Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Non-electric air conditioner

I saw the news reports of the extremely high 120 degree heat in the southwest USA.  I do hope readers living in those areas stay safe and stay cool.  I believe green house gasses are going to make our lives even more miserable as the planet heats up.  The news reminded me that I should do more to prepare just in case we also get a heat wave in this area.

Last fall I watched a Masterpiece movie series on PBS that was called Indian Summers.  In the scenery some of the characters kept walking through rows and rows and rows of fabric hanging on clothes lines.   I thought gee whiz they sure do a lot of laundry in India.  But, it turns out that wasn’t laundry at all, it was row upon row of free air conditioning.  I don’t know if that is still done or not but in the high heat environment of India wet fabric was hung to catch a breeze.  Wind blowing through the wet fabric cools the air.  More wet fabric, more cool air.  That’s why there was row upon row of them.  It was cooling the air around the buildings where people lived and worked.  How thrifty is that?

That really intrigued me so I decided to do more research into how people in India and other high heat areas keep cool when they have no electricity.  In my search I found a video of a man in Bangladesh using empty pop bottles to create a solar air conditioner for use by people without electricity.  I thought, naw, that can’t be real.   That has got to be more internet pop science nonsense.  It has to be one of those fake things that somehow gets believed anyway.

I have a very inquisitive but skeptical mind.  Even though my mind says this pop bottle air conditioner is absurd my curiosity took over and I wanted to see for myself if it actually works.  It couldn’t hurt to test it.  If you haven’t seen this before I’ll put a youtube link of the pop bottle air conditioner below.

I didn’t have any empty pop bottles but I did have juice bottles.  I used a few of them to create a small version of the bottle air conditioner.  I used foam board as the bottle holder instead of plywood.  Its only an experiment to see if it actually works so it doesn’t have to be perfect.

What I learned about putting this together is that its best to cut the little plastic ring off the bottle neck so the bottles hold in the foam board better.  Simply pushing the box cutter blade into the top works better (and less dangerous) than trying to cut across the top.

For my experiment I cut it the width of the board by 6 inches because that’s the height of the window security stops.  I marked a line down the center then lined up the bottles on that line.  Traced around the tops to know where to put the holes.  This is how it looked when finished.

I put it in the window and then taped over the gap above with clear packing tape.

Ok, it works.  Umm… maybe.  I used an incense stick to check for air flow.  Yes, there is airflow and it does feel cool but I don’t believe its because of the bottles.  I can get the same cooling airflow by simply opening windows.

I do know about creating cooling breezes by cross ventilation air flow.  Grandma Mama taught me.   Open one window on the cool side of the house and one on the opposite side of the house.  Open two windows on the ground floor and one on the second floor to create a chimney effect to draw in cooling breezes.  People in hot climates have done these things for centuries.  Its the same science behind using whirling roof top vents or whole house fans or wind towers.

My personal opinion, the pop bottle air conditioner is nonsense.  There first must be a breeze outside for it to flow through the bottles.  The temperature of the air does not change simply by going through a small opening.  It may feel cooler directly in front of the breeze but quickly takes on the temperature of the room.  I believe the people in Bangladesh would do much better by cutting a small opening in the tin roof to create a chimney effect breeze and hang wet fabric in front of open windows.  The hot air rising would draw in air from open windows, through the wet fabric, through the house, and up through the hole in the roof.  The opening could be covered with a cap to keep out the rain in the same way any type roof vent works.

Just in case you are a curious person like me here is the link to the video of the man making air conditioners from pop bottles and giving them away.   Here is another link to the same type bottle air conditioner in another country.  It’s catching on and doing that viral thing.  Just goes to show you there are many people searching for ways to cut expenses.  Um… and lots of people willing to believe anything.

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25 comments on “Non-electric air conditioner

  1. Leslie Saunders
    July 14, 2017

    Just catching a cool breath of air here on the desert floor of Az…we are down to 103 today,which is better than average! I liked your advice about the windows and pulling the air in like a chimney. When I am up at 5a.m., I hang the wash out early, and then hose down the exterior house., which is one story. I then open the windows for about an hour with the ceiling fans on, then .I close up, and put the act and floor fans on, while I do inside housework. One thing a fellow desert rat taught me, is to fill all space in your refrigerator with bottles of water and juice. It’s actually more economical to fill up the spaces.

    • Anita
      July 15, 2017

      I feel for you Leslie. I see the news reports of the heat in your area. Our heat index was 103 yesterday. The actual temp was 90 something but the humidity makes it feel much hotter. I was doing the same thing for awhile. Opened the windows early for about an hour then closing. Its not helping now though because its not much cooler outside these days. And high humidity. I have one window AC the works a little. I’m not sure how old it is. I’ll need to replace it before next year. I’m going to watch for a mark down when the weather starts to turn cooler.

