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.

Living without central air

A big part of the USA is in a heat wave right now.  Including where I live.  The heat index is brutal.  The news reporters, over the last couple of days, have given instructions on how to recognize heat stroke.  That’s when you know the weather is HOT.

I don’t have central air conditioning and I live in a two story house.  I do have a survival room window unit in my bedroom.  When the inside temperature of my house reaches between 85 and 90 degrees I go to the bedroom and stay for awhile to cool down.  This morning when I woke it was already 80 degrees inside my house.  I have to work quickly to get cooking or washing or sewing or other things done before the sun reaches high in the sky.  By noon it was 90 and I went to the survival room.  It gave me some time to think about ways to stay cool without it costing a fortune.

If my ancestors could live without air conditioning so can I.  Grandma Mama didn’t have electricity when I was a child so we didn’t even have electric fans to keep us cool.  I can’t remember anyone in the family suffering heat stroke.  I’m searching my childhood memories for what we did back then to survive the heat.  I’ll start with the windows.

Grandma Mama’s house had single pane windows.  She didn’t have actual curtains for the windows like those of today.  She had window quilts.  The quilts were very pretty with lots of decorative handwork and handmade lace.  Actually Grandma Mama’s handwork wasn’t ribbon winners but I thought everything was beautiful.  The winter quilts and summer quilts were different.  Two of her summer window quilts were about 10 inches shorter than the other ones.  Both were short about five inches at the top and five inches at the bottom.  The winter window quilts were bright, cheery, thick, and covered the whole window plus casings.   The summer window quilts were lots of white with pastel colors and not so thick.

Its only as an adult that I realized the true reason for Grandma Mama’s window quilts.  Winter quilts were to keep heat inside the house and summer quilts were to reflect heat away from the house.  Winter is almost always dreary and lasts too long so bright colors help keep occupants from getting cabin fever.  On sunny days she rolled the quilts up and tied them with twine to allow sunlight to warm the room.  Summer window quilts were light color to reflect the sun.

Grandma Mama understood creating cross breezes to cool the house.  That is the reasoning behind two of the summer quilts being about ten inches shorter than the window.  During the early morning she opened the windows on the sun-up side of the house about 4 inches at the bottom.  On the opposite side of the house, the sun-down side,  she opened the windows about 4 inches at the top.  Cool air came in on the low side, heated and rose to the ceiling creating movement, then exited at the high side.  Later in the day, when the sun reached the opposite side of the house, she reversed the openings.

All my windows are double pane and have mini-blinds but no curtains.  I haven’t got around to making curtains and the cost of redi-made is way beyond my budget.  Only my survival room has curtains.  The big warehouse behind my house and the trees in the back yard block the sun from the yard but does not shade the house.  The sun moves from side to side but not back to front.  My house gets full sun all day all summer.

blinds angled toward the floor

I can’t open a window at the top because of the blinds.  Sun coming through window glass, even double pane glass, will heat up a room.  First thing every morning I change the angle of all the mini-blinds so that the angle is up toward the ceiling.  This keeps the sun rays from coming into the rooms.  Think about it.  When the angle is from up top going downward toward the floor the angle allows the sun through.  If you have window blinds walk up to a window and look up through the slats.  See that blue sky?  That’s where the sun shines through.  But, when you angle the slats going the other way; from bottom of window toward the ceiling the sun gets blocked.

blinds angled toward the ceiling

Can you see the difference in the two photos?  The first one is angled down toward the floor and looking through them I can see the house next door and the sky behind it.  In the second the angle is toward the ceiling and none of the sky or house next door is visible.  If I walk up to look through the slats I see the gravel driveway.

I do get some reflected light which allows me to keep ceiling lights off and helps keep the electric bill lower.  I keep all the blinds closed all day.  In the late evening, near dark, I reverse the slats of the blinds.  Why?  Well, to prevent any potential peeping-tom from seeing into my house at night.  The mini-blinds are old and dirty and need replacing.  I do plan to get, or make, curtains eventually.  My budget doesn’t allow me to do this right now so its a future project.

