Cut the Air Conditioning (Going Green Tip #7)


Our most recent Going Green Tips post was on “cutting the coal.” One of the best ways to cut the coal is to cut back on your electricity usage, and one of the best ways to do that, especially if you live in the South, is to cut the air conditioning. Author Chip Haynes, who wrote Going Green Tip #5 for us (So, How’s About a Bicycle?) gives us a nice piece on just this topic — cutting the A/C — for Going Green Tip #7. But, as a lead-in to this “going deep green” solution (as Chip called it), here’s a video of Chip discussing some other good ways to cut your electricity usage. Enjoy Chip’s colorful speaking abilities as well as his colorful writing abilities this time.

By Chip Haynes, Clearwater, Florida.

Author of Wearing Smaller Shoes, New Society Publishers, 2009

When I wrote Wearing Smaller Shoes, I detailed how JoAnn and I live our lives using less energy and fewer resources in the middle of suburban Florida. The thing is, I held back. I did not tell the whole story, as I didn’t think anyone would believe me. So here’s the truth: We haven’t used our home air conditioner for years. Now go back and look at my byline: “Clearwater, Florida”. Florida — and no A/C. How did that happen?

It all started several years ago, when we simply never got to the point in the late spring where we said, “Ok, that’s it — it’s too hot. You close the windows, I’ll turn on the A/C.” We went through the summer and about Labor Day I realized we had never turned the air on. We had gone through most of the summer (summer runs from the first of June to the end of September down here — at least) with the windows open, and that was enough. But why? But how?

Our home has a lot of big windows that open fully, very wide eaves to shade those windows and is built to take advantage of the prevailing winds. We also have over a dozen mature trees shading the house from every angle. As a result, we only use about 5 kwh of electricity a day. And I can honesty see where we could use less — but who’d believe it?

Few people knew about our no a/c thing (well, before now, obviously), and those that knew were astonished. No, not everyone could do it. I don’t know how we do it, but we do. Summers here last four long, humid months, and we are further south than New Delhi, India. It does get warm here. But we also have a lot of water around us (the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay) and that helps. There’s usually a breeze, and I’ll tell you the truth: Those summer rains, at night, usually have us scrambling for more covers. It can get surprisingly cool here at night!

Why am I telling you this? Because the day may come when you have no choice. The day may come when power (and air conditioning) become far more expensive. The day may come when might just have to live as we do today. Could you do it? Can you imagine? No a/c at home. None at work — and don’t even think about the car. Neck tie sales would plummet and bicycle sales would soar — so it’s not entirely a bad thing.

Ponder, if you will, life without air conditioning as you look at how you live your life today — and how much energy it uses. All things change, Grasshopper, and the day may come when you’ll throw the windows open and breathe fresh air. You’ll ride your bicycle to work and walk to lunch. And the windows — all windows — will open.

Like I said, it’s not entirely a bad thing.


Chip is author of Wearing Smaller Shoes: Living Light on the Big Blue Marble (New Society Publishers), The Practical Cyclist: Bicycling for Real People (New Society Publishers), and Peak of the Devil: 100 Questions (and answers) About Peak Oil due out Oct. 1, 2010 from Satya House Publications.

In his own words, Chip Haynes is a small, furry suburban Hobbit-like creature that has lived in Clearwater, Florida since 1969, having moved their with his family just one week after graduating from Frontier High School in New Matamoras, Ohio. (Go, Cougars!) Happily married to The Lovely JoAnn for over 22 years, Chip is a graphic artist by profession and a published author by sheer blind dumb luck. Chip’s long-standing interest in all things bicycling brought him (quite by accident) into the dark world of peak oil back in 1997, and on to green living and the madcap land of alternative energy. He can also juggle well enough to be considered dangerous. Fair warning there.

Chip and JoAnn tend to walk more than the average suburbanites, but their neighbors are mostly use to that by now, and are never surprised to see them skipping along together, a mile from home. They also ride their many bicycles and tricycles to nearby stores and recycle like it actually matters. (To them, it does.) Their home has become a laboratory for living light and the trees in their yard actually do get hugged from time to time. They spend a lot of their spare time reading. You should, too.

Special thanks to Elizabeth (EJ) Hurst of New Society Publishers for connecting us with Chip!

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