  2. T
    July 5, 2017

    It is extremely hot here, the ac is struggling to cool to 80, so I have been working on any little idea. Put foil on two windows whch seem to get a lot of sun- sad to discover one is leaking in water. But I guess the HOA will have to take care of the leak; the repair to the sill is probably mine though. Sigh- always something.But almost immediately after applying the foil the temperature indoors dropped two degrees. I have screens on the windows so HOA can’t see the foilf or complain- one of the many rules is all window coverings must have white backing.

    Tomorrow going to hang outdoor bamboo blinds and see if that helps.

    • Anita
      July 5, 2017

      If you think they may complain about the foil maybe you can get a piece of white foam core board or maybe a piece of white poster board. Either will reflect the sun away from the window and keeps the room dark too. I got mine at the Dollar Store. Let me know how well the bamboo blinds work, please.

      • T
        July 6, 2017

        Thanks, will do.

        The blinds seem to make a difference, I got them because I noticed other people had hung them, and it isn’t just the cost- it was so hot a couple of the days we were feeling ill indoors! These are from a store called Big Lots, I think they’re online too, and I spent @$80 plus sales tax.

        I have also replaced all the drapes with solar blocking curtains from wal-mart, think they were about twelve dollars each. So I’ve spent about $80 on them.

        I’m working on the premise every little helps when it’s almost 100 degrees all day!

        • Anita
          July 7, 2017

          So true, every little bit does help.

          We have Big Lots but I rarely get a chance to go there. Its quite a distance away by city bus. I need to think about curtains myself. I’m not sure if I want to buy them or make window quilts. I’ve been thinking maybe Roman Shades I’d make myself behind thermal panels I’d buy. Still trying to decide though.

          • T
            July 7, 2017

            Big Lots definitely isn’t cheaper on all things, and they sell a lot of junk.

            Does it get very hot where you are? It’s bad here this year, at 1 am yesterday it was 81 degrees outside.

            • Anita
              July 10, 2017

              Its been in the high 80s and low 90s here for several day. Our problem is mostly that its very humid here. Its hard for the body to cool itself through sweating if the air has more moisture in it than the body. High humidity raises the feel of the heat by several degrees.

        • Elizabeth
          July 14, 2017

          I have thermal curtains on the big windows and use the automobile windshield sun shades on the little ones…they keep out the heat great. Unfortunately, I live in a mobile home, so while I can keep the heat from coming in the windows it comes in through the walls, floors and ceiling. I’m saving to get some insulation blown in, but it’s thousands of dollars so probably not until next summer. I put KoolSeal on the roof and that made a difference of a couple of degrees. I have two 5,000 BTU window AC units…Everything helps some, but it gets hotter every year (I moved here to Oregon 20 years ago for the cool wet weather and it’s gotten hotter and hotter every year). Once it hits 90 degrees the best I can do with indoor temp is 80 degree…it sure feels hot. I have to sit in front of the AC unit when I get too hot. Don’t know how folks do it in Arizona!

          • Anita
            July 15, 2017

            A mobile home sure would be hard to cool without a way for the hot air to escape. When you get the insulation done be sure to ask for roof vents. I have only one small window AC which isn’t much help here either. I need to replace it but not enough money yet. I did clean the filter the other day which did help it work a bit better. I’m keeping the door to that room closed and using it for the escape room when the inside temp reaches 80. I need to keep the grand baby cool. When she isn’t here I spend a lot of time in damp clothing with a fan. I think its been getting hotter all over the world and much colder in the winter. I’m with you…. I don’t know how people like Leslie in Arizona manage either.

  3. Lily @ The Frugal Gene
    June 29, 2017

    Thank you for the post! I guess I sorta could guess it wouldn’t work out but I was still excited that maybe it could! Ha!

    • Anita
      June 29, 2017

      Yeah, that’s the hook. Everyone is searching so its easy to catch them off guard.

  4. Patricia
    June 24, 2017

    I had a friend who used to fill 16oz plastic water bottles and freeze them – then stand them in front of a fan – as the fan blew the air onto, around and through the spaces between the bottles, it cooled the air and in turn, cooled the room.

    • Anita
      June 26, 2017

      Thanks Patricia, I will use this idea when the weather gets really hot this summer.

  5. T
    June 21, 2017

    I tried to get accurate information about cooling the loft, should I re-insulate or not, and was told both yes BUT also no, it might just trap the hot air without proper ventilation…since the wind rarely blows here and I can’t afford to a/c the loft, I am still none the wiser about what will work! And it’s an expensive job.

