Energy Saving Air Conditioning (A/C) Alternatives for Cooling Yourself and Your Home: A Top Ten List
Air conditioning is ubiquitous in modern society, and while it keeps our homes and offices cool, it exacts a very high cost in terms of ecological, social, and health impacts. To help you save energy and money, here is a top ten list of the best cooling alternatives to your Air Conditioning (A/C) in your home.
For a bit of background, A/C units use electricity (often from coal burning power plants) to power a heat exchange unit that uses hydrofluorocarbons and freon gases to chill air. While it cools a small space, the energy produced creates much larger global warming effects while simultaneously destroying the ozone layer that protects us from the sun’s harmful radiation due to frequent freon leaks in older units. As we mentioned earlier, A/C units use the most power in many areas, especially warmer climates. There are also health effects and social effects of A/C units, as noted in a previous article, but here, we’ll stick to alternatives you can use to cool your space without the huge footprint or cost.
No Cost Alternatives
1. Night-time cool showers. The time you need to be coolest in warm climates is likely to be when you are sleeping. Or trying to sleep. If you’ve ever tried to sleep in a sweltering room, you know what I mean. When I was younger, I spent a few months in a Spanish immersion program in Honduras, and our dorm room had to be 92 degrees even at night. We learned very quickly that if we took a cool or cold water shower before bed, we stripped away a lot of body heat and were able to sleep like babies.
2. Moisten a bandana. This trick I learned from hiking the Appalachian Trail many years ago. Dampen a bandana and drape it around your neck. Your body loses a lot of heat through your hands, feet, and head area. Hands and feet are harder to keep a little damp, but draping a moistened bandana around your neck provides a constant cooling that your whole body will appreciate. It works just like sweat–your body heat goes into the moisture and works to evaporate it away from your skin, which pulls the heat away. But unlike sweat, there’s no stink involved in this one.
3. Drink ice water. Your body’s thermal regulation is largely controlled from the inside out. When you’re feeling hot, drink ice water. Not only will it cool you down, it will also keep you hydrated, which provides further cooling effect.
4. Fall in love with peppermint oils. Peppermint essential oils can be diluted in water and added to a spritzer bottle to spray your pulse points with (your pulse points are places on your body where you can take your pulse, more or less, and where your blood flow is close to the skin, it’s also a good spot to help cool you down). Try spritzing your wrist. Not only will you cool down, you’ll smell great, too.
5. Eat spicy foods. Spicy foods will increase your body’s internal thermometer in a couple of ways. First, they increase blood flow and circulation, and second, they produce a mild perspiration that lasts longer than the sweat that comes from, say, a workout.
6. Cook outside. If you’ve ever baked a potato on a hot day in your kitchen, you’ll understand the effect that has on the ambient temperature inside your kitchen. Get into raw foods, BBQ’ing, or heck, use a solar stove on your porch (it’s easy to build your own solar stove, by the way).
Low Cost Alternatives
7. Ventilate with an attic fan. Your home holds a lot of heat in the attic (have you ever gone up there? It’s HOT). The more that air interacts with the air in your home, the more heat your home will have, so the best option is to send that air out of your attic. Attic fans are cheap to install and highly effective, and even come in solar options. Here’s one from a company in Hawaii, for instance.
8. Ventilate your house with a whole house fan. Same concept as above, but a whole house fan basically just pulls all the air out of your home in the evening, when it starts to cool down, and sends it out through the attic vents.
9. Install large ceiling fans. These can be used in the summer to cool things off, or in the winter to keep things warmer (yes, it works when you change their direction). But be aware that fans cool people, not rooms. If you are not in the room when the fan is on, you’re not there to benefit from the movement of air over your skin (which provides the cooling effect).
10. Get your solar A/C unit. Yes, there are solar powered A/C units. These are not cheap, but the cost of energy is zero, and luckily, when the sun is shining the most, the A/C is needed the most, so it tends to be a very effective use of power.
11. Shade your space. Whether this means an awning or a shade tree, by putting something between the sun and the space you’re trying to keep cool, you’ll go a long way toward lowering your cooling bill and the temp in your home.
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