I realize the savings by doing this may be minimal but any savings on utility bills, no matter how small, are worth the effort of using.  My hope is someone using mini-blinds does find this information useful and that its not old news to everyone.

 

23 comments on “Living without central air

  1. Helen Baczynski
    July 15, 2018

    Just catching up with your blog that I had forgotten about. When we lived in Vegas we had very tall windows that faced south. Blinds were not enough so I decided to stop the sun from even getting to the glass and made simple canvas awnings. They helped reduce the heat. I took them down in winter because we needed the sun to help heat the house then. I see a lot of older houses with awnings now we live in South Dakota.

    • Anita
      July 15, 2018

      Helen thanks for reading again. How were the awnings attached to the windows? How did they keep the shape? Maybe I can make some for my windows.

      • Helen Baczynski
        July 15, 2018

        We screwed two large hooks into the wall at the top of the window by the top corners. I screwed flag holders about three quarters down from the top on each side of the window. ( The ones you mount to your house to hold a flag at an angle) I made a wide hem at each end of a length of cheap, basic cream colored canvas that was the width of the window. I cut a length of white irrigation pipe slightly wider than the window for the top. It went through the top hem and fit into the hooks. For the bottom, I cut a piece of pipe wider than the bottom, and put it through the bottom hem. I then dry fit a 90 degree piece of irrigation connector and added a shorter length of pipe. The end of that pipe went into the flag holders. They have a screw to tighten to hold a flag pole in place so that held the pipe tightly. At times we had strong winds in Vegas, so the gap between the top if the awning and the house wall allowed the wind to pass through and not rip the awning. I was surprised how long the canvas lasted. I expected it to rot from the sun after a year. The awning covered a lot of our window but being light colored, it didn’t make the house dark. The bottom of the awning was about 18″ out from the house. I took them down in winter. These were tall windows so I needed a ladder to put the top in place. The glass never got hot because the sun never hit it. We had metal frames so those didn’t get as hot either. I estimated the length of the canvas but it could be re-hemmed if necessary. The sloped awning wasn’t tight, it had a liitle looseness. I should see if i gave a photo. Hope this helps. None of the parts were expensive.

        • Anita
          July 16, 2018

          Oh thank you Helen. I never thought of using flag holders. Great idea. Your description was good and I understand the construction. I may not get these made for this year but I’m sure going to start gathering supplies for next year.

  2. Cath young
    June 30, 2018

    Wet sheets work. Also if not high humidity, swamp coolers.
    But we are in 3 digits with high humidity here and without AC it’s rough.

    In old days, it wasn’t that hot. Global warming not a myth. People also used to it. No AC sanctuary. And people didn’t live as long.

    This old house did all the right things to keep cool. But several days in the hundreds with nights even in 90s turns anything into an oven. I spent a huge chunk to put central air on first floor and window ACs in each bedroom on second floor. One Bedroom and the bathroom are hooked into the central air in second floor. Mainly for the heat—the bathroom, that is, so pipes there don’t freeze. I just had attic finished and will put in a Mitsubishi dual system up there because I’m leaving it open. Maybe get a heat pump for second floor but that’s down the road. Other things on my list.

    I keep central air on 80. And use fans near air ducts to spread that cool air. Wish I had ceiling fans. Only have the one in kitchen No oven use. Keep foil things as shades on windows that get the sun. But house surrounded with trees to protect as well as angle of house. Windows and high ceilings to deal with heat. Plaster walls and ceilings. And it does well until several days in a row with high temp including nights that don’t cool off much.

    Wet sheets can really cool you off. I hate because I hate wet. But wrapped around you, can even get you cold in the worst heat especially with fan blowing

    • Anita
      July 1, 2018

      I do use wet sheets sometimes. We’ve had temps in the high 90s and heat index around 105 for a few days and it will continue at least this next week. Don’t know after that. So far I’m staying comfortable enough to do things around the house until around 3 pm. That’s when I go to the survival room to read or watch tv.

