! I hear ya on getting grumpy–that’s me when I’m hungry :).
Many people in Vermont do not have air conditioning. Most say you don’t need it, and while that may be true, there are days in the summer when it is very humid. My husband is very conscientious about humidity in the house. He likes it to be at a certain percentage, I think it might be 50%. Not sure. He said some is needed to prevent dry skin, dry noses, nosebleeds, etc. from heat, but also not so much that you get mildew. So, we do have and use AC when we need to. But I do agree with you, these days in Vermont right now are glorious because you have fresh air all through the house, yet not so cold that just closing doors and windows will be enough to keep comfortable.
Ahh, another of your Vermont comments that makes me love the state even more ;)! Great point about humidity and mildew–that’s definitely not something to mess around with.
Yeah, we had a horrible spate of two or three days this week where it was so hot, it tied records. Once again this year, we’ve moved directly from winter into summer. I refused to put the air conditioner in, though. Last year we put in the air conditioner on June 17, and I want to at least meet that this year. Those 90 degree days were very trying, but if the Germans can do without A/C, so can I!
The second floor of our house gets and stays terribly hot. I swear the brick walls soak up heat throughout the day and it dissipates back into the house during the night. I had the doors and windows open, and I honestly wonder how much money is saved by running a few floor fans and a ceiling fan vs. just running an air conditioner in the bedroom at bedtime. Might be time for an analysis..
Part German here – BIG thing to remember about German vs Americans is Germany does not have the humidity, and most importantly they build differently. Most American homes are wood/brick + insulation, whereas German homes have *thick* stone/concrete walls, tile/stone floors and heavy wooden slats that roll down for shades instead of just fabric curtains. So Germans often fill the bathtub with cold water if it’s going to be hot out, roll down the shades, and the house radiates the cold air- my Oma’s apartment would stay super cool in the middle of the summer this way, but our American house couldn’t do the same thing.
Heidi: Interesting point on the differences between German and American houses. We certainly don’t have the most efficient house–construction really does make a difference! And, I hadn’t heard of that bathtub method before, but what a great system.
Good question on the AC vs. the fans, probably worth analyzing. And, I’m impressed you’re holding out with the 90 degree days–that’s some hardcore frugal action!
In my old 1920s bungalow that was pretty much like a little brick ‘easy bake oven,’ I had a rigorous ‘Fan Management’ plan. Depending on where the shady side of the house was and the time of day I had a series of box fans sucking or pushing air out. I’d suck in all the cool night air at one end of the house, and push the air out at the other end. Then close up the house/shut the blinds or push the hot air out. It would still get 83 degrees in there on a 100 degree day.
At our newer house, we do have central air however. There is often a stretch in Utah that reach upper 90s-100s everyday. It rarely stays that hot overnight. We’d only turn on the AC if we have house guests and they don’t want to sweat it out like us! We luckily have a fully furnished/carpeted walk out basement that is nice and cool. We’ll bring our dinner down there to eat, even sleep in the spare room. Putting a box fan in the basement and having it push the cool air upstairs also helps along with ceiling fans upstairs.
Sounds like you’ve got a great system in place. I’m a big fan (hah) of fans and just generally using the A/C as little as possible, but, it is necessary sometimes. I like your basement solution–we hang out in ours on the hottest days too! Your comment about guests makes me smile–we do the same thing for our guests with both the heat and the A/C :).
We live in the South. My husband could probably go all year without the A/C lol. I like my A/C. I have a front door made mostly of glass. We use the side door. So in the summer I cover it with aluminum foil. I also have some heavy light blocking curtains I use for some of the windows, like the spare bedroom.
Good call on the light-blocking drapes! Those are such a help when the sun in streaming through.
I’m usually the one yelling at my roommates to open the windows instead of putting on the A/C. I’m a big fan of fans and windows 🙂 I usually cave at night if its too warm. I don’t sleep well if it’s too hot. First world problems I guess.
Yeah, not sleeping at night is our cue to turn on the A/C as well–at a certain point, you’ve got to be comfortable!
