Air conditioning vs. fresh air: 10 ways to “keep our cool”.

At the start of every summer, as the temperature rises, my husband and I seem to have the same discussion… when to turn on the air conditioning!

therm-risingThis is never an easy discussion (okay! read: argument!) as this is the man who wears shorts and t-shirts around the house when it is 19 degrees outside in the dead of winter.

I prefer the open windows and doors, and want to breathe the fresh air.  To this my husband responds “Babe, it ceases to be fresh as soon as it’s 86 degrees with 70% humidity!”  Well, it’s still fresh but I guess it does cease to be RE-freshing!

Just like heating your house in the winter and whether you do or don’t choose to crank the AC, there are ways to keep your house cooler, stop some of the cool air loss and use less energy in the process:

  • Close blinds or curtains in various windows throughout the day to prevent the sun shining in.  If it’s coming in, so is the heat.
  • Use ceiling fans. They circulate the cool air and don’t use a lot of energy.
  • Program your thermostat.  No need to keep it blasting in the evening or when you aren’t even home.
  • When it’s cool outside at night, shut off the air, open the windows and take advantage.ceil-fan
  • 74 degrees is all you need.  This is a bearable temperature, and if you can tolerate it higher, do it!  Each degree saves 3-4% on your cooling expenses.
  • Don’t worry about unused rooms.  Close the windows, doors and vents in these rooms, and block the bottom of the door if they aren’t frequently occupied.
  • Run appliances at night.  This includes dryers & dish washers that give off heat. Avoid using your oven… give it a rest and grill instead!  And if you do use the stovetop, be sure to use the exhaust fan to take away the heat.
  • Turn off unneeded lights, TVs, computers, etc. when you aren’t using them.  They all generate heat too.
  • Keep heat generating appliances away from the thermostat (TVs, lamps, etc.).  They’ll make the thermostat think it’s hotter than it really is.
  • Don’t chop down trees that shade your house.  They simply keep a house cooler.  And even plant strategically.  Shaded AC units run more efficiently, but just be sure not to block the airflow.

I do try to take my own advice.  It’s not always easy (living with my husband who compensates by turning up the ceiling fans to “jet speed”) but it’s a compromise we always seem to manage when it all “boils down”!

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12 thoughts on “Air conditioning vs. fresh air: 10 ways to “keep our cool”.

  1. Hi,
    I’ve tried NOT to turn on the AC during the day. It’s hot, but it’s tolerable. However, we do turn it on about 2 hours before we go to sleep to get the temp down to 74. My question is: Does the AC consume more energy running like crazy for 2 hours to cool the house down or is more energy consumed if the AC works in intervalls throughout the day?
    Thanks for your input!

  2. Martina – without question, less energy is consumed in a 2 hour blast than running it all day long. It’s helpful to keep your house closed up while you’re away too. While your house will still heat up, it doesn’t let in the outdoor heat!

  3. The trees = shade is one of the best things that people don’t realize! In our first apartment we had trees all around us. In the summer is was a nice ~65-70 inside ALL THE TIME & in the winter we had little wind & snow piling up around out walkway & entry way. Blinds/curtains closed is an excellent tip too. Most people don’t realize that either.

    Something important about ceiling fans: get one that fits the room. A small one in a large room doesn’t help & a huge one in a small room is a waste.

    If you have recessed spot lights a dimmer is a good idea. most of the time you don’t need them on 100%, we don’t (CFL’s currently don’t work well with dimmers)

    For the AC running “all the time” vs just a few hours, I’d say do a test: keep an eye on your electric meter for a two weeks. One week have it only come on for two hours, another week have it on all time time. If it’s efficient enough & you’re not wasting cold, it could actuatly be running less vs the two hours. I did this with my hot water tank: it was on for ~1.5 hours in the morning, solid (via a timer). The next month I had it on all the time. Ends up I was using less electricity with it “on” all the time because it was only running a few minutes @ a time vs hours solid. My electric bill was cut down by ~1/3rd (it’s always under $100 anyway, but it made a difference!)

