No-Air Conditioning Summer Part 1 – How It Started: No-Heat Winters

Young jack rabbit chilling out in summer photo by Madoline Hatter

Young jack rabbit hiding out from the sun by our front door

First of all, I think it very likely that our seemingly endless summer of “No A/C” will soon be coming to an end. But more on that later. Let’s start at the beginning.

No-Heat Winters

When we moved into our house in the Mojave Desert in December 2006, we arrived late at night and therefore had to spend the first night without heat because our gas was still shut off. Our indoor temperature in the winter reaches the mid-50’s without heating and we were so cold that night that we thought we’d never be able to survive winters here without the heater (hey, we grew up in Hawaii :p ).

When summer came with outdoor temperatures as high as 110º-112º and indoor temperatures in the 90’s, we also decided that we could never survive without air conditioning

But in the dead of winter in January 2008, our heater stopped heating. At first, we panicked and thought we just had to repair it ASAP. But after a little more thought and discussion, we thought we’d try it without heating for a little while and see how it went and how much money we could save by not repairing it and burning all that propane for the rest of the winter.

In previous winters, our first propane bill of the season in January was about $400 and subsequently around $200 every month through April. By not using the heater, we could cut our total winter gas bill by about 60-70%.

It wasn’t easy, it was cold in our house all day, we had to wear a lot of extra layers, but it was totally doable and we survived it without even catching cold. So when winter rolled around again (’08-’09) we decided to do it again, but this time we got a couple of personal space heaters to take the bite out of the air at the coldest of times, which only cost a fraction of our savings from not running the central heating.

The Start of No-A/C Summer

Last September, with a couple more heat waves to go before fall would come, our air conditioning also went out of service. Again, my first thought was “we have to get it fixed ASAP!” But the same thing happened. We didn’t get the A/C fixed and we made it through the rest of the hot days without it and saved some money. The year before that, our September electric bill had been $400. But not this time.

Without the A/C, our summer electric bills are about $45 (average) a month – about $5 more than non-summer months because we have fans running all day. When we ran our central air in previous years, the summer bills averaged $180 a month in our first year and $150 a month in our 2nd year when we learned to be a bit more conservative with the thermostat.

So we decided to try it this summer when May came around and we were discussing whether or not to have our A/C fixed. We’ve thus far survived average daily temperatures in the mid- and high-90’s, including heat waves as hot as 109º in the day. We’ve used many tricks and methods to weather the heat waves, which I will talk about in my next post.

Is it uncomfortable? Yes, at times extremely so. But is it doable? Yes, and that is what we wanted to find out: if we could do it. And we have for a couple of months which has saved us some money, but we’ve also decided that it might be time to end this experiement, which I’ll talk about soon.

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