I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but this is not advice allergy sufferers should follow. For the average person it definitely makes sense (especially those pursuing frugality), but opening your windows and doors is the worst thing you can do if you suffer from outdoor allergies. Allergens will come in through the windows and then sit/rest on all your furniture, bedding, etc. We do open the kitchen and front door from time-to-time for the cats, but it’s important that we don’t do it for too long of a time period and we never, ever open our bedroom windows. Again, this is only for weird people with allergies : )
Great point! Absolutely not good for allergy sufferers!
Love This 🙂 I do the same thing! I live in Maryland and have made it to June without really turning on the AC because of open windows and CEILING FANS! Best money you’ll ever spend is on a ceiling fan- it keeps the room feeling at least 5 degrees cooler.
The only note I wanted to add is that if you have pets, make sure to have a thermostat set it can turn on during the day if need be (Mine is set to 84) or leave doors open for them to access cooler basements/tiled rooms, etc and leave extra water out for pets at home during the warmer months. I came home once during the summer to a power blackout, and the kitties almost had a heat stroke 🙁
Thank you for mentioning pets–that’s a great point! We cool the house in the mornings mostly so it’ll be nice and cool for Frugal Hound all day long. And, the thermostat failsafe setting is a great idea too.
This whole business is a reason that my spouse wants to have an outdoor kitchen, should we move back to the land of ridiculously humid summers. We’d like an outdoor oven of some description, plus a kick-backside bbq, so that we can easily do a bunch of our cooking outdoors and keep the temperatures pleasant inside.
An outdoor kitchen sounds awesome! Love that idea.
I do that same thing. I don’t turn on the AC until at least June so I try to keep April and May free from heat or AC. It’s my fave time of year because of the energy and money savings 🙂
I completely agree that frugality teaches creativity, and generally results in less waste, too.
Our house doesn’t get much direct sun, so we typically only use the AC on the hottest days. I do opt for it at night in the summer, though.
Oh, and like you, I don’t go anywhere without a cardigan in the summer – brr!
Summer nights are our biggest times for A/C use as well–got to be able to sleep! Glad I’m not the only one wearing a sweater everywhere in the frigid A/C!
I live in phoenix. This time of the year the temp is around 60’s in am and 70’s during late evening [80’s to 100 during the day]. I usually open the door in am and use a big fan to blow the air inside to out side or out side to inside alternatively. Keeping the windows closed cause heat buld up during the day and the heat stay in the house even after the outside temperature is much cooler in the evening.
Keeping the door and windows open improves the air quality. The amount of particles in the indood air is much higher than outside air. This practice refill your house with fresh air. It also feels good to feel the air air flowing around you.
There is another option called Whole house fan which is a high power fan that can be installed in a window and can be used to get the air in and out of house in short time. I am considering this option for my house. I think this is a good option when you come home in the evenig and the house is too warm being the windows and doors closed all day.
I glad that i found your blog.
We’re in Phoenix too, but we’re home all day. So A/C is a necessity. Especially since my husband has asthma, so open doors and windows could meant dust blowing in more. Also, I’m allergic to some of the mosquitoes down here, and our iron mesh door isn’t quite snug enough to keep them out. Whee.
So instead, I strip down. (My husband stays cooler than I do.) The curtains are closed anyway, so it’s not a big deal. We run the ceiling fans and are currently able to keep it at 79. We’ll see how well that works as the days get hotter, but I’m hopeful that we can acclimate and push the thermostat to 80.
Sounds like you’ve both got good systems in place! I think it’s all about figuring out what works best for your individual situation.
I live in Canada, so only gets to 85F+ 60 days a year or so. I just have a box fan on a timer exhausting the hot air at night, usually 9pm-7am, with open windows on the bottom floor.
This brings in lots of cold air and the entire house down. The next day, fan off, the thermal inertia of the house keeps it cool. I’ve seen temp differences of 20F.
To feel cool rather than clammy, wear “wicking” clothing from outdoors stores rather than cotton.
To feel really cool while working outside, wear cotton and drench yourself every hour. Or do what the Arabs do – wear loose white flowing robes. It keeps the heat off, and every movement fans your skin.
