Tuesday, June 3, 2008

When the pillow no longer has a cool side, it's time

It's really hard to come up with things to write about when you're just hanging around the apartment all day. And by you I mean me, of course. Sure, I struggled sometimes to find inspiration when I was working, but at least then I had stimulation beyond just the buzzing sound of the always-running Reagan-era refrigerator and the pleasant trickling noise of the fish tank. And the dog barking itself hoarse upstairs.

And of course all of the things I distract myself with when I should be looking for a job. Like Chuzzle. And your blog.

Unfortunately, there may be a new noise/sensation added to the mix today. Our forecast high temperature today is 94, which means, unless I just decide to bail sometime this afternoon and head for the relative coolness of the mountains for a night or two, I may be turning on the AC. And even if I do leave, Courtney will just have to do the honors instead. It's already 85 outside and 82 right here on the couch. I've got the fan blowing on me so it's not uncomfortable yet.

The lady and I have actually become quite accustomed to dealing with the unregulated temperature fluctuations in our apartment. In winter, we keep the thermostat turned way, way down and just get used to wearing warm clothes and sitting under blankets when it gets chilly. The occasional hot water bottle and steamy beverage help ward off frostbite.

Summer is a bit tougher, though. No, it's not summer yet, technically, but since we've had exactly one day in the past two weeks that didn't reach 80 degrees, I hope you'll forgive me for fudging the terms a bit. When it hits 90 today, it's summer, goddamnit. That'll probably be in the next half hour. We're now at 86.5.

We're actually lucky in this apartment that we have windows on two opposing sides and can cross-ventilate. Two of our three windows also face northeast, which means they only get direct sunlight in the early morning. The third window faces southwest but has a big bush in front of it that keeps it shaded during the late afternoon. Also, we are on the middle floor of a three-story building, so we've got neighbors who insulate us pretty well. I've often wondered if I could get away with drilling a fat hole in the floor or ceiling into their ductwork and stealing some cool air. Probably not. Besides, my whole reasoning for not using the AC is to keep from having to rip that much more coal out of the mountains just for my comfort, so it doesn't really matter who's paying for it.

Yikes. This post got really boring really fast, huh? Let's keep that going: In the summertime we basically do the opposite of the wintertime routine: we (or more accurately I) wear as little clothing as possible (note: not naked or even pantsless, wierdos; you have to keep the interests of the furniture in mind here) and drink cold beverages frequently. We keep a fan blowing and try not to turn the air on. This can be tough at night, since it generally stays around 80 or 82 degrees even when the air is on, but once you fall asleep you don't know the difference anyway. You'd be surprised what you can get used to.

Does it piss anyone else off that the houses and apartments we have inherited and continue to build do absolutely nothing to utilize the environment they are in? Somehow people used to get by without air conditioning. They had front porches and windows that opened all the way. And trees to keep the sun off. Now, we just plop houses down in the middle of clear-cuts, but black asphalt roofs on them and set the thermostat to seventy. Our place doesn't even have any ceiling fans.

But we do turn the AC on (or the heat in winter) when we have visitors. I promise. So come see us. I'll even put a shirt on.

(We're at 88.2 degrees now, by the way. Summer is moments away.)


surviving myself said...

No way man, I love me some AC.

Being hot when you're not even doing anything aside from watching TV is pure torture.

nancypearlwannabe said...

I'm with you. A porch swing and some Country Time lemonade and I'm good to go. Until the heat hits 90 and the humidity is 100%. Then it's all AC, all the time.

Allie said...

Wow -- I love your E.B. White quote on the side!

It's supposed to get up to 90 WAY UP HERE this week. Crazy!

I am totally with you on the way our buildings are constructed now. Here, a lot of people have these weird garage screens and turn their garages into porch like rooms in the summer (they put TV's and couches, etc. out there). But Argo and I were visiting my neighbor in her garage room once and it was a good 15-20 degrees warmer in there, so I don't get it.

em said...

I have my heat off right now and dread going home. Ugh. I love a cross breeze but only have windows on one side of my house. Maybe I will clean my house, turn the air on; and come First Friday have y'all up for a drink.

Courtney said...

I'm so used to not turning on the a/c that I get cold when I'm in a place that has it. Of course, I get cold easily anyway.

Heat doesn't really bother me except when I'm trying to sleep, but with the window open and the fan on, I've been perfectly comfortable since it's gotten warm. And you can't beat a monthly power bill of $30.

If Mickey and I ever get around to owning a house, you guys can bet your asses it will be the most eco-friendly, energy-efficient mofo on the block.

maya said...

only two pathetically tiny windows in our little box of an apartment. oh, and a door that doesn't have a screen so i don't keep that open, otherwise there are flies. grrr.

anyway, once it hits 90, it's summer - i completely agree.

when i was a teenager and we didn't have air conditioning, i'd sit at the screen door in front of a giant fan with a bucket of ice in front of it, listening to the radio. it helped a little bit.

but not that much.

Meaghan said...

Yeah, I'm a spoiled American - and kind of the opposite of most people. I can't stand being cold, so the heater definitely gets used in the winter. In summer, we use the AC but, aside from the kitchen and bathrooms, our entire first floor is shaded by trees and the floor above. So it's pretty cool in there anyway. The upstairs can be a different story, and we're working on that...

BTW, that IS a nice quote.

The Modern Gal said...

I quickly learned with my old house in Nashville that was built in the middle of a field sans trees that no amount of air conditioning could cool my second-floor, vaulted-ceilinged bedroom. I've since learned to live with the heat and am trying to shop for apartments in K-town that are more sensibly built.

