Thursday, July 18, 2013

Staying cool without A/C

noon, Bradford, Rhode Island 
90 F / 32 C  Air Temperature 
99 F / 37 C  Heat index 
SW 7 m.p.h. wind 

I propped an old closet door against the most sun-exposed beehive to give them a little relief from the aggressive sun - if not the stultifying air.  The cats prefer a spot of naked earth in the shade.

We live in southern Rhode Island - 6 miles from a coastline that used to serve New Yorkers and Bostonians as a refuge in the days before air conditioning.  And even today a lot of people - like us - don't have air conditioners.  This makes heat waves a logistical challenge.

Since I work at home, I maintain simple habits to keep the house comfortable.  In the winter I draw the blinds and close the curtains at nightfall to hold in the heat - and open them in the morning to catch the sun's warmth.  In the summer, I do the opposite - pulling down the blinds against the morning sun on the east and south facing windows, and the west and north facing windows by afternoon.  If there's not much natural breeze, by mid afternoon I'll turn on a couple of fans in the upstairs - one blowing inward from the eastern face - one blowing outward into the sunlit western face.

In weather like this - a string of 90+ / 30+ days - I also close down all the downstairs windows in the morning to keep in the past evening's cool air.  Even so, our cubic Cape Cod begins to heat up, and I'll place a fan on the basement steps to draw up the cool from below. (It's clear to me now why they built these houses traditionally over a great, granite-block cellar.  It's like having your own personal cave for refuge.)  But by 4 o'clock the upstairs is very hot, and the ground floor is becoming too hot work comfortably even with cold drink in hand.  I can either move to the basement, or I can choose to drive a few miles down the shore and get some exercise by going for a swim in the Atlantic.

By the time I come back - after 5 - and have a quick, cold shower, the temperature outside has fallen enough to throw open the windows to whatever breeze there might be.  And even in our heat waves the nighttime temperatures fall into the sixties at night - (low 70's at worst), so fans will bring in the welcome air.

And we aren't cooking any pot roasts . . .