Great point on the clothing. We love our wicking hiking clothes–they really do wonders for keeping the body cool!
Get yourself a nice cheap high-volume floor fan (the square kind) to reduce that A/C use. You can position it on the side of the house that the breeze is blowing towards, in front of a window but pointing into the house, to pull more cool air into the house. This is great when the air outside is cool and the house is warm. Of course be sure to open a door or window on the opposite side of the house. This is especially effective at night when you are closing the house up during the day. It also is nice to have it blowing on you, for instance when Mr.F is cooking or at night in midsummer with the A/C off to keep your bedroom cool. So two uses: one to pull cool air into the house and blow hot air out; and two to create air movement to cool the sweat off your warm bodies. Probably Frugal Hound would like this too!
In the summer when you have opened windows at night and shut them in daytime and it is still too warm the fan will extend your no-A/C season just that much longer. And if it makes a month worth of difference what is the savings for that month? Maybe enough to pay for the fan right there. My preference is a fan with two speeds. I have also used the kind that oscillate which usually have an option for no oscillation as well as two speeds. But the big square floor fans move a lot more volume where the small ones are best near where you sit.
The truly frugal part is that fans use so very very little electricity that you will probably not even be able to tell it is costing anything. I suggest you do the math on that if you doubt me but I could not see any difference on my bill. As a bonus the fan will move to Vermont with you where an A/C unit stays in the house. A good fan can last many many years and only needs to have the dust cleaned off the blades once or twice a year and the motor oiled now and then. The only down side is the noise they make but since they run constantly rather than intermittently you get used to it and eventually tune it out.
We’re fans of fans too :)! We have a great window fan that we set up at one of the house and it sucks in cool air and expels the hot. It definitely cuts down on our A/C use!
You don’t big honking speedy fans unless you live in a gymnasium. A big fan moving the air slowly so your skin can evaporate sweat easily works well. Ceiling fans are ideal. With moderate heat, you never feel the sweat, just the coolness. That plus a cold non-sugar drink….
I HATE being hot! Hate, hate, HATE it! Blazing summer days when the mercury kisses 100 and there isn’t a cloud in the sky take all of the energy out of me. However, I’ve found a way to keep my home cool. Three words: whole house fan (WHF).
So, a WHF is this big-ass fan you install in the ceiling of an upstairs hallway. Open the windows, fire it up and it pulls air from the outside and shoves it up and out the attic (side benefit is that the attic stays cooler, helping shingles last a little longer)*.
So, in the summer, we open the windows and fire up the WHF. We like to bring the indoor temp down to about 63 or 64. Even if the mercury hits 95, the home is only in the mid 70s by late afternoon. By that time, it is starting to cool off again and the AC never gets turned on. The WHF is way cheaper to run than AC.
Anyway, this method only works if it cools off at night. Thank you cool Colorado nights.
*That was one heck of a run on sentence. My 2nd grade teacher would not be amused.
Yes to the WHF! We had one in the attic of our townhouse in DC and it worked wonders. We can’t have one here because we have… uh… an attic situation, which we should describe to you and get your thoughts on at some point in time… maybe over some beers. Ahh the joys of living in a 120+ year old house.
One quiet powerful fan is the fan from a defunct furnace. Needs wiring & installation, tho.
So many good points here! It’s really about awareness, acclimating, and frugal habits. My animals love the open windows…so much fresh air, things to see and hear….I stretch out the “no climate control” months as long as I can, and when I do use heat or AC, I get by with as little as possible.
Frugal Hound loves the open windows too! She’ll stand and sniff out the window or just stare. It’s pretty cute 🙂
When I get home from work at 2300, I open up all the windows on the second floor and select windows on the first floor, if my husband happens to be working until 0200. If it is a still a little warm, I put a window fan in our bedroom window and turn it on. Our ceilling fans usually run all the time in the summer.
In the morning when I get up at 0730, I open all the downstairs windows and the screened porch door. I do not open the front door because it is easterly facing and hot. Once it starts getting warmer I close all the windows that are facing east, and close the last of the windows on the shady side of the house.
