Keeping Your Cool When it Gets Hot

Have you ever wondered what air conditioning has to do with Christian faith?  Its obviously not something that Jesus thought about so why should we get concerned?  I have just read a fascinating article and conversation at Alternet about whether we can and should live without air conditioning.  The article Air Conditioning is Terrible for the Earth – Here’s How To Live Without it is well worth a read and got me thinking about my faith and the unexpected responsibilities it places on me over the summer months.

This is not a topic that most Christians spend time thinking about.  The Bible belt is the biggest offender when it comes to over use of airconditioning.  And many of you may think that because I live in the Pacific NW where the weather is rarely warm enough to bother with air conditioning, I have little to say.  However I spent most of my life in Australia or working in the tropics – living on an unairconditioned ship with a single fan wafting a few stray so I feel I am more of an expert than you would expect.

The sizzling heat on the East coast of the US and in Europe recently has had many of us thinking about thinking about how to keep cool.  But as as the temperatures drop we often forget about it.  After all when the temperatures are in the 80s we are not likely to overstress the electrical grid with our power usage.  But then again summer is just beginning and according to the Alternet article:

The air-conditioning of America’s homes, businesses schools, and vehicles causes the release of greenhouse gases equivalent to 400 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. air conditioning

There are a number of ways to cut down the inside temperature of our houses without using energy intensive air conditioning as the Alternet article suggests – some simple, some not so simple.  So lets start with some of the simple ones first:

  1. Plant deciduous trees on the south side of the house in the northern hemisphere on the northern side of the house in southern hemisphere.
  2. If you are still waiting for those trees to grow close windows and curtains during the day in rooms that get direct sun; open windows and doors at night.
  3. Make sure roof and walls are well insulated.  Seal gaps around windows and doors so that heat cannot enter.
  4. Move the air – use fans can decrease the temperature by 5 – 8 degrees and opening windows for flow through air will similarly reduce temperatures.
  5. Wear clothing made of materials that breathe – like cotton or wool (yes wool is warm in winter & cool in summer).  Loose fitting garments are better than tight fitting.  Also get rid of those shoes or wear sandals.  Feet are good heat exchangers.
  6. Wet down your clothing with a spray bottle and stand in front of a fan, wear a wet hat or wipe down the back of your neck with a wet cloth.
  7. Drink plenty of water (not alcohol or sugar drinks)
  8. Turn off any unnecessary appliances.  All electrical appliances generate heat; particularly refrigerators and TV’s. Plasma screens in particular are known to create a great deal of heat, to the point that some refer to them as space heaters.  Other huge heat producers are clothes dryers and dishwashers so take advantage of the cool evenings to hang your clothes outside or put them on a drying rack in front of your fan and take advantage of the cooling flow of air.
  9. Replace your incandescent lights with CFLs.
  10. In dry climates replace traditional air conditioning units with evaporative (swamp or desert) air conditioners.
  11. Retreat to the basement if you have one – it will be the coolest part of the house.

And now for some more challenging solutions:

  1. Build houses with lots of overhang – porches, verandahs and eaves all make a difference in the heat
  2. Learn from the termites.  Here is an amazing building design in Zimbabwe based on the air cooling system found in a termite hill.
  3. Build an underground house and cut do away with air conditioning costs
  4. Build on stilts.  This increases air flow through the house though if you live in a place that gets cold in the winter this may not be very helpful.
  5. Get involved in your community and advocate for the replacing of asphalt with parks and green spaces.  Cities absorb more solar energy during the day and are slower to release it after the sun sets, making for uncomfortable nights and no real relief from the heat. And because they haven’t cooled down as much overnight, mornings are warmer and the thermometer goes right back up when the sun starts beating down the next day.  Green areas help keep the temperatures down.

I am sure that there are lots of other ideas that I have not thought of here so let me know – how do you keep cool in the hot weather?


5 Responses

  1. It used to be when it got dark, we settled down and went to sleep. And when it got too hot, we did what we had to do and then retreated to the coolest place we could find and recuperate. Sometimes I think our modern conveniences tempt us to maybe go farther and longer than our natural body rhythms want to.

    We have a/c for which I am grateful, as my husband was miserable without it (and when he sleeps, i sleep!) But we run it as high as possible, and still draw the blinds during the day and utilize fans (especially ceiling and attic ones) to circulate the cooler air.

    • Dianne,
      I think that is a good compromise. Our faster paced world which ignores our body’s demands to slow down and rest in hot weather certainly contributes to the problem. When I lived in Texas I used to set the air conditioning at 85. Not appreciated by some of my visitors but it took the humidity out of the air and made in comfortable when it was really hot outside. I also used ceiling fans which made an amazing difference. Had front and back porches and a huge tree in front of the house that also made a tremendous difference.

  2. We get up early to open all the windows as wide as they go before the sun gets over the hill, then close them and draw the outside blinds as soon as it starts coming in (the ones facing west we leave open until the air temp outside is about the same as inside.)
    We also roll down the outside awnings over our balcony so the balcony floor stays cool – otherwise the bricks radiate heat at you!
    In Switzerland although the winters are very cold there are no fitted carpets – tiled or wooden/laminate floors with underfloor heating are the norm, which means when it’s really hot in summer you can lie down on the nice cold floor. 🙂 Temps here have been up to 34 or 35 C recently, even up in the mountains like we are! I hate to think what it’s like in places like Zurich or Geneva.
    Thanks for this post! My in-laws keep saying we should get one of those tiny air-com units that you fit in your window, but we’re not going to and have been intending to find out what other, greener, measures can be taken – looks like God just used you to answer our question! 🙂

    • Thanks Michaela, I am glad this is useful. I love tiled floors in hot climates and remember that when we were kids we had no wall to wall carpets. The floors were definitely cooler in the summer and in the winter we threw down rugs that made it warm.

  3. […] GODSpace- Thank you Christine!] var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; a2a_config.linkname="Keeping Cool […]

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