May is Over, We Can Turn the Air Conditioner Back On!

by Kevin on June 1, 2008

sweating steelMy wife and I unknowingly started out May with a bit of a challenge for ourselves: to make it the entire month without using the air conditioning.

Sounds pretty easy, right? But wait, we’re in Birmingham, Alabama where the humidity gets to 1,000% (butter knife thick warning advisory) and the temperature can hit the high 80s in May. Before we moved into our house, we lived in an apartment and consistently kept the temperature at 78 degrees simply because we had an old air conditioning unit that was highly inefficient. We would come home, turn it on to get the temperature down to the high 70s, then relax. Trust me, you get used to it.

The first half of this month wasn’t bad at all. The house generally had cooled off to 75-78 by the time we came home and continually got better. Since we spent 9-10 hours either at work or on our way to/from work, it didn’t seem all that bad.

Until Memorial Day weekend. Thankfully, we were staying at a lake house that weekend. In the South, it got hot. And humid, as normal.

We came home last weekend to 80+ temperatures all day long. Add into the mix my wife is a teacher and has the summer off — and thus is in the house all day — and the need for air conditioning starts to get higher priority.

But by that time it was May 27th. Only five more days and we could say we went the whole month without a/c. We could do that, right?

Well, it’s involved a lot of walking around in our underwear and running the ceiling fans on high, but we did make it the whole month without using one minute of a/c. Yesterday it hit 85 on the thermostat in the house. I’m not sure if that is entirely accurate as the thermostat is at the front of the house, and the sun sets on that side of the house. I’m sure the office and foyer were that temperature, but further back in the house it was a good 5 degrees cooler.

Why would anyone want to do this? We have a new house. With a new air conditioning unit. All in perfectly good working order. So, why? Well, it’s the frugal thing to do. It’s saving us on the electricity bill. Heck, I think it’s kind of cool (well, not literally). It’s all part of that frugal mentality. Money we saved this month can be put to good use in an emergency fund or investments.

We will also appreciate the air conditioner a lot more when we get to use it the rest of the summer. We’ll probably still leave the temperature set fairly high — 75 to 78 — because again, honest, you do get used to it. For the folks that leave it set at 68 during the summer, how large is your bill? That would be nice, but we think it is unnecessary.

What about you? Where do you keep your air conditioner set to during the summer? What is your bill like? Do you think we are crazy? Leave a comment with your temperature, your city/state, and the amount of a typical summer bill so we can decide if you are crazy or not!

(Photo by MarViniz)

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Mom @ Wide Open Wallet June 1, 2008 at 9:55 am

We tried to make it til June without the air too. But we didn’t make it. It’s already consistently over 100.

chris.pund June 1, 2008 at 9:58 am

Ours is set at about 69, but is programmed to only come on at certain times of the day for certain periods of time unless it is changed manually. I couldn’t tell you what the bill is since I’m still living with the parents – the true frugal way to live after college!

How much do you estimate that you saved by not running the AC at all this past month?

Kevin June 1, 2008 at 12:57 pm

@Mom: Phew, 100 is really up there. I don’t blame you!

@Chris: Wow, 69 is frigid to us. That’s almost too cold for me.

It’s hard to tell how much we may have saved simply because this is our first summer in our house. Once we run through June and see the difference in power bills, that should help us determine the difference somewhat.

Michael Nolan June 1, 2008 at 1:27 pm

I am amazed at how many frugal-types I have encountered and/or met online from Birmingham. I live in Trussville!

MyMoneyAdventure June 1, 2008 at 3:04 pm

80’s! Try high 90’s to 100 in Texas!!

Future Millionaire June 1, 2008 at 6:58 pm

When I lived alone at the Georgia/Florida Boarder (trust me it was hot and humid there) I only ran the AC for the months of July and August and kept the thermostat at 80 when I was at home, otherwise I cranked it up to 85. I also always kept my ceiling fans on high. I know it sounds really hot, but its amazing what your body can slowly get used to. I go so comfortable at that temp, when I would go to the office I’d have to dress in winter clothes not to freeze.

Now that I have a roommate, who’s a-not frugal and b-not conditioned to be comfortable with hot temperatures we have the AC set all the time now as 75 (we had to compromise just get get it that high).

Kathryn June 2, 2008 at 2:33 am

We live close to the Texas coast. There are great breezes; however, the sun rises on the front of the house and sets on the back.

We had a tree planted in our backyard and the tree guy called out backyard a “hostile environment” (no it’s not cluttered, it’s just empty with no reall shade).

I secretly tried to keep the a/c off all month but caved around the 15th. We set it for 76-78 around 8p.m. and then adjust the thermostat to 86-90 around 6:30a.m. This month’s bill for a 1900sf all electric house is over $250 (ugh!)

My husband & I get up before 5a.m. and I’ve taken to cooking what I can for dinner while the house is cool and the a/c is running. Any cooking later in the day is done outdoors. I don’t grill but the microwave, portable convection oven, crockpot, electric skillet, etc. all go outside so my kitchen/house doesn’t heat up.

Grey June 2, 2008 at 9:09 am

We tried to make it through, as well. We live in the NC piedmont/coastal region and the humidity has been thick as butter. I actually gave in on Saturday. While I could handle the heat, my three children were not so up to it.

I was examining my electric usage online the other day – for May, we used 551 kwH (not too bad, for a family of 4). Looking at past summer usage, that number climbs to 1,100 kwH/month. It’s insane how much energy cooling the house takes.

Pattie June 2, 2008 at 9:05 pm

I live in the Inland Empire area of So Cal, where it’s, on average, 20 to 40 degrees warmer than the beach cities. We lived in a 2 bdrm, 950 sq. ft. 2nd story apt. with electric utilities (washer, dryer, range, etc.). We don’t have the humidity that other regions of the country have, but it is quite hot. August of 2006 my electric bill for a 30 day cycle was…ready for this? A whopping $1,145.00. You read that right. I felt sick to my stomach when I opened the bill. The central a/c was on a thermostat, set to 80 degrees, so it’s not like we were going for blitz creek cold. We now live in a 4 bdrm mobile home with a swamp/evaporative cooler, not central air (that’s killing me by the way), and my highest bill during the summer months was slightly over $200, but I was literally sweating inside. I’m cooling down about 1,400 sq. ft. now. That would have been last Sept. Labor Day weekend when it was consistently 110 degrees, with a high rate of humidity, when swamp coolers do little to nothing to cool you down. If you leave your thermostat set to 80, even with your humidity, central air will keep you quite comfortable, and all of us here on the West Coast will be jealous. You didn’t indicate what your electricity costs were.

Penelope @ Our Fourpence Worth June 3, 2008 at 3:04 am

We live in the Mojave Desert and we had to turn the A/C on a few times in May when temperatures hit the upper 90’s and over 100. We usually try to keep the thermostat at 80 or 81 and off as much as possible, but living here, we can’t go without it. The highest bill we had last year was $400, and other months were around $300. :O

Frugal Babe June 8, 2008 at 6:43 pm

We haven’t turned ours on yet this year, but we’ve gotten close a couple times. It’s been over 80 degrees in our house several days in the last couple weeks. We open the windows at night to let the cool air in, and that helps quite a bit. We’ll see how long we can hold out – once we turn it on, we set it to the high 70s.

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