No Air Conditioning in May is Back for 2009

by Kevin on May 8, 2009

Last May we went the entire month without using air conditioning in our home. It was brutal toward the end of the month when the temperatures consistently stayed above 80 degrees. Our little home really started to heat up. And yes, we walked around in our underwear a lot with glasses of water in hand, ceiling fans on the highest setting.

But we did it.

You see we live in Birmingham, Alabama. During the summer months I like to say Birmingham is 103 degrees and about 10,000% humidity. I know you can’t techincally have more than 100% humidity, but in Birmingham it’s different and I’m sure we can simply add a few extra zeroes to the end. It is hot. It is muggy.

But we did it.

For those of you in northern climates where air conditioning is hardly ever used anyways, imagine going through the month of November or February without any heat in your house. It’s the same idea.

No Air Conditioning is Frugal

We didn’t enter May 2008 with this idea. We just noticed we were comfortable with the outside temperatures and left the air conditioning unit off. By the time we recognized we had gone most of the month without air conditioning it wasn’t a big deal. Well, it wasn’t a big deal until Memorial Day and summer arrived. Yet we made it, sweating here and there.

It’s amazing what the human body can get used to.

As it turns out (and as you might imagine!) going without air conditioning is quite the frugal idea. Last year I had one reader ask me exactly how much we had saved by going without air conditioning. At that point I had no idea because we had just purchased the home the previous fall. We hadn’t experienced summer yet, thus we had no electricity bill to compare to.

Looking back now it looks like we may have saved roughly $30. Here is the list of bills for around that period of time.

  • May 8, 2008: $34.73
  • June 11, 2008: $63.65
  • July 9, 2008: $91.24
  • August 8, 2008: $111.53
  • September 9, 2008: $94.61

It appears July is the hottest month here. Remember the bill for the previous month lands in the next month. So the August bill has most of our July use on it. Since this is the peak, it looks like we should have experienced a bill of roughly $90. Perhaps a bit less because the real heat of the month didn’t hit until the end of the month.

Frugal and Green

The point wasn’t necessarily just to save money. We lessened our impact on our local environment — even if just by a hair. We’re not growing our own organic cotton and sewing our own clothes, but I figure every little bit counts.

So we’re back at it again this year. I’m hoping we make it to the end of the month once again. That $30 savings for one month isn’t all that significant. One dollar per day. Yet I like the idea and my wife’s on board for it.

What do you think? Are we crazy?

{ 2 trackbacks }

No Air Conditioning in May is Back for 2009 | No Debt Plan | You Have the Right to Breathe Clean Air
May 8, 2009 at 11:05 am
Weekly Mashup, Mother’s Day | My Life ROI, Getting the Best Return On Life
May 11, 2009 at 8:45 pm

{ 23 comments }

SaveBuyLive May 8, 2009 at 6:15 am

When I read the title I was thinking “yeah so?” and then I read “Birmingham, Alabama.” I proceeded to pick my jaw up off the floor.

I used to live in the South so I can understand how much of a feat it is to go without A/C.

Personally I think you’re crazy. But if it works for you, go for it.

Just promise me that you’ll keep alert for signs of heat exhaustion and take preventative measures like staying hydrated. Saving a few bucks isn’t worth a trip to the emergency room.

Kelly May 8, 2009 at 7:02 am

I think it’s a great idea.

We try to go as long as we can without AC, but then we live in the Northeast so we usually make it to mid-June.

This year we had to turn it on for a day in APRIL! (we suffered through one day without it) We had 2 days of 95 degrees weather and it was terribly humid. I’ve never once in all my years of homeownership turned it on that early!

Of course I immediately turned it off once the temperature dropped.

I think it’s great you are trying to do your part, every little bit counts!

[email protected] May 8, 2009 at 7:12 am

Crazy? No: commendable. Rock on!

Kip Nickell May 8, 2009 at 7:15 am

I live in Nashville and the southeast humity is brutal. I agree that it is over 100% humidity. The meteorologists can take a hike.

That said, I think the tradeoff of money and suffering is a poor in this endeavor – thus, you are crazy. I chose the smart/stupid thing. I am renting (stupid) until next January and I chose the 2nd floor in the middle so I am sandwiched on 5/6 walls by other patrons (smart). I rarely turned on my heat this winter – with no suffering involved.

