Keeping Cool: AC-less Living

Thursday, July 26, 2012

ceiling fan

Each Thursday in June, Stan Cox, a senior scientist at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas and the the author of Losing Our Cool, discusses the world of air conditioning.

This Week: Why did you decide to do without air conditioning and why should others do the same?  What tips for going without can you share?

→ Watch Todd Barry On People Who Don't Like Air-Conditioning


Stan Cox

Comments [37]

Robin from NYC

1) It does not cool off at night in NYC the way it does in NJ and Westchester. On days like these, you are lucky if it gets below 80 at night. The cement and lack of many trees is to blame.
2) Enjoy breeze? What breeze. NYC only has breezes when it is cold outside. It is cooler near the water though.
3) The US is over air-conditioned by a rule and that does make things more uncomfortable. The answer isn't however to go without it, but to raise the temperature. Why do we need to set it at 66 degrees (that's what my office feels like on most days.)

Jul. 17 2013 01:11 PM
Anne from NJ

Window fans running at night is important. We also use thermal/mirrored curtains in the sunniest rooms in our apartment. Blocks the heat before it even enters!

Aug. 05 2012 02:18 PM
hedy from UWS from upper west

I don't use AC primarily because it's an unsustainable use of energy and I prefer fans. The overcooling of buildings in the USA is a problem that likely exacerbates respiratory conditions due to recirculated air.

That said, I also think it helps during the summer months not to be overweight. When I weighed 40 lbs more I was hot all the time.
If everyone in the world weighed the same as the average American it would be the equivalent of adding another 1 billion people to the planet - a sobering thought! There are some European owned restaurants in the city that refuse to use AC - I try to patronize them!

Jul. 28 2012 12:31 PM
Lee Gelber from Astoria

When the NYC Department of Health announces a heat advisory I fit the profile for people who should seek out air conditioned venues - I'm over 70 years of age and have bronchial asthma. I have been to Kansas in the summer and it's the only place I can remember the backs of my hands perspiring!
Mr Cox's anti- air conditioning stance amazes me. Wait a minute - Kansas, haven't the people of that state elected Sam Brownback to the US Senate and now he is their governor. Based on that observation, I shouldn't be amazed.

Jul. 26 2012 10:49 PM
Jill from Westchester

All of the callers are claiming that the answer to no a/c is to take frequent cold showers. So......they refuse to 'waste' electricity to keep cool but they are fine wasting water? Dumb.

Jul. 26 2012 12:15 PM
Peg from breezy hills of Willseyville NY

Wish someone would invent a combo heat producing appliance/hot water heater. Seems like using that heat producing energy could easily serve a dual purpose. Presently we heat up our houses and the outside with all our appliances (including the HW heater AND the AC) while we use the AC to send the heat outside (and make that hotter too).

Jul. 26 2012 12:05 PM
Lenore from Manhattan

Have just read all the comments. I don't have air conditioning either (btw, my cat also lies on the bathroom tiles but it's easier for her). I use fans.

Two subjects for follow-up--the over airconditioning of so many places, offices, some buses and trains; and the extreme heat of the subway platforms, which indeed did greatly worsen with the AC on the trains. These are subjects I'd like to see covered on BL and investigated. Places that over aircondition should be FINED!

Jul. 26 2012 11:46 AM
gary from queens

Dear Nike from Inwood,

No, i do not work for Sea Breeze Corp. I resent the implication. Do you work for J&R?!

The Turbo-Aire puts out 1340 CFM. The best Vornado is the 660 model, which displaces only 584 CFMs----and its more expensive than the Turbo Aire.

Do your research next time. BEFORE you talk.

Jul. 26 2012 11:35 AM
Ana from LES

I have severe seasonal allergies; AC makes my life bearable. I cannot keep my windows open at night if I want to sleep uninterrupted by coughing fits.

That said, most offices I've worked in are as cold as meat lockers, which is a tremendous waste.

Jul. 26 2012 11:31 AM
clark from nj

I don't own an air conditioner. I have a ceiling fan, a floor fan, window fan and a dehumidifier.
I'm also in the mountains of NJ; which is 10-15 degrees cooler than the city. There IS a noticiable difference having commuted the Summer of the Bronx Electrical Outage.
I open the windows at night to pull the cooler air in with the fan and vent the warmer air out my loft window. This was my Dad's house cooling process.
I may or may not run my dehumidifier. The loft fan is always on during the hotter months.
My billing doesn't really change between the Seasons.

Jul. 26 2012 11:09 AM
Mary Ellen from Boca Raton, Florida

Con Ed offers an option to get your electric only from wind power. It's a bit more expensive but when I lived in Brooklyn I felt it was worth it. The more customers they have for this, the cheaper it will become since the extra cost pays mostly for the set up of the system.