Rinse and repeat.
Night attire is also different in the summer, as are our bed linens. I sleep in light shorts and a tank top and we only use a sheet at night. I have also employed a mister spray bottle and mist my face and arms and legs and lay in front of the fan if I am hot before bed.
If we use the AC, it is set to 78.
That sounds like a great system! And, good points about the bed linens and PJs–definitely important to keep it cool in the summer. I like the mister spray bottle technique!
The temperature here jn NW Indiana was 80 deg. today.
We kept the doors and windows closed.
After the indoor temperature reached 74 deg., I turned on the furnace fan which circulated cooler drier air from the basement through the whole house which dropped the temperature three degrees and also dropped the humidity.
Perfectly comfortable at little cost.
Retirement rocks when you’re frugal!
Nice! I think life rocks when you’re frugal :)!
I must say this is the first spring that the outside temps reached 80 (and a little over) and I did not turn on the A/C. This is thanks to your blog! Helping and inspiring us be more frugal and in touch with our surroundings. I’m inspired to see how long I can go without A/C. I did buy some new clothes though- odd thing, if the A/C isn’t on I am much to warm in my fleece pj’s in the summer. I had to get some more appropriate clothing to wear around the house. We also bought a fan. It has been comfortable – and we have been able to sleep just fine. Thanks for the great advice! It is inspiring.
Thank you so much for your kind words, Pauline! Makes me so happy to hear we’ve been able to be helpful! Good call on the lighter PJ’s–definitely helps to keep cool at night. Congrats on not turning on the A/C yet–that’s awesome :)!
Great that your air conditioner is turned off this time of the year. The area where I live in, the temperature can hit up to 39C and we couldn’t turn off the air conditioners as it is really hot in here. I know how much bill we could be getting in the end of the month because of this not that cheap use. Not the perfect time to get frugal and save more than I used to.
Yeah, we try to go as long as we can before turning the A/C on :). Just another one of those frugal weirdo tactics!
We practically never turned on the AC during the summer. We managed with fans alone. Luckily we’ve been able to keep our windows closed due to horrible seasonal allergies and not roast to death. I know that the allergy season shall pass and we intend to do the same; open windows and doors, and grill most of our food outside. We have not fill our heating oil tank since March and it has saved us about $900 already. We are hoping not to have to fill up until June (our hot water is heated by the furnace 🙁 )
That’s awesome you’ve been able to stay cool with fans! And nicely done on not filling the oil tank! Way to frugal it up 🙂
I love Colorado because it always cools off at night, no matter how hot it gets in the day. Lots of houses don’t even have AC. We do, but really only need to use it for a couple of weeks in July most of the time. We do probably use more heat than some places, but you cant’ beat the summer temperatures.
Cool nights are the best. We’re usually pretty lucky with cooler temps here a well, but there are some nights in the dead of summer when it just doesn’t cool off. Colorado seems to have almost perfect weather!
It’s amazing what temperature a human can comfortably tolerate when a fan is blowing on them. While not using A/C in Colorado isn’t a huge accomplishment, I also didn’t use it but 1 week/year in North Carolina. I live alone so clothing is optional and I enjoy the breeze a fan provides.
Fans are fabulous! And, wearing less clothing absolutely helps!
“I’m practically giddy with anticipation to discover what frugality will yield for the rest of our lives and the ways in which we’ll grow and evolve.” I think that many of us will be eager to see how life on the homestead will develop for you. We live in a bowl of steamy humidity in the summer (and we’re the coldest capital in the world in the winter), and my husband’s home business involves heat producing equipment – but the mornings at this time are indeed cool. We’ll steal your patented window-n-door method and see how we do : )
Haha, thanks! I’m eager to see what the homestead will yield too! Good luck with the window-n-door method, it’s pretty advanced ;).
Just wanted to say I loved this line: Acclimate Yo’self.
Glad someone appreciate that 😉
YES to being more creative! We are also a consumer household and likely to stay that way indefinitely–we have public service jobs (librarian and teacher) and I think those are are main contribution to society rather than, say, growing our own food.
