Rite of (Late) Spring
Posted on June 8, 2011 Posted by John Scalzi 34 Comments
Thanks to its location in the house and its inherent poor air circulation, in summer (or late spring, whose heat and humidity makes it feel like summer), my office is regularly ten to fifteen degrees hotter than the rest of the house and, sometimes, hotter than it is outdoors. As it is currently 90 degrees outside (at 7:53pm), these are not optimal work conditions. So yesterday I performed my annual ritual of dragging my window-seated air conditioner out of the basement and hauling it back up into my office. Now my office is a constant and entirely tolerable 75 degrees at all times. I keep the thing on “Energy Saver” mode at all times to be ecologically friendly but I have to admit at a certain point I just don’t want to sweat while I type. I’m a bad green person that way. I plan to recycle extra hard through September to make up for it.
Extra Hard recycling sounds so intense. I wonder if Spike TV runs any programming about it.
Out of curiosity, when running your window AC do you (specifically) close the office door and isolate it from the rest of the house to ease the load on the window unit? Or does your main ac unit make that unnecessary?
The second of these. Additionally, the unit switches off when the temperature in the room drops below 75 degrees.
Just be happy spring doesn’t arrive in early March like it does here in Southeast Texas. We spend a couple of months setting the heat pump back and forth until the weather decides it’s just going to stay hot…Then we wait for the coolness of December.
I have a similar problem in my home office – in Texas. I have a ceiling fan and also installed light-blocking shades with insulation on the windows. It’s made a difference, and I can tell it in both personal comfort and the electric bill. Our high rates are an incentive to do everything we can.
I have heard from reliable sources that a single aluminum can recycled saves about 100 watt hours, so as long as you buy your coke zero in cans and are drinking enough to offset your extra ac usage…
I had a in-wall installed last year and it is great. You leave it in all year and it lets less air escape then the window mount. During winter all you do is put a cover on and it is fine.
The way I figure it, it’s real damn hard to figure out what’s recyclable, much less what makes a good story, if your brain is stewing in its own juices. A Scalzi with a cool brain writes cool stories and does cool stuff like recycle…. and pay his electric bill. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle!
I worked 14 hours, til midnight last night, and when I got home, proceeded to take the time to install 2 window units. I need to be able to sleep.
I freely confess to being utterly ungreen when it comes to air conditioning. I figure I make up for it by happily being cold in the winter.
(I feel similarly unguilty about using a full-flow showerhead. Low-flow is for people who don’t actually want to be clean. When I’m in a hotel, I end up taking a shower four times as long as at home because those stupid low-flow things are useless. I could get cleaner by letting my cat groom me.)
AC? That’s for down in the basin where it’s been 100+ lately. Up here in the mountains, you get hot, you just open a window to catch the breeze.
I fully agree with #10. I happily pay to keep cool in the summer and ease any guilt by bundling up in the winter. I have been toying with the idea of augmenting our not-so-efficient central air with some window units in the rooms we regularly occupy.
I have the same problem with my bedroom, there is a noticeable drop in temp the second you leave it. When I was living alone I was in the air on in summer/bundle up in winter camp, sadly my roommates seem to like the opposite since the heat blasted all winter and we still haven’t turned the a/c on. I actually (accidentally) slept out on the porch the other night because it was so much cooler outside than it was in my room.
Man the heat these last 3 days has made me wish I could add a window AC.
Then I realized that being slightly uncomfortable on the few hottest days of the year is a small price to pay for being able to see Soldier Field from here.
Have you tried those booster fans that replace the register? We have an attic bonus room, and those have helped quite a bit.
The built-in thermostat means you get a pass from the green terrors. I have this same model over my desk and in the den. Our 1964 house in North Carolina was built without central air. Gets brutal at times. The energy saver mode is pretty good on those things, too.
You are not a bad green person, you are a mere mortal, making do as best you can. That’s all any of us can do.
As much of a treehugger as I try to be, a/c is an area where I give people all the slack they want-I live in Chicago, which made national headlines several years ago because of the record number of people who died due to the heat. A live Scalzi with a large carbon footprint is better than a dead Scalzi with a small footprint.
It’s nice though that you recognize the impact of your decision and are going to try and make it up elsewhere.
We lived through one New York City summer without air conditioning — our first one, 27 years ago. Since then, we’ve never had fewer than two: one for the living room and one for where we sleep.
I may be rationalizing, but I console my environmental misgivings by reminding myself that we don’t own a car and that I cycle to work whenever possible. What I know is that if air conditioning didn’t exist, I would simply have had to go into some other line of work, one not headquartered in a city that’s uninhabitable for three months out of the year.
I’ve never lived in a place that didn’t have central a/c (even when I lived in Chicago). I certainly cannot imagine living here in Houston without it!
#10, re the flow regulators in showerheads: Hubby agrees with you. Every time he gets a new showerhead, he’s always removed the flow regulator. He likes having a “water cannon” when he showers, and echoes your sentiment that flow regulators are “worse than useless”.
‘May Gray’ and ‘June Gloom’ have meant that my air hasn’t needed to be turned on yet- I’m hoping to hold off until July.
