Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thinking About Summer Heat

Image credit: tungphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
May is here, and where I live, May means summer. We've already gotten a taste of summer these past few weeks, with short sleeve days interspersed with freezing cold days, but I know that very soon the seasons will turn and summer will be here full force. My foraging has already changed, as many of my typical foraging spots are too hot, dry, and sunny to sustain growth of greenery, so I'm picking the more drought resistant plant varieties, as well as the few plants surviving in their secluded, shady spots.

With summer nearly here, I've got a lot on my mind. Things I'm planning on doing this summer to save money, things that I'm considering doing this summer even though they'll cost money, and things that I want to do to save even more money so that the costly things don't need to cost as much.

Last summer was the most miserable summer of my life. We live in a quaint little top floor apartment that has absolutely no insulation- not only does it have leaky windows, but there are large few inch gaps in some places where air can flow through freely. While I've survived my whole life, aside for one year in the US, and including the past 5 years I've been living in this tremendously hot country, with no air conditioning, and for the most part with very limited usage of fans, last summer I dreamed of air conditioning.
Salivated at the thought.
Felt like I was truly dying without.
And it's not like I didn't try other ways of keeping cool, but when the cold water coming out of your faucet is hot enough to scorch you, and the air that the fan blows on you feels like a car exhaust, you really start suffering in the heat and consider spending money on things that before you considered pure luxuries.

And now summer is here.
Oh jolly.
Already a few days ago, I was dreaming of air conditioning, and it hasn't even started to get really hot yet.
Makes me wonder if I'll be able to handle extreme heat this summer.
Hoping, praying that this summer won't be as disgustingly hot as the record breaking weather last summer.But having no confidence that this summer will be moderately easy.
Or cool.
I live in a practically desert area- who am I trying to kid?
And this summer, I can't afford to shut down like I did last summer.
I have 2 kids relying on me.
A husband relying on me.
A house to run, shopping to be done, laundry to wash, hang, and sort, and food to be made.
I have a blog to run.
But most importantly of all- I have a paid writing job that is relying on my weekly submissions.
Slacking off is unacceptable.
Which makes me think- maybe getting an air conditioner wouldn't just be a money waster- perhaps it would help us in the long run?
If I can't function in the heat and end up being wasteful of money because I don't have energy to be frugal, if I can't think clearly enough to write for my job and end up losing that source of income, that would be detrimental financially.

Perhaps it would be a wise decision to purchase an air conditioner.
Which is what we'll likely be doing soon.

It's making me want to do cart-wheels across my non existent lawn from excitement. But it's also making me nervously bite my fingernails (figuratively).
Our electric bill, ever since we moved to our smaller apartment and sold our money guzzling fish tanks, has been amazingly low. 25 dollars on a regular month, and 40 dollars in the winter, even after paying for heating and using the dryer. (If those numbers don't seem so low, I just wanted to add that we have really high electric prices where we live- and the standard electric bill seems to never go below 75-100 on a low month.)
I've heard scarily high numbers for electric bills with families that use air conditioners- 150 to 300 dollars per month! Those are numbers I never want to see on my electric bill!
My husband and I will be doing our research and purchasing the cheapest, most energy efficient air conditioner, hopefully one that will cost the least to run.

And we'll set up rules in the house about air conditioner usage. Never turn on the air if it is less than x degrees in the home (that number is something I'd like your input on).
Only turn on the air if all other cooling methods have been employed, and it's still not enough.
No turning on the AC if the oven or stove is on- heating the house while trying to keep it cool is silly.
Instead, I want to focus more on solar cooking, something I haven't done much of since my previous solar cooker was stolen.
I have the basis of a new solar cooker already made- I just have to purchase some glass to cover it, and find a way to better insulate it. More on that in another post, but hopefully by cooking outside, with the sun, we'll be able to keep the house cooler and feel the need for AC even less.
Alternatively, we can eat raw foods, which always works.

I spoke to a neighbor about AC, and she says she thinks it doesn't cost much to run, as she never sees a difference in her bill between winter and summer. In winter, she uses her air conditioner for heating, and in the summer uses it for cooking. She also isn't particularly conservative with electricity, so I'm not surprised she doesn't see a huge jump.

We on the other hand, use our heaters sparingly in the winter, use as minimal electricity as possible, and I think we'll really see a cost difference if we use air conditioning this summer.
What about you? Have you always had an air conditioner? If not, what pushed you to decide to get one?
Do you see a jump in your electric bill during the months that you use your air conditioner? What is the cost difference?
What month do you usually put on electricity in your home? What month does it usually get turned off?
What type of AC do you have? Central air? Window air conditioners? Portable air conditioners? Do you know which is the most energy efficient? We're considering a portable air conditioner, but haven't done research yet.
What are your AC rules to keep down the costs? Any tips for a first timer?
What are your AC rules to keep costs low?

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