Keep Cool Like a Wonk

From the Desk of the Executive Director

I recently came back from a short trip to the UK (to attend my sister-in-law’s wedding), where the temperatures were much milder. Hot, humid, and uncomfortable late into the day seems to be most days in VA currently and is definitely what hit me as I stepped out of the airport.

The house where we stayed in southern England did not have any air conditioning – mostly because it isn’t really needed 98% of the year. Most of the day, the windows throughout the house were wide open and only closed if it was too cool outside. Relatedly, opening windows at night or in the morning and closing them before the temperature starts rising is a home cooling strategy that was recently mentioned by Wilson, LEAP’s Technical Director, during an attempted Twitter chat LEAP participated in earlier this summer (minimal “chatting” actually happened, but we gave ourselves an A for effort). 

This strategy, though, did generate significant doubt of being a legitimate practice from at least one participant in the chat. However, and according to a “wonk” piece in the Washington Post from a couple of years ago, it is a legitimate strategy – validation even if “wonky!” I’m a current practitioner, and my daily exercise of opening and closing windows throughout the house is a point of major amusement to my wife. I’m pretty sure my father is to blame, as it was a practice in my house as a child growing up in Eastern Washington (the dry side of the state). While some days I get the thrill (yes, I do find it thrilling, I am VERY cool) of seeing the inside temp move down a couple of degrees in the morning or start the morning in the low seventies/high sixties, other days it doesn’t move that much if any at all (sigh). 

Now, I also lived in Panama as a Peace Corps Volunteer with no air conditioning at night, so sleeping “hot,” with just a ceiling fan and an open window, doesn’t bother me. My wife is not the biggest fan – see what I did there? – but I’ve worn her down and she is now acclimated to the situation. My kids are blissfully aware of nothing else and fall asleep right away normally, no matter what the temperature is.  

All that work does beg the question – how much energy am I saving? Hard to tell, but I know I’m not using air conditioning during sleeping hours and am using it less during the day thanks to locking in that cooler air. Maybe 10-20% of a normal cooling routine? That could be worth $100/yr for some homes.

There are other benefits, too. Air changes or fresh air in the home are especially important for homes that are sealed pretty tightly. I’d also like to think my wife appreciates the waistline maintenance from the calorie burn I get from routinely climbing up and down the stairs in our house. That might be a stretch, though.

Anyways, if you don’t already try this technique, you might give it a try a couple of times. Again, the Washington Post piece has more specific details that would improve performance. You can also then claim to be a “wonk,” if that is something you’ve ever dreamed of and haven’t achieved.

Chris Meyer, Executive Director of LEAP

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