I like your cooking in the morning advice–we tend to stay outdoors late in the summer and then there’s no time to cook. Or you can use the crockpot at night–or even outside on a covered porch!
Last summer was our first in Colorado; we had a two-story townhouse and occasionally turned on the AC, especially because the bedrooms were upstairs. (We used it often on the East Coast because we hate humidity–not a problem here.) But our new house is one story and a basement, so it should be cooler–and guess what we have? A swamp cooler! Super low-cost cooling!
We may wind up using it more often at night than I would prefer because we sleep in the basement and the tots sleep upstairs–and they are rather young to be sleeping with their windows open. Especially in our urban neighborhood. We actually set a burglar alarm at night, not so much to warn us if someone is coming IN as to tell us if someone is going OUT.
I really do love the creativity that frugality fosters. And, good call on the burglar alarm–these are important things that I need to learn before we have kids :)!
All your suggestions sound great, as I’ve never tried (or thought of) cooking dinner in the morning. As a bonus, I’m sure electricity prices are lower then too.
We got as long as we can with just using fans to keep ourselves cool, but I must admit that when the humidity of RI comes our way, we get uncomfortable quickly and use the A/C to reduce it. Thanks for the tips!
Ahh yes, humidity. The bane of the window and door method ;)!
I grew up where central air was a “thing” because temperatures get so warm. Ok, hot.
We moved north a few years back and realized no one had central air and some people don’t even have air conditioners and it was so new to us. My husband was excited to throw open the windows and breathe fresh air.
I should insert here that he has horrible allergies.
He was recently tested and is literally allergic to everything. The allergist said he’s definitely seen much more severe reactions but has never encountered someone with such a reactive immune system.
So, for us, leaving the windows open is an exercise in misery. I’ve got a warm baby clamoring all over me and I’m the world’s sweatiest woman, and my husband is laying on the couch, dying. Or so he’d have you believe.
We have not yet cracked out our air conditioners, but frankly, we are still running the heat where we live. Give it a few weeks, we will have a few days where neither are run, and then out come the air conditioners…. Sigh.
I’d definitely love to open the windows more than we do, just as I’d love to line dry our clothes. I might need to price how much we pay in Benadryl, Sudafed, and cough drops versus how much we pay to run our a/c. Might make me feel frugal after all!
Oh wow–your husband’s allergies sound intense! That’s really too bad. Sorry to hear he’s suffering so much (and you too)! A note on the clothes–I actually line dry our clothes indoors down in the basement and it works pretty well. I have nylon rope hanging from the ceiling with hooks as well as a few drying racks. It’s my solution to urban, year-round clothes drying :).
The first 18 years of marriage we lived up north and no AC. We survived with tons of fans, thermal drapes to keep the sun out of those windows that the sun was beating in at that time of day. Due to necessity of trying to keep the house cool we also:
hung washing out on the clothes line – the dryer even in the basement will steam up your home quickly
got a small charcoal grill and cooked most meals outside on the patio and ate out there also – think camping cooking – a whole lot of creativity, timing on getting the most of out of the hot charcoal, and you can still put on great meals, who said you needed to cook the potatoes for salad on the kitchen stove top? My SIL canned tomatoes and other summer veggies on propane grill with side burners.
In all fairness, I think there is a shift in weather patterns and were we used to live is much more humid now. At most we had 3 weeks of dog days of summer where it was 85-90+ and humid (1960-1990). This is the normal spring/summer temp where we now live in SE. Thank’s be to God that we’ve central AC, I’d melt without it and would be contemplating moving to Canada or Alaska LOL
Oh humidity is terrible! It really does require A/C! When I lived in the midwest, there was just no getting around using the A/C in the summer. We’re pretty lucky to have low humidity here, which helps prolong our no-A/C season. And, I love that you cooked so much outside! The outdoor canning system sounds impressive.
Here in Phoenix, Arizona we’d be lost without air conditioning. .. We do use drapes to keep the sun out. Of course for the rest of the year we get to practice the ideas you mentioned of opening windows, drapes etc.