It is a really good step towards focusing on saving money though… much like different religions ‘fast’. It isn’t a weight loss gimmick, it is to regain focus on one subject. Lint is another example.

Kimberly May 8, 2009 at 7:19 am

You’re crazy. Unless it’s honestly fun for the entire time, you’re not gaining enough (monetarily or otherwise) to suffer. If you needed the $30 for, say, food, then okay, I’d understand better.

However, your regular bills are really low, so bravo on that. I won’t even tell you the range of mine, but suffice to say it’s enough that a $30 swing either way isn’t even detectable.

Kyle May 8, 2009 at 7:22 am

I don’t think I could make it the entire month, so far though we haven’t really used it at all and we aren’t that much further north. Air Conditioning is crazy expensive.

SavingDiva May 8, 2009 at 7:29 am

WOW! I plan on trying to minimize my usage, but I don’t think I could sleep without air conditioning down here.

When I lived in the midwest, I turned my air conditioning on once or twice a summer…

Jeremy May 8, 2009 at 8:16 am

I’m impressed. But what about when guests come over?

I live in Austin, TX (not humid like Birmingham, but still plenty warm) and also try to go without air conditioning for as long as possible in the hot months. About a year ago, I found out my A/C was broken when I tried to switch it on while I had a friend visiting from New York. Since I hadn’t turned the A/C on yet that year, I wasn’t aware it had gone out. I had to wait a few days for to get it repaired (it was Memorial Day weekend) and my guest had to suffer through the heat. It’s not so great to be challenged with high temps when you have guests.

Ashley @ Wide Open Wallet May 8, 2009 at 9:27 am

It’s already over 100 everyday here. I am currently sitting comfortably in my AC… have been for a few weeks. 🙂

Kevin May 8, 2009 at 9:38 am

@SaveBuyLive: Oh definitely. If we start getting delusional or anything like that we just go stick our heads in the refrigerator until it goes away.

Just kidding.

@Kelly: Thanks! Those warm snaps will kill you. It is much easier to get accustomed to if it warms up gradually.

@Kate: Thanks!

@Kip: Renting may not be stupid in the long run, although having your own place is so much better. But it is more costly. Good idea with being in the middle, that can definitely save.

@Kimberly: As I said the money savings isn’t enough to encourage us to keep doing it. Just refocusing on other things. Remember people used to live without air conditioning all the time. (I can’t imagine that!)

@Kyle: Electricity use is definitely expensive no matter what way you cut it. At least you guys get to experience all four seasons. We have cold and hot. Nothing in between.

@SavingDiva: Ahh, you get used to it. We just kick the fan on and sleep… ahem… minimally.

@Jeremy: Oh, definitely not in effect when we have someone over. But generally speaking we don’t have people over all that often, especially in May. My wife is finishing up the school year and is generally stressed out with a play or concert or something like that. It’s actually a pretty good time to go without it.

Of course now you’ve got me thinking about the a/c unit being broken…!

@Ashley: Wow. Can’t believe that. But you all don’t have any humidity, right? I’ve heard dry heat isn’t as bad.

Ashley @ Wide Open Wallet May 8, 2009 at 11:07 am

In my unscientific experience humidity makes it feel about 15 degrees hotter than it really is. So 80 degrees and humid feels like 95 and dry.

We had a high of 103 yesterday (in the shade). So that would be about 88 with humidity.

Kimberly May 8, 2009 at 11:43 am

Yeah, I got that the money wasn’t the motivating factor. I imagine that it’s too far out of my frame of reference to really understand the benefit. For me, personally, I can’t see where I would get enough out of it to justify it.

Lori May 8, 2009 at 12:16 pm

Wow. I was searching for something to show my husband that going without AC is possible and other people are doing it too. I commend you for taking on such a challenge in the south. Having grown up in South Central Florida, and now living in SE Texas, I certainly understand the heat. And now more than ever with a 4000sq ft home, our electric bill runs $240 and that’s without AC. We’re (I’m) trying to stay with AC off for as long as possible, but my husband is a bit more challenged. We’ll see how long it holds out. The savings to the atmosphere is just the added bonus.

Stay cool ya’ll.

Hannah May 8, 2009 at 2:32 pm

I think you’re awesome!!

We did this in May of last year, going so far as fixing broken window screens so we could have more windows open. We made it through May 30 and then it got to 86 F with a heat index over 90. I caved on the last day.