Jul. 26 2012 11:08 AM
Jennifer Freeman from Upper West Side

I don't use air conditioning. Instead I keep my shades down in the sunniest part of the hottest days, use a ceiling fan and open windows to create cross ventilation. On the very hottest days I sometimes go to a library for a bit of public cooling.

Jul. 26 2012 11:07 AM
flipflopper from NYC-manhattan

Can you be "bi" when it comes to AC? I keep one in the living room as I work from home and it can be oppressive trying to work without air - especially as my main rooms face east and cook up all morning/day. But there is no AC in the bedroom where I'm lucky enough to have windows at a cross breeze and a ceiling fan. Sometimes it's hot enough (high 90's) to sleep in the living room with AC on but 99% of the time, I sleep like a 99%er.
In general I just prefer fresh air, but as one commenter said, I could not live NE winters without artificial heat.

Jul. 26 2012 11:06 AM
Joan from Brooklyn

Hitchcock could not have made "Rear Window" if the Jimmy Stewart character had AC

Jul. 26 2012 11:02 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

@Marc from Brooklyn

Totally! And we heat the house for longer periods than we run the A/C for.

Jul. 26 2012 11:01 AM

There is a classic Steven Wright on AC: he put a humidifier and a dehumidifier (essentially an AC) in a room and let them duke it out.

Jul. 26 2012 10:59 AM

The asian thing to do in an office without air conditioning, is to have a bucket of regular cold water that you keep your feet soaking in while you sit. this dramatically reduces how hot you are!

Jul. 26 2012 10:59 AM


Awnings - preventing sunlight from reaching window glass keeps room cooler than putting shades inside the glass. Also, with awnings, when the cooling rains come, windows can be kept open to allow breeze to blow through.

Jul. 26 2012 10:58 AM
Sophei from Poughkeepsie, NY

Also if you suffer from allergies, the A/C helps filter pollen.

Jul. 26 2012 10:57 AM
Marcos from the Bronx

Unless you spend your summer in a secret cave in central park chances are you are going to face some severe heat while traveling around NYC this season. Perhaps the worst heat many of us will experience will be in subway stations. We normally expect underground spaces to be cool, so why are the subway tunnels hot? Is the MTA to blame for How hot are they? Is the heat on the platforms dangerous or just uncomfortable? What can and should be done about the heat? How do other teansit systems handle issues of heat and cooling? What is the MTA the MTA doing to beat the heat?

My father's thesis is that the subways got hot in the summer only after they started air conditioning the trains. I didn't hear this whole series, but I think this topic is badly in need of investigation.

Jul. 26 2012 10:56 AM
David from BKLYN

White Roofs!

Jul. 26 2012 10:56 AM
Larry from Williamsburg

I think most NYCers who say they don't use AC are trying to sound superior... like those who brag to out-of-towners that we don't drive (I am guilty of that). It is just about impossible to enjoy a summer breeze here in brooklyn with the noise and dog urine smells. That said, I try to go without in day time mostly to save money.

Jul. 26 2012 10:55 AM
Brian from Midtown

The air AC in the subways have turned the subway stations into convection ovens. Isn't there a better way to keep cool underground?

Jul. 26 2012 10:55 AM

Why we seldom use AC:
1) Old apartment with glass fuses that blow when you put it on in more than one room or when you use the toaster, microwave, or expresso maker
2) Makes it feel worse when you go outside in the hot
3) Exacerbates my arthritis
4) Miss the breeze from a fan
5) Makes my sinuses stuff up

The only reason I put it on is for our guinea pig who can't tolerate temperatures above 80 - so that's what I set it on when we're away. When I'm home, I give her cool down baths.

Jul. 26 2012 10:54 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Refuse to go w/o A/C. Ceiling fans didn't work. Even w/ ceiling fans the house was 95 degrees.

Stomach ache, rashes and wooziness is what happens to me. So, for those of you who aren't bothered by extreme heat, bully, for you! I just hope this doesn't become the 'a/c lovers vs. the virtuous a/c dislikers!'

Jul. 26 2012 10:54 AM
Marc from Brooklyn

Let's see if you have the audacity to question the need for artificial heat during the winter. I'll be holding my breath.


Jul. 26 2012 10:53 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

A good dehumidifier and a strong fan should do it. That should cut electricity bills considerably.

Jul. 26 2012 10:50 AM
John A

(from other comments) Trees are wonders for leaving you cooler. Maybe that could become Bloomberg's next mission, to tree up Broadway or somesuch.
Jim in NJ, my family did have a gas (electricless) refrigerator at one time, hard to believe until it's seen working.
Here's my list of offenses of A/C: Extra power use (of course), propagation of CFC's and CFC-like chemicals that go on to effect the ozone layer, Makes the outside world even hotter, makes people into astronauts on earth - living in environment bubbles, Allows for obesity year round, makes people less able to cope with nature and especially appreciate it.

