Thursday, August 03, 2006

Beat the heat, ease electric crunch

Air conditioners are beating the pulse of most of the nation right now, working hard to create cool or, sometimes, barely not-hot conditions in homes, offices, stores, and the engines of commerce and industry. It's hot, hot, hot, and we do mean hot, nearly everywhere.

I've been working to feel more comfortable in heat and to ease our electricity use. It occurs to me that if lots of people did lots of these things, the stresses on the power grids would be lessened and maybe brownouts and rolling blackouts would be unlikely rather than "Hmmmm..., honey, how about we buy a generator?"

It's been 100F to 110F here in Oklahoma for a month or so, with a several-day break about a week ago. The predawn low is around 77F most nights, so our house stays closed up all of the time. Here are my summer tips.

  • After several weeks of working on stretching our comfort zone, now we've found a combination of nighttime a/c setting and medium overhead fan that allows dear husband and me to sleep reasonably well upstairs at night with a flat sheet as our "blanket," and the kids are still comfortable downstairs.

  • I move the a/c in the nighttime direction when the kids go to bed, and to that lowest setting when I go to bed.

  • I run the dishwasher when I go to bed, and any warm-water load of laundry (about 2 per week).

  • Days
  • Immediately after the first time the a/c runs after the morning showers, I reset the a/c to the max setting. Nowadays that means the a/c runs rarely (as far as I can tell) until about 5 pm.

  • I use cold water for almost all loads of laundry. Less hot water to heat, and less warm moist air in the house.

  • We live downstairs except at night. I moved my business work from my office loft to a table in the living room, and am borrowing a laptop from my husband to lower the heat generation and electricity use even further.

  • We go outside for a little bit every morning and evening. Then indoors feels positively wonderful, but not in the brain-freeze way you get at some stores and restaurants.

  • I hang all of our laundry to dry in our sunroom, which is open to the backyard and closed off from the house. It keeps the moisture out of the house, and uses free sunshine rather than the clothes dryer.

  • We do relaxing, sit-around things in the late afternoon. Read, watch a TV show, read, play a board game, play the piano, play with Bionicles and Lego, knit, read.

  • All of our table and floor lamps use compact fluorescent bulbs. Now it's not an exercise in how hot can I stand it when I read or knit on a summer evening.

  • Food
  • No oven use! I use the microwave for some reheating and for steaming, and I use the stove about once a week to cook pasta or sausages or to warm up baked beans, and maybe once a week or so we have a cooked breakfast.

  • We grill dinner in the back yard once or twice a week, with planned leftovers.

  • We eat cold or room temperature foods for almost all of our meals. For dinner we grill, eat out (costly, though), or have salads: green salads with veggies and maybe meats or hardboiled eggs and/or cheese. Rice salad as a side (cold pilaf, I guess). Pasta salad.

  • We drink lots of water, and I make up Kool-Aid for the kids so they're more likely to drink enough fluids.

  • Myself
  • I decided to get used to being warm, not cool, in the summer. Being sweaty when I do household chores (sweeping, cleaning a bathroom) -- though I try to do that stuff in the morning while the house is still cool and, even better, before my shower.

  • I wear the lightest of my summer clothes. Usually a sleeveless top and light skirt or sleeveless dress. Shorts and a light top would work, too. Barefoot indoors, sandals outdoors.

  • Either outdoors or when I'm just rather warm indoors -- that's usually when I'm doing chores -- I roll up a bandanna diagonally, soak it, squeeze it out gently, and tie it around my neck. Very, very nice. I wear a hat when I'm outside in the sun, but mostly I totally avoid being outside between 11 am and 7 pm.

  • In the late afternoon I might be a bit uncomfortable; I make sure to have my bare feet flat on a cool floor. For us, it's our downstairs finished concrete floors. For someone else, that might be kitchen or entryway tile, or living room wood.

  • When I'm sticky and tired of it, I wipe my face, neck, and arms with a wrung-out wet washcloth and let myself air dry. Feels very nice.

  • Taking a break 'cause I'm hot. More later.

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