Can a fat guy survive the summer without air conditioning?

Air conditioning is not a green technology. It devours huge amounts of energy, and there's the laws of physics: To pump cool air into your house, the a/c pumps hot air into the world. 

Of course, me shutting of the a/c won't save us from climate change. A million or a billion people shutting off the a/c won't save us. We're doomed, unless the people in power decide to give a damn, and there's little chance of that.

Me shutting off the a/c is good for my conscience, though, and it's good for the budget. Here in the midwest, where 90° is an ordinary summer day, the weak-ass a/c always runs non-stop from late-May to mid-September, which adds about $75 per month to the electric bill.

A few weeks ago, when we had a brief spell of slightly cooler weather, I turned the air conditioner off, and I've left it off. It’s a financial and environmental experiment. Can a fat guy survive the summer without a/c?

Three weeks into the experiment, with temps that have frequently been in the 90s, the answer is … yeah. It’s not delightful, like being blasted with cool air 24/7, but it’s livable. The heat hasn’t yet been the worst part of any day.

Here’s a brief collection of ways to beat the heat without a/c. The more effective ideas are toward the bottom, to keep you in sweaty suspense:

A shower, first thing when you wake up. Don’t put it off. Don’t wait until you feel the heat. Shower right away, and the morning will go great.

Obviously, stay hydrated with plenty of the cold beverage of your choice from the fridge. Or water.

Moist towelette. It helps, if you don't have a sink handy, but it’s not as effective as a full face wash with soapy water.

Wash your face. You'll barely notice if your elbows or knees are hot; what makes you miserable is having sticky perspiration all over your face and forehead. When you start feeling sweaty, wash your face, vigorously, with soap and damn hot water. It'll leave you perfectly cool and comfy for about half an hour, and feeling better than before the wash for another hour or so.

Get faced. This is quite effective — just drop your head and hair into a sink full of warm water. Wet hair will keep your head and yourself cool for quite a while.

Wet towel. Get a towel sopping wet in the sink, and wring it out just enough to avoid leaving puddles on the carpet. Then drape that wet towel over your shirt and shoulder. Adds a lot of comfort on a hot day.

Fans. I have two big old box fans set up five feet from my face, one on the left, one on the right, so my recliner is always in a steady breeze. The fans seem to subtract 10 degrees from the room temperature, at least psychosomatically.

No pants, and no underpants. Letting Little Doug run free means there’s nothing covering and capturing sweat on my legs, butt, or groin. The difference is noticeable, and to avoid any brown stripes I’ve put a towel on my chair. Unexpected bonus: Ball cheese + summer sweat can lead to an itchy and scratchy special happy place, so going pantsless means I’m also rashless. 

Now, here’s the jackpot. This is what made me think, dang, I gotta type this up and share the excellent news:

You can do everything on the list and probably other tricks I haven't thought of, but you simply can’t fight off the sweat all day. Once you start getting sticky and uncomfortable, surrender to the heat and take a second shower. Or a third. 

A quick shower takes only a few minutes, and refreshes you against the summer heat better than anything. (Maybe a swim would be just as good, but I don’t have a pool.) Most days I've been taking 2-3 showers, and if it’s well above 90° I might take a fourth. Remember to give your face a full scrub in the shower, and wash your hair again to get the sweat out.

In my extra showers, I leave my socks and t-shirt on, getting them all good and drenched. Wearing wet stuff keeps the heat at bay even hours later.

Drawbacks? Well, just about everything listed above is something I wouldn't have to do if I turned the a/c on again, so it definitely adds some extra hassle. But not much. I've gotten quick at the midday showers and face washings and all — a few minutes at a time, it adds up to about half an hour daily, which I just think of as "break time."

The extra showers definitely swallow hot water, and that's an expense — but in my building it's an expense for the landlord, not for me. 

Sometimes it's frustrating to have papers flutter about in the wind from the fan.

And I'm not sure what's going on, but my back gets kinda itchy a few hours after a t-shirted shower. It's only a minor annoyance, though, and I have a pasta fork that works great as a backscratcher.

Small sacrifice, to save the world and save $75 p/month.



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  1. Seems like too much trouble. Sorry, planet earth.

    1. Thoughts and prayers, as they say.

      In twenty or thirty years, the worst weather of 2020 — a hurricane battering New Orleans, for example — will be an ordinary day. You or me turning our a/c on or off will have no effect on that.

      To actually address climate change would require LAWS and MANDATES targeting giant corporations, and you and I and *everyone* knows that's never going to happen, so R.I.P., planet.


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