  3. Nicole Alderman
    June 27, 2018

    Any cloth hung over the window will help insulate, too, like towels or extra blankets. At night, I stick fans in my windows, trying orient them to the cross breeze. So, if the wind usually blows north to south, I have all the fans in windows and blow all the air out the southern window. Another trick my grandmother told me is to put a bucket of ice in front of a fan to cool the air. This makes it more humid, though. If you don’t feel safe opening the bottom story windows at night, make sure to open the top story ones to blow out the air.

    Another thing we do on hot days is to hang out at the grocery store and even buy and cook dinner there. They have a microwave, so we buy some microwavable dinners and heat them up and call it a “date night.”

    For those that can, building an arbor or trellis on the south side of the house and planting deciduous vines–like kiwis and grapes or even blackberries–on it. This will help shade the house in the summer, give you food, and let the light in to heat the house in the winter. If you know anyone who grows grapes or blackberries, you can take a cutting or a cane and start your own patch for free!

    • Anita
      June 28, 2018

      Very good ideas. Thanks for sharing. I like the one about eating in the store rest area. I tend to spend more time at the library on very hot days. Lots of activities.

  4. Lilli
    June 23, 2018

    Anita, I am basically shutting down the house for the summer. My son is leaving for the military and my daughter will be out of state for ten weeks. My room is the coolest in the house. No carpet or flooring in this room and it is way cooler. I am turning the water off except for a 5 gallon bucket to flush with and will refill as needed. I will only leave the breaker on for my bedroom . The proof for fraud at the water dept needs to be documented. I have a solar lamp and will use my kindle. I will use a window unit as needed. My goal is to live as cheaply as possible for those ten weeks. Cutting internet off too. I am going to pretend it is 1800. I will only be paying my water, electricity and insurances. Like the limbo, my goal is how low can you go. Meanwhile I am tossing out all of the junk in the house. You would be proud of me. Not a stray sock anywhere.

    • Anita
      June 24, 2018

      Lilli, my grand daughter Lilli always asks me “Na Na are you proud of me?” Yes, I am.

      If you need a little inspiration to clear out STUFF (before you turn off the net) do a youtube search for untouched abandoned houses. Its like the people walked out the door and never came back for anything. Nobody wants any of it no matter how valuable. Watching the videos gives me a greater appreciation for what is really important in life.

  5. Kathleen
    June 22, 2018

    Anita,
    This is for animal care in the extreme heat..I learned this a few years ago after I got chickens.
    Today is supposed to be 107* here so I am putting Pedialytes in the outside cats water and in the chickens water..I heard it helps them from heat stroke.
    Just only a couple of tablespoons per gallon.. my chickens have the those dish pails about 3 gallon, I splashed about 1/2 a cup in there. Same with the cats water.

    • Anita
      June 23, 2018

      I had never heard this before. thanks

  6. Julie
    June 20, 2018

    On my west facing window that gets brutal sunlight, in the past, I have hung up a silver folding car windshield mat to reflect the sun back, I just used the velcro tie on it to loop it around the curtain bar so it would hang. I got it at the dollar store so, it didn’t cost much and it was easy to take down in fall. I just got new windows that reflect the glare, but it was an expense/investment. I don’t sleep upstairs in my room when its uncomfortably hot and I switch to summer bedding. I move to a cooler area in the house. I also move to the basement and hang out in a little sitting area I made down there when its really hot and humid out, its amazing the change you feel walking up the stairs to the hot area. I have a dehumidifier too. You can buy dehumidifier containers to absorb air moisture in a room at the dollar store also. Evenings and mornings I try to get cross ventilation going to get the cool air in and the hot air out in both the house and garage. Dress for the season and eat more salads, sandwiches and microwave heated food. More water and lemonade.. And sometimes, I have gone to public places that have air conditioning… just to enjoy it (the store, library, community center, etc). Cold showers definitely work too for a time.

    • Anita
      June 21, 2018

      Very good suggestions. Thanks for sharing. I went to the library yesterday and soaked up some of their air conditioning. Came home with a couple cooking for one books to read. I might find a recipe or two for trying.

