Most people would say it is impossible to live in Texas without using air conditioning in the summer. After all, in the Dallas area we often get 100 plus degree temperatures for days on end. It seems a given that in these conditions air conditioning would be a no brainer. Maybe that is the problem. Society doesn't really consider alternatives anymore, we blindly follow what others are doing.
Our family hasn't used air conditioning in five years. It just is not an option for us. Have there been benefits? Oh yeah there have!
We Used to be Normal...Sort Of
A number of years ago we found the house of our dreams. A 1910 farmhouse on two and a half acres with 4,300 square feet of space for our large family. Sure, it had been abandoned, and then inhabited by rodents and raccoons but the charm was there. Most of the charm was in the very low price.
Moving a small nation into a structure of behemoth proportions was tricky...and being seven months pregnant with child number eight just added to the challenge. By June the heat seemed unbearable to my incubating system and I begged for the air conditioning. In fact I begged for the air conditioning right up until the time we got the bill. Four hundred fifty dollars? Ouch.
Obviously either Texas needed to be moved a bit farther north or we needed to adapt. Choice two seemed the more attainable goal.
The Benefits of Living in Harmony with Summer
It wasn't an easy shift initially. We gathered the family around the thermostat and, teary eyed, bade a fond farewell. I patted the small, plastic box one more time before moving the switch to the "off" position. The deed was done.
The first week or so was difficult. Our bodies began to slowly adjust to the temperature change. We ran fans, drank lots of water and groaned a lot. Yet, after the initial adjustment phase we found that there were benefits to living without air conditioning, even when it was 107 degrees outside.
1. We Are in Sync with the Seasons
You may not think too much about it but there was a time where almost everything a human being did was determined by the seasons. You planted in spring, weeded and worked in summer, harvestd in fall, and rested a bit in winter. There were winter clothes and summer clothes. Summer mornings were a flurry of activity so that you could be done before it got hot. Those sultry afternoons were often spent on the porch, doing some simple task that allowed you to stay cool. Benefit? Life happened at a slower pace.
2. The Kids Play Outside All Year
In Texas during the very hottest months most children end up on house arrest. When you spend most of your time at a cool 75 degrees, stepping out into the baking 98 degree afternoon is a shock to your system. We have found that rather than wanting to huddle around the television our kids were riding bikes, swinging on swings, fishing in the creek, or building forts. The fact that their systems were used to a higher temperature has allowed them to lead normal lives.
3. Turning Off the Air Conditioning is Budget Friendly
We are not a wealthy family. Sometimes it seems that the utility companies believe we are, though. By turning off the air conditioning we have been able to save money. People in our area with houses much smaller than ours can easily write out a check for over two hundred dollars every month.
4. We Are Moving toward Self Dependence
We are trying to eventually take our house off grid. Nonessential items like air conditioning hold us back from achieving that goal. When those famous Texas storms blow through and the electricity goes off other people may be panicked but we are quite comfortable.
Surviving without Air Conditioning in Dallas (or anywhere)
If you have never thought about trying to live without air conditioning, especially if you are living in the south or southwest, the idea may be a little foreign. Here are some tips to help you say goodbye to your air conditioning bills whether you live in Dallas, Texas or Terre Haute, Indiana.
- Stay hydrated. Most people do not drink enough water. Drinking plenty of ice water will enable you to tolerate the heat safely.
- Keep your windows open. Use fans to keep the air circulating. These use a fraction of the energy that an air conditioning unit does.
- Choose a slower pace. Spend the afternoon on the porch with a good book and a glass of ice water or herbal tea.
- Wear natural fabrics like cotton, bamboo, and linen.
- Wear light colors and loose clothing.
- Go barefoot.
- Soak your feet in cool water.
- If it is very hot at night bathe in cool water and go to bed without drying yourself off.
- Use the outdoor grill, eat cold salads, and do your cooking early in the day. You can use the grill for almost anything, including bread and pizza.
- The dryer is another appliance that will really heat your house up. Hang your clothes outside to dry if possible.
- Consider enjoying all of that fresh produce that summer offers and cutting back on meats and proteins. Your body will stay cooler.
- An ice cold beer might sound great but the alcohol will act as a diuretic and you can become dehydrated and hotter.
- Change to eco-friendly LED or CFL lightbulbs. They give off less heat.
- If you have a creek, pond, or pool spend some time in the water.
- Consider installing a solar powered attic fan to pull the hot air out of the house.
- Paint your house a light color. If you are planning on installing a new roof, a light colored shingle will help as well.
If We Can, You Can
The worst thing for us now is when we go to a store or somewhere else that is air conditioned we are generally freezing. We have learned to take sweaters with us to church, to restaurants, and to friends' homes.
If you are ready to save money, make a move toward lowering your carbon footprint, and becoming more in tune with the earth maybe you could be a bit more radical than just turning the air conditioning up five degrees. Maybe you are ready for being A/C free.
If you are interested in more old-fashioned, commonsense ways to save modern money you will want to watch Wa$ted! Episode: Grandma Knows Best.
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