  4. i just wanted to know why the number of blades differ in fans, like in the above pic we have 4 bladed fan but generally we have 3 bladed my question dose the air flow or the cooling effect of fan changes with the change in number of blades?

  5. We have been having 100 and above days since the middle of June. This is one of the hottest summers I can remember and I’m in southern Oklahoma, we always have hot summers, the really scary part is the first part of August is the hottest time so we aren’t even close to done with this. And in Oklahoma it’s never dry heat, it’s always VERY humid. And we don’t cool off much at night. Our temps are still in the 90’s and upper 80’s all night.

    Opening windows is not an option but we run our a/c at 75 and turn it down at night because it gets really hot during the day because the a/c can’t keep up even at 75 so we let it cool over night so there is less work for the a/c in the middle of the day and so we can sleep. It was around 82 in parts of our house the other day. We do keep windows close and lights off and I only use the oven or stove in the evening and I turn off both once they heat up and put lids on the pots and keep the door of the oven closed so we don’t use extra heat. I run the dish washer at night and all of that.

    We still run the a/c way to much but no idea what to do, we make up for it somewhat in the winter when we keep our house pretty cold and just layer.

  6. Happy – great recommendation about the size of a fan and other great tips too… thanks!

    Neha – that has a really long answer, but in a nutshell, more blades doesn’t mean more cooling effect. Like Happy suggests, a fan size needs to fit the room size. More fan blades actually prevents a fan from moving as fast as fewer blades, so it can actually have less effect. It’s a matter of efficiently moving air around a room. Plus, more blades requires a bigger motor drive, so it can actually use a bit more energy too. The number of blades doesn’t actually cool a room… it’s about moving the air. I guess the answer lies more in whether or not the SIZE of the fan fits the room.

    Lisa – my sympathies on the temp! We’ve been the exact opposite in Cleveland… very mild so far! Sounds like you’ve figured out what works best for you and that IS the best you can do!

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  8. I can relate to this even though I’m not a mom. I lived w/ and took care of my Dad here in Cincinnati for 7 or 8 years. He was an air conditioning person and we went practically from having the furnace running to having the air conditioners running (with the ceiling fans!). Part of the reason was that I still had to work and was not home a large part of the day and Dad was physically unable to close windows if it rained and was extra sensitive about a few drops of rain making their way into the house. I hated that. This is my 2nd summer without Dad and though I miss him dearly (he passed in Dec. ’08), I have not turned the air conditioners on at my house since the summer before he passed! I use the ceiling fans and have the windows open!. I love the fresh air and I feel much better about EVERYTHING with getting that air. If it gets really humid during the day (I’m currently working for a school system and have the summer off this year), I take a nap, watch a DVD, read or do something creative…low-energy-on-my-part activities. It is a piece of bliss in my daily life during the warm weather to have the windows open and allow the sunlight and the fresh air in. And really, I’ve noticed (by paying attention to the humidity levels on the weather-thingy I have) that it does not get uncomfortable in the house until the humidity levels go above 80%. Also, since I am single, I cook only a couple times a week. I cook larger meals and then just warm them up in the microwave for a few days for dinner or lunch. Most of the lighting I use is on timers and I rarely use the overhead lights. All this and I have NO shade trees blocking the house because I live in the middle of a business district and there’s a huge parking lot directly next to the south side of my house so I get direct sunlight from sun up to practically sundown. And I’ve already decided that IF I decide that I need air conditioning, and because I’ve got 2 window units (one upstairs and one down) that instead of running both or running the downstairs one, where I’d have to cool the entire floor, I will ONLY use the one in my bedroom, close that door and only cool that ONE room while I’m in there.

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  11. i want to know??? Is it more efficient to keep the ceiling fan running while you have your Air Con on. Or is it a waste of energy

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