Ahh yes, there are some areas where A/C is just mandatory :).
It seems climate is a very individual thing in the US plus we have all adjusted fiercely to whatever technology has to offer!
Here in our Alpine climate (very cold winters, very warm summers), traditional houses are well-equipped with thick walls and window shutters to keep the heat out in summer (more effective outside the window glass, which also heats in the sun!) and in during winter, when there was one central, efficient tiled stove to keep everyone warm in one main room of activity, often with vents to the bedrooms above to avoid freezing in bed. In summer, like you, we air the house in the cool hours and at night and close the shutters in the morning as the sun begins to gain strength. It is also coolest on the ground floor of our home – stone floors and thick stone walls (the upper part of the house is wood construction). Our terrace and balcony get the morning sun but are wonderfully cool in the hot afternoons, as they face east. The main rooms get little direct sun in summer but are flooded by the warming winter sun, smart planning!
Our Brittany holiday home has a very different climate (windy, wet and mild all the year round) and the house is often downright cold in summer because the sun doesn’t shine in, so it’s warmer outside… In the colder months, it’s more about avoiding the damp than actually heating the house, but the heating system is nothing like as sophisticated as what we need for central Europe, of course.
My grandparents in England didn’t have central heating until the mid-1970s – it was normal to have fires in the downstairs rooms, keep the doors closed and freeze on winter nights because the rest of the house stayed icy. But then they don’t have much in the way of heat in the summer…
Anyone wise to the Mediterranean ways of coping with very hot weather (Spain, Italy, Greece…) where air conditioning is not common?!
Your stone house sounds ideally built for handling different climates. I really wish we had a more efficient house, but alas, ours is over 120 years old and just wasn’t built all that well to begin with. Good construction and building materials make all the difference!
You can blow/pour vermiculite into the walls for more insulation. Vermiculite is a mineral product so it does not decay or burn. Some insulators blow in shredded cellulose i.e. recycled newspapers, but that is not so good for mice or fires.
We actually just got our utility bill from last month and it was SO nice!! We avoid turning on the AC as long as possible too. The great thing about living in NY is that even though the days may get hot, the evenings cool off so that you can still remain pretty comfortable at night.
That’s awesome! I’m so thankful for our cool mornings and evenings too. Even on super hot days, we can usually count on a few hours of cool temps each day to air out the house. Congrats to you on avoiding the A/C!
Yes! Yes! Yes! We love this time of year too for the same reasons. I’m so glad to know we aren’t the only ones with a highly organized system of opening, closing, and temperature monitoring. Because we live on the side of a mountain where it’s naturally cooler (and because our dog, Hazel, is originally from Texas and is not bothered a speck by hot weather), we’re able to function without any AC at all, and it is amazing! Yes, there are some days in the summer when we are hot – but it’s summer, you’re supposed to be hot! I too have an office environment that becomes frigid as soon as it is even remotely warm outside, so I’m usually chilled to the bone by the end of the day and happy to come home to my hot house! We do the early morning cooking thing too and it’s really fun! We cook up a big smorgasbord of things at once, so that we only have to heat up the stove every few days and then we get to create fun mix and match meals out of whatever we made and eat them sitting on our shady porch. Doesn’t get much better than that!
Sounds like you’ve got a perfect system going on! I’m impressed you’re able to get by without any A/C at all–that’s fabulous. And, very nice that Hazel is well-adjusted to the heat (Frugal Hound is something of a wimp in the heat 😉 ).
Great strategy and it does work! I however am an A/C lover for many reasons-chief among them are my environmental allergies. If I don’t have the a/c one I have breathing problems, itching problems and am generally a mess in the summer. I had central a/c installed last year (got a tax rebate for putting in an energy efficient system) that actually is way cheaper to run than individual window and wall a/c. Not everyone’s cup of tea I know but if I had my windows open I would be very unwell. I love the winter especially when it snows.
Allergies are such a pain! Glad to hear you’ve got a system that works well for you. And I agree–I love the winter too :).