This year, I’ve rebuilt the remaining missing screens so we can open ALL the windows. 90 is still my cap though. We hit 90 (in Oklahoma) and the A/C’s comin’ on.

Happy sweating!!

Lauren May 8, 2009 at 7:53 pm

I will definitely be showing this to my husband!!! We moved from Houston to Dallas, and he’s just convinced we HAVE to have the A/C on. $30 is worth it to me. $10 would be worth it to me too. That money could go for any number of things, Great Job.

Squawkfox May 9, 2009 at 8:29 am

In the hot summer months I sleep in my basement, close the drapes during the day, and open the windows at night. Having a home with good insulation also helps to keep things warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Brittany May 10, 2009 at 12:13 pm

I definitely don’t think you’re crazy! We often did this growing up in the Florida Panhandle, though I think it helps that our yard has two big oak trees providing shade and that everyone was at school/work during the hottest part of the day.

Now I live in Tucson, AZ where going without A/C in May would be killer since we’ve already had 5 or 6 days with official highs over 100, which is only going to continue. We do keep the thermostat set between 80 and 82, which reduces the cost and is plenty cool compared to being outside.

Kevin May 10, 2009 at 8:49 pm

@Ashley: I think I’ve heard 15-20 degrees more from humidity. I’ll sure believe it. Any way you cut it, it’s hot. Muggy just makes it worse.

@Kimberley: To each his/her own! Thanks for stopping by.

@Lori: Uhoh. Don’t want to be the bad guy! 🙂

@Hannah: I actually talked to some co-workers that mentioned their builder didn’t even give them screens. I was like uh, go get some?

@Lauren: As I told Lori, I don’t want to be the bad guy that ticks off your husband. It may not work for some people!

@Squawkfox: Interesting! I’m guessing Mr.Squawkfox joins you in the basement? Unfortunately we don’t have one of those…

@Brittany: Yes, it helps that the house is empty (except for the well-hydrated dog) during the day.

Dolla June 9, 2009 at 9:49 am

I think it’s a great idea. My A/C currently is out and has been since November…and I live in HOUSTON. So needless to say it gets quite hot. For good or bad I work all day so I’m not there during the hottest times of the day, nobody is since I live by myself. When I get home I vent the upstairs windows and that drops the temperature considerably. Then I have a box fan to pull cooler air in and another window for warmer air to exit. We’ll see how long it lasts…It’s looking like $5,000 for a new system but I’m saving almost $80 a month in electricity in our market compared to my old bills. I doubt I’ll make it through June without at least buying a small, portable unit but I’m trying. Gotta love box fans!

Kevin June 11, 2009 at 8:53 pm

@Dolla: Woooo! Houston? You’re a stronger person that I am! I had a couple people email me and remind me that I need to test my a/c and heating units during off seasons just to make sure they work. Another example as to why.

Sooz in Oklahoma June 12, 2009 at 8:18 am

I live in Oklahoma. Usually, I wait until mid-june to break down and turn on the a/c. This year, I turned it on in May and I just got my electric bill – $105 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ack! It usually runs around $40 or less. My house stays pretty cool – I replaced carpet with hard floors. We have carpet in the bedrooms, though. I have a really nice deck where we like to spend time. However, in the afternoon, the deck gets like an oven! I have been trying to figure out what kind of trees to plant on the west side of the backyard to shade my deck. I don’t have much space on that side so I need trees that are tall and skinny. I would love a mountain cedar, but they take forever to grow!

Kevin June 14, 2009 at 4:09 pm

@Sooz: Ouch on the power bill. Have you seen those commercials for that thing that attaches to the side of your house? Like a sun shade? While your trees are growing that might be an option.

Dolla June 15, 2009 at 4:17 pm

Okay, so I didn’t last MUCH longer. Caved in and bought a portable A/C unit last weekend so I can bear the HOT days of Houston. Upstairs is still down for the count, but by the time I’m ready for bed it’s not bad up there. At least I can now watch TV without getting stuck to the couch. LOL.

I will reiterate to EVERYONE though that you would be surprised how spoiled we are with A/C. I never knew until mine went out. Nor did I have any idea of how much money I was spending on just A/C or how easily I could cut back. So be sure you at least push yourself to the limit once to understand what you can and cannot handle. You’ll at least save a little money in the process. And afterwards, I bet you’re more likely to at least turn UP the thermostat a bit.

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