Jul. 26 2012 10:49 AM

No way, everyone else in the states is driving SUVs year round. I can sleep with AC!!

Jul. 26 2012 10:49 AM

What happened to all the comments written today?

Jul. 26 2012 10:32 AM
Nike from Inwood

Gary from Queens: Who do you work for? Or just go to J&R and buy a Vornado fan. Same thing.

Jul. 26 2012 10:26 AM
gary from queens

The reason I gave up AC was because my landlord ordered us to (building was too old). That was 1990. Now it's just too costly to run.

But what saver my life from last summer's heat was an increadible house fan called the Turbo-Aire from Seabreaze.

I bought it cheap for $70+ from Ace Hardware last year. Ordered it special.

This is the product page:

Patented from Canada by aeronautical engineers.

This fan makes you feel like you're in a wind tunnel. Check out the specs on the volume of air it moves.

It's SILENT too. And it's VERY low energy consumption.

And here, size doesn't matter. I've had tiny feather fans that can really push a lot of air. So when I saw that this fan was smaller than most floor fans, that didnt discourage me from buying it.

This is a life saver if you dont have AC.

Just two pieces of advice:

1. There are easy to remove and clean plastic shields front and back. clean it when hair and dirt builds up on it. because that will greatly reduce it's effectiveness.

2. The fan pushes out so much air, that if you place it on a smooth table, it will move backward sliding on the table (it even looks like a plane engine).

Solution is to pick up some rubber hosing at an auto parts store or plumbing/hardware. about 16 inches long and about 1 inch inner diameter.

then slit it down the middle so you can clamp it onto the two metal cylinders that the fan rests on (if you lay it on a table). acts like rubber feet.

Jul. 26 2012 03:28 AM
Andrea from Astoria

I don't have an air conditioner to avoid the costs and the energy use. I use a window fan, and on really bad nights, an additional rotating fan near my bed. A window fan and rotating fan in the living room also serve, although we don't need them most nights. I wish we could have ceiling fans, but the landlord said no.

I also go without because I like to be able to open the windows on a nice day, and because my bedroom only has one window, which leads to the fire escape. My roommate is less lucky - with only one window facing the building next door, she gets no breezes, and she does use one. Our monthly energy bill goes up $40-50 just to heat her approx 80 sq ft bedroom each month.

Jul. 19 2012 03:33 PM
Susan from NJ

Where do I begin with the problems with air conditioning.
1. When I worked for a major corporation, the air conditioning was so cold I considered wearing my winter coat. As another commenter said: I went outside to warm up.
2. Somehow when there is an air conditioner in the room, those who like a room really cold win control of the temperature of the room. And if I suggest it is too cold, or, horrors, do we need the air conditioner on, they look at me like I am crazy.
3. There is nothing like a cool breeze on a summer's night but so many people are hermetically sealed in their houses they would never know how lovely it is.
4. I use lots of fan, take another cold shower, drink a lot of cold water/drinks and look forward to a cooling trend.
5. Seems like people have become so addicted to air conditioning that, should there be the hint of humidity or heat, on goes the air conditioner. People develop such a low tolerance that I am stuck feeling like the bad guy because to me the heat/humidity isn't so terrible.
6. Does anyone know about global warming? Or coal generated electricity and mountain top removal? Every time you turn on the air conditioner, another acre of mountain is leveled. For your momentary comfort, the land is being irreparably changed.

Jul. 19 2012 11:22 AM
Karen from Westchester, NY

I live in Westchester, NY in a 1,600 sq. ft. house built in the 1920's which happens to be shaded by several tall trees. We do not have air conditioning and I know of only two other families without it in my neighborhood. We have an attic fan which does a good job of moving air around, and we love having our windows open (with screens) and feeling connected to the outdoors. The biggest difference I notice as a result of not having air conditioning, is that we love being outside in the summer no matter the temperature and we do not depend on outside comforts to feel comfortable. We take walks every night and often do not see other people outside walking as the heat goes up. We eat all of our meals outside on our deck and just really enjoy the summer. And we think that is really cool!

Jul. 12 2012 11:08 AM
Jim in NJ from NJ

Isn't the real problem with air conditioning the energy use? There's technology like absorption chillers which can be powered by solar thermal collectors which use a tiny fraction of the power of coventional air conditioners and provide just as much relief from the heat. It's the same technology used to make ice in before we had a power grid.

Jul. 12 2012 10:53 AM
R. Datta from Fresno CA

Your video doesn't work on the iPhone 3G with up-to-date iOS!

Jul. 10 2012 07:47 PM

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