I’ve never seen a portable window air conditioner like that — what’s the model? Be nice to have one for my bedroom for that one month of hot weather in the summer.
Do you have a white roof? If not, you might consider installing one. A friend in Cincinnati put one on his old victorian-ish house, and the top floor (3rd or 4th) became comfortable without a/c for the first time.
You could also try a ceiling fan, if you have room. They’re quiet, which is nice.
It’s a scorcher here in Oregon today: we’ve already hit 72 and sunny. Man!
(Keep in mind it was still rainy and in the 50s here as recently as last week).
The central AC in our rental house here in Texas is… something. The “ductwork” seems to be made of cardboard boxes taped together all willy-nilly and by way of the longest routes possible to the vents. There are vents that have nothing attached to them at all. The insulation is so old, I’m pretty sure it’s original to this (1945) house, and comes out through the vents. And the freon line from the unit freezes frequently.
I’m pretty sure a HVAC guy would run the other direction, since my landlady can’t afford a complete overhaul. Maybe we should look into a window unit? It’s a 1200 sf house.
“I’m pretty sure a HVAC guy would run the other direction, since my landlady can’t afford a complete overhaul. Maybe we should look into a window unit? It’s a 1200 sf house.”
You could look into split units. A small unit goes inside on the wall, and the compressor goes outside the house. No ducts.
Something like: http://www.residential.carrier.com/products/ductfree/residential.shtml
What is it about our offices being so hot? One summer in NYC I called my husband up crying because it was too hot to write and I was under deadline. Even with central air my office is warmer than the rest of the house. I have a big honkin’ fan to keep me functional during the summer. If I’m sweating for more than half an hour, I’m not working.
All of our big appliances are energy star and both cars are hybrids. (I do miss being able to walk to things as I did in NYC.) We recycle like crazy. It may not be living off the grid, but it beats a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
Belatedly . . . I’ll wager that you more than make up for the AC’s impact on your carbon footprint by not using a car to commute to work every day.
Dude!!! Plant some damn trees!
Maggie Koerth-Baker at Boing Boing as a better trick:
we finally caved on room Air about 5 years ago… we live close enough to a light industrial area that off-gases STINK overnight in the summer that we could no longer air-exchange overnight with open windows. the darlin’ hu’bn also has serious allergies (grass, dirt & trees, literally), so… we could a) keep the house closed against allergens, OR b) open the house to cool and allergens (and he doesn’t sleep ’cause he can’t breathe), OR c) NOT sleep because of the heat, OR d) keep the house closed against the creosote-STINK…
#21, that’s exactly the model we have, bought it from Target about 5 yrs ago… Goldstar or Sharp… they’re both in storage still … and I can only see the backs! OK, here’s something like at the bottom half of the Sharp’s page: http://www.sharpusa.com/ForHome/HomeEnvironment/AirConditioners.aspx
hmm, the Goldstar is slightly smaller, may be our first, and doesn’t appear to be available currently. We went for a couple of years with just one in the Master; broke down and got a second for the kitchenette window that faces east and is therefore in the shade about 70% of the day. (The bedroom is shaded by a hazelnut for like 90% of the day!) They both have the programable thermostat and energy-saver settings.
at least modern computers are not as temperature sensitive as things were 20 years ago! I can remember putting newsletters together in the middle of the night, because the computer wouldn’t play nice if the temp was over… 78?
are comments moderated, or did I just lose one to the ether? (about 1.5 hr after I posted the first one) thanks
and another copy disappears?! maybe they’re too long? drat, I copied #2, but lost it elsewhere, so here goes a 3d try, will make it smaller?
#21, the unit in the pic above looks just like our Sharp’s. google “room air conditioner sharp” and go to the 4th link (straight to sharp.usa…) look at the bottom half of the page (maybe something doesn’t like me putting in the commercial url here, so will go round-about)
Discovered your blog after downloading your “Your Hate Mail Will be Graded” after I read everything else of yours that Amazon had to offer. I’ve been browsing the older posts and really enjoy it. I read this post and some of the comments. As a student of Mechanical Engineering I offer the following suggestion to be green and eliminate this type of problem for anyone who lives in high humidity areas in the United States. First, find yourself an inexpensive dehumidifier. If you’re fortunate and have a central air conditioner you can purchase an in-line model (this means it can be installed between your unit and the ductwork coming out of it). Moisture in the air (humidity) is what allows the atmosphere to retain heat. Remove the excessive moisture and you remove the atmosphere’s ability to retain excess heat. A portable unit will require you to dump the water once the tank is full or might even feature a pump. I had one in an apartment for years, small pump dumped the water it pulled out of the air down a hose into my toilet. Between that and the ceiling fan I was able to lower the ambient temperature in my apartment by about 10 degrees. Most of these models feature a humidistat (a tool that measures the humidity in the atmosphere) so once it hits the sweet spot it shuts off. Also most units run off of a typical wall outlet so you don’t have the excessive power drain that an air conditioner causes. We switched all our light bulbs to high efficiency bulbs and the energy savings more than offset the additional usage of the dehumidifier. Hope this helps or inspires someone to take on a little “do it yourself” work and solve their heat problems.