That said, curse the impending summer because on top of it being 88 now, the humidity is rapidly rising too.

JustinS said...

I hate me some heat. If I wanted it to be 90+, I'd move south. Drives me nuts when I have to pretend to like hot, sunny summer days in the Northwest just because every nutjob I bump into makes some "Well, at least it's sunny today!" comment. They always remind me of the "Someone's got a case of the Mondays!" lady from Office Space.

Sure, the occasional 75-80 degree day is nice enough, but I'm generally quite happy with our 9 month gray/rainy season.

Vanessa said...

The SO (significant other) and I were having this very debate last night. Unfortunately we live in Dallas and it was 99 (heat index of 106) here yesterday so AC was necessary. A huge part of the problem seems to be that we press forward into areas that without AC would otherwise be uninhabitable then sit back and wonder why there is a problem with global warming. The houses built don't consider window placement or trees, the builder just counts on AC to correct all the design flaws and keep temperature regulated, meanwhile the more we use AC the more we crank up the dial on global warming. We are setting ourselves up for a bad fall with the "AC can fix everything" mindset.

Noelle said...

Me and my cottage are A/C less. I have developed a complex fan system to starve off the hottest days.

And if you're looking to jazz up your blog a little while you're sentient, I suggest challenging yourself to write about things beyond what you did that day. I think you're a good writer, you should give a 3rd person narrative a go, or write about something topical going on that's tangential to your life in some way.

JustinS said...

Balls! Was just leaving a witty and insightful comment when my browser crashed.... now you get the short/snippy version instead.

@Vanessa -
The latest issue of Wired argued that it's actually better for the environment, carbon-wise, if we live in hot areas than colder.

What it boils down to is that it takes far less energy to cool your pad from, say, 100 degrees in Arizona to 75 than to heat it from subfreezing to the same temp in other areas. Not only is there the "no shit" factor in that we're talking about a 25 degree swing versus a 50 degree one, but A/C is apparently more efficient at cooling than most heating systems are at warming.

Just checked, and it's now on their website in addition to on the stands (cue the "The More You Know" music and graphic... now):


Mickey said...

sm- Yep. I never said I enjoyed it.

npw- Lemonade is good, but I've mean making iced tea by the gallon.

allie- All the garages I've ever known tend to be really hot as well. (90 up there?!!)

em- That sounds like a plan. But you better clean that place up. I don't want to be embarassed for you.

courtney- Word!

maya- I'm toying with the idea of sitting with my feet in a bucket of ice water. Think that'll work?

meaghan- Yeah, C and I may have to crash downstairs where it's cool next time we come down.

mg- I'm glad you have efficiency in mind while apartment hunting. It's tough, but every little but helps.

justins- I miss those nice 50-degree days of March.

vanessa- Exactly.

noelle- Thank you. I do need to stretch myself. Motivation will still be a problem, but thanks very much for the encouragement.

Jacob said...

What? Do you go commando? How else would not wearing pants be detrimental to your upholstery?

That, and the specialization of southern houses in pre-AC history was pretty serious. Every room was open to the outside, the crawlspace under the house was left entirely open and the ceilings tended to be really high. They were also almost always built under a giant tree. My parents house was built that way, but they closed off the crawlspace and added on to the house. Old houses in northern Australia are built the same way for similar reasons.

Modern architecture tends to follow methods that make sense in cooler climates and build houses that are poorly adapted to the 6-month summers of the south.

em said...

you should always be embarrassed for me, mickey. i mean there are just so many reasons to be...

Mickey said...

justins- (re your second comment) That's a really good point. I never thought about it that way.

jacob- You really shouldn't think that hard about the no pants equation. Also, thanks for the architectural insight. That's where this post was headed, but I thought I'd bored everyone enough already.

em- I guess I have a lot to learn.

Julie said...

Here's the flaw in your plan: Older houses (like my last) are cooler in the summer because they are shaded by trees. Awesome, right? Yes, except for problems with things like insulation, weather-stripping, 40 years of settling leading to cracks and even a little thing called a ridge vent. Old house was leakier than a leaky faucet. New house is sealed up tight.

Sure, we could have made some changes to the home, but repairs like those can run into the thousands. Do you have any idea how much it costs to replace every crappy window in your home with shiny, new energy-efficient windows?

Oh, and I'm glad you don't sit naked on the furniture. Courtney would never have stayed with you if you did.

Mickey said...

Julie- Julie, Julie, Julie. 40 years old is still a young house in my book. We haven't been bothering with things like orientation and durability for maybe a couple hundred years. And yes, I'm aware that a house full of new windows costs, like, a hundred dollars. Maybe more, even.

Chris said...

Is Knoxville that much farther north? We've been hitting 90 most days for the last two weeks or longer.

I know what you mean about orientation of the house. I've wished several times that I could magically duplicate some of the tall oak trees from the front yard into the side yard, where they would help shade the upstairs rooms.

I've also considered engineering a roof garden, but then my neighbors (and my wife) would be fully convinced that I am insane.

Which I probably am.

Chris said...

RE: JustinS - I read that wired article too. I like that mag, I got a 2 year subscription for $20! Not bad.

jenna said...

its good u dont use the environment too much but u should also try thinking about someone else for a change and charity or something.

Vanessa said...

The issue of Wired is on my coffee table, I just haven't had a chance to read it yet. The cover said "keep your SUV" and that kinda goes against everything I work for with my MPG Nazi ways. I'll give it a read though. Thanks!