A/C busting: a few tips

Checked out your latest electric bill? If it's anything like mine, it took a giant leap upward, thanks to the hot weather. The household air-conditioning was cranking. We're getting a break today, but not for long.

But there are ways to blunt the wallet-gutting, and Mother Jones' "Econundrums" reporter Kiera Butler passes along a few in her latest column. She, in turn, passed them along from Stan Cox, author of Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air Conditioned World (And Finding New Ways To Get Through the Summer).

He notes that air-conditioning is actually making our world hotter. Literally. Feel the air coming out of your air-conditioner's outside unit. It's hot. Also, energy-production contributes to greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming. 

But you can take steps. One Cox mentions is to switch from incandescent light bulbs, which give off heat, to CFLs. I would amend that to urge switching to LEDs, which also produce little heat and save even more energy. My kitchen sink area has four track-light bulbs overhead, and I'm gradually making the switch. What a difference!

Second on Cox's list is to vent appliances -- like clothes dryers -- outside. Or, in the case of the dryer, don't use one at all.  My clothesline works great, but on days when I'm not going to be home to rescue the clothes from an afternoon thunderstorm, I hang them in the basement. Even a little A/C will reduce the humidity and dry the clothes in a jiff.  Also, when it comes to the dishwasher, no need to vent. Just pay attention and shut the thing off for the heated dry cycle. Open the door and let the dishes air-dry.

Other tips -- downsizing your air-conditioning and planting a rooftop garden or painting your roof -- fall into the realm of major projects, so I'm going ignore them for now. We need tips for later this week, not next year! 

Finally: Cox says to simply put up with being hot, and after a while it won't seem so hot. You get used to it. 

Butler writes that a recent study of officeworkers in Thailand compared one group of workers in air-conditioned offices to another group who worked without cooling. The workers who were used to the cooler temps needed to be in places between 72 and 82 degrees to be comfortable. (Most of us wouldn't be comfortable with it that high!) Those who worked in uncooled offices didn't complain until it the mercury rose higher than 89.