Keep Your Cool

By Joanne Loos Posted in: ImproveThe Fix is In

It’s possible to bring down the temperature without using your A/C

I’ve always been that girl. You know, the one who is freezing when everyone else is hot. I bring a sweater with me wherever I go. If I must spend a day inside an office with the air conditioning (A/C) blasting, I take “warm up” breaks by heading outside to sit in the sun periodically. Lately, I’ve noticed something different. I feel hot. This tells me almost everyone else feels it, too.

The problem isn’t just the heat. It’s also the cost of keeping things cool. As of May 2013, the average cost per kilowatt-hour in the U.S. is 12.40 cents. For Hawaii, it’s 37.11 cents, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Running the A/C all day is not an option for many of us. Luckily, there are still some things we can do to keep cool without using a ton of electricity.

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1. Plant. Trees can provide significant shade to your home, but the good news is they are not the only plants that can help. Placing large, potted houseplants near windows allows them to absorb some of the sun’s energy, keeping it from heating your home.

2. Fake a wind tunnel. Take note of any breeze entering your home. Position a stand-alone fan near an open window or door on that side so that it blows in the direction of the breeze. Then, place another fan at the opposite end of the home near another open window or door, blowing the same direction.

3. Power off. Lights, incandescent ones especially, and other electronic devices emit heat. Pull the plugs when they’re not in use to cut down on any residual heat. Bonus: Because many devices suck energy even when in the off position, unplugging them may help cut electricity costs, too.

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4. Close up. Our condo sits on the hot side of the building. The sun comes in every afternoon, and the place feels like a sauna. I’ve managed to keep cool by sitting in the most ventilated room with curtains drawn and bedroom and bathroom doors closed, too. When open, these doors allow plenty of sun to come in, but blocking that out has worked wonders.

If a larger-scale solution is on your radar, consider installing a photovoltaic system. This will allow you to run the A/C more frequently without the stress of adding to your electric bill. Another option is a whole-house fan. This exhaust system pulls hot air up and out of the home, cooling it while using significantly less electricity than traditional A/C.

Have a question or comment for Joanne? Email thefixisinhawaii@gmail.com.