Spring has finally come to DC after a long freezing winter.
The temperature in the area has fluctuated widely between 72 and 91 degrees F.
But once it hit 80 degrees, I felt like summer had already been here.
There was one week when the the temperature was stubbornly around 90 degrees outside.
And during that time, Mr. FAF and I did NOT turn on the AC in our house.
You might think we’re crazy and/or cheap for torturing ourselves in the heat just to save money. And I thought the same thing.
Is it worth it? How much can we save by not turning on the AC at all in the summer?
I tried googling answers to the second question but didn’t find much.
Based on our utility history, we paid much less. However, not turning on the AC in the summer also has its perks. You might be wondering what they might be. Read on to find the answers.
Mr. FAF and I didn’t grow up having AC blasting at us all day when we were young.
To cope with the heat, our families developed different ways to cool ourselves down in the summer. Below are some examples:
— My dad, Mr. FAF, and his dad would go shirtless in the summer when they were at home. Mr. FAF told me that when it was too hot, he and his dad would walk around the house wearing only a brief.
— My mom, my sister and I would wear summery clothes that are made from light (not revealing) material that absorbs and helps ventilate the sweat really well.
— My family would sleep in the balcony to take advantage of the summer breeze every once in a while.
— We would cool water in the fridge and drink it when we were thirsty. Sometimes we would make fresh lime juice and other fun drinks to cool our bodies down. I also made banana ice-cream by mixing bananas with water and keeping it in the fridge.
— We rinsed our arms and legs with cold water before going to bed.
— We went to the mall or grocery stores that had AC and tried not to buy anything we didn’t need.
When I was in college, my parents were financially better-off than before, so they installed an AC system in their room and my grandparents’ room to cool down the air. The cool air was to be kept only in a confined space.
Even then, my parents would implement the following strategies to save on electricity:
— Turn on the AC for an hour to cool off the air and turn on the fan afterwards.
— Keep the AC at a higher temperature than otherwise preferred and keep the fan on at the same time.
— Put a small tub of water in front of the fan for cooler air and more humidity.
My parents would turn on the AC only in one room, and all four of us (mom, dad, my sister, and I) would sleep together in that room: parents on the bed and us on the floor.
And that’s, my friends, is how my parents saved money.
Related: When You Are Ashamed Of Being Poor
We are not 100% deprived of AC.
Ever since I came to the US. I have always had the AC on 24/7 at home due to my roommates’ preferences. I’ve lived with both American and international roommates, and all of them expressed an interest in keeping the AC on all day, so I obliged.
This summer, however, my main “roommate” is Mr. FAF, who suggested we keep the AC off. I’m in between keeping the AC off and turning it on. I like the idea of saving money but sometimes dread the oven-like heat in our house.
To further clarify our situation, these are our schedules:
— Mr. FAF leaves home at 5:45 AM every day to work out at his office gym and take online courses at his cubicle before starting work. Both the gym and his office have AC. He also turns on the AC in his car when it’s hot. He has to drive on the highway, so rolling off the window glass is considered illegal. He comes home at around 6:30 PM.
— Baby FAF and I leave home at around 7:20 AM. I walk to the Metro for 15 minutes, hop on the train with AC, walk through an air-conditioned tunnel from the Metro station to my office building, and stay in an AC-run office until 5 PM. I then walk through the same cool tunnel and sit on the train in the afternoon. Baby FAF stays at daycare which has AC. Both of us get home at 6 PM.
In a nutshell, despite not turning on the AC at home, our entire family gets to stay in an air-conditioned environment from 8 AM to 5:30 PM (9.5 hours) on weekdays. We are by no means deprived of the cool air completely in the summer. We only feel the heat when we get home.
Below are the pros and cons of not having the AC on at our home.
1. The heat
The first and biggest con of not turning on the AC is that it can get really hot inside the house and make you feel like you’re going to go crazy any minute. At least that’s how I feel sometimes, especially because I’m pregnant.
That’s when I have to run around and don’t get to sit in front of the fan. But once I turn on the fan, sometimes to the max, I feel fine. With a cold class of water, everything will naturally fall into place. The AC is no longer needed.
2. Hesitant to have people over
If we know we’re going to have guests over, we will turn on the AC in advance. However, if someone pays a visit all of a sudden, I would feel a bit embarrassed to invite them into our hot house.
I can always turn on the AC after they come, but it’d make the guest feel a bit awkward since they’d feel like we’re running the whole AC system just for them.
3. Cooking is sometimes unbearable.
Add the heat from the stoves to the heat lingering in the air, and you will have a true oven in your own home. Mr. FAF and I cook only once a week. Each time, we’d spend almost 3 hours in the kitchen.
And it’s a chore that makes us sweat and appreciate the rain, AC, cool air, breezes and everything in between even more.
I have realized the following pros of keeping the AC off:
1. Save money
This is the one and only reason why we don’t turn on the cool air at home. I’d like to say that it helps protect the environment and whatnot. But the truth of the matter is that it’s just a byproduct of our action. It’s not our main purpose.
When the AC is on, I have to have a hot shower since it’s just too cold for a cold shower. However, when the air is hot, I don’t use hot water as much, which further saves us money on electricity and water heater maintenance/repair costs.
2. Have moist skin
Sitting in an office for 9 hours makes my skin really dry. When my roommates and I had the AC on at home, I could feel my skin calling for help after a hot shower.
Now that the air is not dry at night, I wake up sometimes feeling like my skin just gets softer and more moist. I also don’t have to apply any lotion or facial moisturizer before going to bed as much, which helps save money in skincare products.
Dry skin is a leading reason for wrinkles, so I’m glad I don’t have to deal with it anymore.
3. Bring back childhood memories
Mr. FAF and I now implement our parents’ tricks to cool ourselves down in the summer. We drink more cold water, boil corn to drink the corn juice, go for a walk at night, and use the fans more often.
Mr. FAF walks around the house only in his boxer and brief. I also wear the minimum amount of clothing. It reduces the laundry load and makes it easier on our washer/dryer.
I don’t usually relish growing up poor, but I also have a lot of fun summer childhood memories like making and eating home-made ice-cream (or just ice really). The heat reminds me of those fun experiences.
4. Appreciate the cool weather and the rain
After four days or even a day of 90 degree weather, I just feel really happy and grateful for the rain or a cooler day with temperature in the 70s.
I feel more in tune with nature and learn to appreciate little things in life like a summer breeze or even a storm. Those are the things I never cared about when we had the AC on 24/7.
Over the past 13 years of living in America, I somehow have taken the AC for granted. I turn it on when it’s hot and switch to heating when it’s cold outside.
It makes me think about other things in life that I have also seemed to take for granted: electricity, clean water, clean air, the washer/dryer, functioning stoves and fridges.
Being hot in the 90 degree weather is no fun. However, through this experience, I have learned to appreciate the simple things natures gives us: a nice breeze, the rain, the shade under a tree on a hot day, etc.
The hottest months in the summer are July and August, so we will have a while to see whether we need to turn on the AC. But for now, Mr. FAF and I will look at this experience as a game to see how far we can go without the luxury of a running air-conditioner at home.