    I have been able to dry the cold-washed laundry so far, without increasing humidity badly. And I have been disciplined about washing dishes in the sink so I need not run the dishwasher.

    My advice to anyone looking for a home they can budget effectively during extreme temperatures, avoid the modern ‘open plan’ or high ceilings, get the smallest property you possibly can and be prepared to change electricity plans frequently- companies don’t reward customer loyalty any more, prices tend to go UP for sticking with a company rather than shopping around.

    • Anita
      June 21, 2017

      Did they not mention roof top vents to cool the loft? Here any new attic insulation must also get vents to prevent overheating in summer. Roof top vents are on just about every house. The city will provide house vents for those who can’t afford them. New constructed houses can’t pass inspection without roof top vents.

      I think that’s why the tiny house movement is gaining. Smaller house means less of everything. Some areas, like where I live, there is no shopping around for better rates. We have only one company for gas/electric, only one company for water/sewer. They have a legalized monopoly in KY for several more years. Heck, its only been about 8 years that more than one cable company is here. Before that it was a monopoly for them too.

      • T
        June 21, 2017

        There already is a vent pipe on each section but given that we rarely get a breeze I don’t think they are effective. Living in a condo I can’t just install stuff either, have to get permission from HOA….

        We have a monopoly on cable and internet but choices for electricity. Don’t know about gas ( no gas this property ) or water/sewer choices.

        I bought this place thinking at least I don’t need to worry about the external maintenance, but we had problems with the new siding leaking, problems with the new roof leaking, the gardeners are really bad at their job….numerous times the sprinkler system has been fixed now, still doesn’t work right.

        Would love to do tiny house living or log cabin living, but it’s kind-of a fad here and so it’s expensive, with everything nickel and dimed, the construction, the facilities
        ( paying extra for a home with a toilet???) the land and HOA fees.

  6. Lilly pickles
    June 20, 2017

    My childhood home had an attic fan in it, I really miss it. It kept the house cool and the noise was really good white noise to sleep to. Thankfully our winter was mild and my heating bill was low. It costs more to cool my house than heat it so the summer bill can be scary. So far we are managing with box fans and the thermostat set at 78 degrees. Sugar cookie s medical issues may have me completely unable to work. We can manage but frugality will be the only way we can cover any emergency. Meanwhile we are waiting for biopsy report. Her condition brings with it some odd issues and this problem may very well be one of those. Here’s praying for no cancer.

    • Anita
      June 21, 2017

      My heating/cooling bills run almost even but it doesn’t take much of a weather extreme to tip it one way or the other. I’m much more comfortable with high heat than I am with cold. I’m using a box fan to bring in the cool morning air then closing the windows about noon. So far the inside temp hasn’t gone above 83 while the outside temp is in the low 90s. I’m praying for good news for you and Sugar Cookie.

  7. Linda in NE
    June 20, 2017

    I was happy to see in a previous post that you are feeling better. It’s a shame people can’t have things seen to sooner because of cost. Do I remember correctly that you don’t have supplement insurance to go along with your Medicare? I don’t know about your state, but in mine really low income people can get help through Medicaid for the part B and the supplement insurance. Of course, there’s paperwork and reporting that you have to keep up with, but if it’s available in your state it could be a big help to you.

    • Anita
      June 20, 2017

      Thanks for your concern Linda. No, I don’t have a supplement insurance. I don’t qualify for state medicaid either. The income limit was lowered a few years ago and almost everyone on full SS no longer qualifies. I plan to apply for the hospital charity help. I have a couple other options to check out too. If nothing else then a monthly payment plan can be worked out.

  8. Linda in NE
    June 20, 2017

    I remember reading that back before electricity in this country one method used was hanging wet sheets in front of open windows and doors to keep the house cooler. Also people covered themselves with wet sheets to be cooler for sleeping at night along with screened in sleeping porches so the bugs wouldn’t bite. We’ve really gotten spoiled with our electricity and air conditioning….though I don’t intend to give it up any time soon. 🙂

    • Anita
      June 20, 2017

      We had a sleeping porch but as kids we had more fun sleeping in a tent made of quilts over a clothes line. Its odd but we didn’t get many mosquito bites. We sure got a lot of chiggers though. I’m going to hold off using my AC until the inside temp reaches 85 or above. That’s when I start to feel really uncomfortable. I tolerate the heat much better than I do the cold.

  9. craftytadpole
    June 20, 2017

    Darn, I was hoping you were on to something. Thanks for checking it out and reporting your findings!

    • Anita
      June 20, 2017

      😉 Me too.

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