We just turned on our A/C for the first time last night. The new house is very well insulated and has kept it cool this long. But once the humidity creeps up, I call uncle and turn on the A/C to keep the humidity down. We just got a dehumidifier for our basement, and theoretically it has enough power to de-humidify the whole house (costco special), so maybe we’ll use the A/C less this summer.
A dehumidifier is a great idea! We have one for our basement too, but it’s not quite so powerful to cover the whole house. I’ll be interested to hear if that system ends up working well for you.
I moved into an old mobile home which had a swamp cooler. Inexpensive-like the cost of a light bulb running all day, but so much less expensive than air conditioners! Costs $30 a month to run all day (if I must-Southern Calif) vs. the $350-$700 air conditioning bills my friends have! Works until it hits 100+ degrees, then I turn on my wall unit, too.
That’s fantastic! Nicely done!
Swamp coolers are great if the air is dry. Forget about it if it is humid.
I consistently, unapologetically, and proudly have my Carrier Infinity 2 stage cooling, 5 stage heating heat pump set for “auto heat 68 cool 71” in winter through spring. Cool spring nights the heat cycles on the then in the afternoons the cooling kicks on. Depending on mood I may drop it to 69*. Late Spring and Summer are a different matter. In Summer 68*-70* are the norm unless I’m drinking, and during those nights we will see 66* and 65*. Sometimes I just dump it into the 50*’s to allow the a/c to run unbridled and fully staged. I’ve cooked my house as low as 57*. Even on the hottest days when put back on 70* sometimes the a/c will stay off until 11am before cycling on stage one.
It’s a 19 seed multi stage system, and I don’t care about the costs. Since it is such a nice system it doesn’t cost much to refrigerate my 3000sqft. My advice is get out the checkbook when buying an a/c unit. Get the nicest system you have and make sure you get the best DUCTS installed by ENGINEERS WHO TEST FOR LEAKS. I’d be willing to wager over 80% of the poor saps swearing it out have undersized leaking ducts.
We have a brand new and certified installed a/c. The cost is high even with a pro. My hub won’t set it past 70*F, which is odd because in the winter he puts in on 75*F. We are in the 96* days right now of SE Indiana. I’d prefer bedrooms to have ceiling fans. He hates all fans…claims they are trashy; plus he trips over box types. He doesn’t see very well. Our electric bill has been $400 for 3 months. I’m losing my mind. My current plan is to turn up the a/c a bit each day until we hit 75. I’m online looking for solutions. I grew up poor. We didn’t have ac. We went swimming all summer and everyone had a fan. My granny had BIG shade trees and porch (ceiling) fans. Now I lie here, midsummer, with a winter blanket. My kids can’t tolerate any warmth. Their daddy has pampered them too much. I long for fall when heat nor ac is needed. I swear over consumption can make you feel like the world is spinning out of control.
My most favorite cooking devices for the summer are my Zojirushi Induction Rice Cooker that cooks and steams just about anything from rice, to quinoa, to steel-cut oats, to breads and pilafs, and my Instant Pot Programmable table top pressure cooker. These devices save energy, help you cook your food with optimal nutrition, make cooking from economical dried beans a breeze, and, of course, keep the temperature down in the kitchen. We even take them camping because they are so versatile. Right now I’ve got black beans going in the 6 quart Instant Pot, and Quinoa Pilaf going in the Zojirushi.
It’s still a bit chilly in Missouri in May, but that will change on an hourly basis here. If it gets too chilly I’ll turn off the ventilation fan in the living room. Because of bugs in the Ozarks we have to keep everything well screened, even the ventilation fans. Sometimes we just don’t get a good breeze. It’s either gusty or still. So we’ve adopted the style of fans that have two fans that can be set to go either way individually–either to draw air out or blow it in, or both at the same time. On a muggy day these fans use far, far less electricity than air conditioning.
Hi nice people.iin florida me and everyone i spoke to have to leave a/c on all year round to keep the mold at bay..it still grows on ceiling even at 70 degrees ,we use clorox 50/50with water in spray..mold is very big issue ..if room isnt at least 70degrees a/c year round..just a fact of life here.