  7. sarasinart
    June 20, 2018

    I’ve been MIA, at the beach for a week and now I have a friend from the west coast visiting. My veggies grew while I was away, and so did the weeds, so there’s that to do too. I’ll catch up with myself here in a while.

    • Anita
      June 21, 2018

      My cherry tomato plant is still the same size as when I planted it. Maybe it doesn’t like living in a pot. My lettuce is a lost cause. I guess the heat told them to bolt. I’m not giving up though.

  8. jestjack
    June 20, 2018

    Just a thought….You may want to look into a reflective material to not allow the sun into your house at all. In my travels I acquired a roll of paper backed reflective (like aluminum foil) material. I cut it to length and it reflects the heat back out side. And makes a HUGE difference. In addition, you can buy 4 by 8 sheets of reflective “insulation board” at Home Depot that’s light weight and about an inch thick. If you could get a friend or relative to pick up a sheet for you….you could then cut this to fit inside your windows and insert them when the sun is most intense. And remove them at night or when the suns rays aren’t so overwhelming.

    • Anita
      June 20, 2018

      I plan to look into the possibility of applying heat reflective film on the windows. I used it at the old house and it helped a lot both in the summer and winter. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me to have it here. I guess my mind is slipping.

  9. Kathleen
    June 19, 2018

    My swamp cooler was not working for about a week…temps ran 95*-104* for that week…I would open all Windows as early as I could…sometimes before Sun up…and about 8:00a.m. I would shut all doors and windows. (most of my Windows have rubber backed curtains).
    Ceiling fans on, box fan on and
    It would stay somewhat cool until about 2:00p.m..I too have a “safe”room it’s in the middle of my house..no Windows no walls that are on the outside of the house..and it stays cool. Not chilly, but if you go in there from outside it feels good. I would stay in there until about 6:00 p.m. -7:00p.m. open all Windows on shade side of house go outside and.water or cool off with the sprinkler.
    By bedtime it was 80*. Lows were ,Thank Goodness only about 65*-70*..
    Next morning do it all over again.
    The one day that it was 104* I did take a cool shower in the afternoon and took my Morkie in there with me…gave home a shower also..which he just loves..
    We survived.
    I would save me a 2 min. shower until afternoon or before bed..
    Out in the country not a whole lot of sidewalks or asphalt either.. 😆
    I was wondering what you did with your window quilts from your other house?
    You take care …be safe😆

    • Anita
      June 20, 2018

      A swamp cooler won’t work at my house because its very damp here. I live in the C zone which is the least workable zone. I have a problem with green mold and moss because of all the moisture. Swamp coolers work best in the dry climates west of the Mississippi River. I left the window quilts behind for the new owner. At the time I really thought I’d be making new ones for my new house right away. It didn’t work out that way though.

      • Kathleen
        June 20, 2018

        Swamp coolers work perfect in Central New Mexico..dry desert..we usually get monsoons for about 2 weeks around the first of July ,which is coming up here real quick,but most of the time we have dry dry heat..I can work outside until it gets high 90*s ..then its time to go inside.
        It can be 100*-105* for up to 4 weeks in a row some years..
        I DO NOT know how people lived back when…adobe is said to stay cooler…breezeways on structures are wonderful..but this is why we have “siesta” time here..from noonish- to 3:00 Or 4:00 in the afternoon..😁😁😁 you go inside and take a nap..or under a shade tree..
        I have heard of some people driving to the mountains where there are evergreens and at about 6 thousand feet for picnics..which is only about 35-40 miles away, beautiful❤❤❤temps drop to 70*s- 80*s
        Gila National Forest!! We used to do that on weekends when I was a kid..40-45 years ago..
        Later😆

  10. captnmike
    June 19, 2018

    I put foil bright side out in some of the windows to keep the sun out, have also used survival blankets with the bright side out – have some friends that laughed at me when I told them about this – then they rather sheepishly admitted later that they tried the same thing and it helped keep their house cool

    White sheets also help but let in some light

    • Anita
      June 20, 2018

      Thanks for the reminder. I used foil on the windows at the old house before I put reflective film on them. I’ll plan to put foil on the windows next week. I need to check on how reflective film works on double panes.

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