Frankly, even I hated turning that thing on, even in DC, even pregnant during one of the hottest summers on record.
I know that not everyone agrees on this, but I'm with Grandma and Grandpa -- I detest air conditioning. Even when in that swampy hot humid climate from hell (DC) I hated it, and I didn't know then what I know now about keeping cool without it. I just stayed hot.
My mother-in-law was really the genius at keeping things cool, and I learned a lot from her, much of which, admittedly, would not work as well in a place like DC, although with the right architecture (such as you found in the South long ago), I think it would go a long way.
Here's what she taught me:
Close up the house on the sides that face the rising heat.
For more on this "curtain" -- deployed only in the summer and held up with tacks and clothespins,
Lower blinds, draw curtains, turn off lights. Start loving the cool darkness in the heat of the day.
Open doors and windows on the cool sides of the house. A bush on the northwest corner will do amazing things to cool the air coming in a window on that side. You want to catch that coolness in the morning.
Later in the day, that western side is the one that gets closed. The eastern windows can be opened as the sun recedes.
Any north-facing windows can be left open all day except on the hottest days. You can feel the air. If it's cooler than what you've got, let it in! If it's hotter, keep it out.
Open the top of a warmer-side window and the bottom of a cooler side to get a flow going through your house.
A fan placed near a north-facing window will do wonders.
These stand fans are great -- Grandma always had one by the window behind the piano, and another in the kitchen (which also faced north).
Best of all is a ceiling fan, and if I had the money for it, I would not get AC -- I would put a ceiling fan in every room.
Turn the light off and get the fan cranked up (in winter, reverse the direction and set it on low -- you will be amazed at how much warmer the room feels).
Yet, there is still peace and quiet...
If you are lucky enough to have a screened-in porch, keep it shaded with your landscaping or bamboo blinds during the hot hours. The air that goes through it will cool your whole house.
I don't have a screened-in porch but I do have a shady deck, onto which the slider (above) and this window (below) open. I can leave the window open even during a storm, because it's protected by a little alcove, and it's always cool.
I was thrilled to finally replace the less than pleasing light over our kitchen table with the fan. I know it will pay for itself this year in heat savings alone, and it makes the kitchen pleasant in the hot weather.
At night, once you are used to it, a fan is just as cooling as AC and a lot quieter. On the very hottest nights have the children sponge bathe with cold water or take a quick dip in a cold tub right before bed. An indirectly placed fan (or that wonderful ceiling fan) will have them sleeping better than the frigid, unrefreshed air of the AC.
Living frugally, we become committed to family life without too many needs. Sometimes we grew up that way and sometimes we learn...
...and then we find our whole way of life enriched, because who isn't better off with a screen door slamming, the outdoors not hermetically sealed off, the chirp of the crickets audible, the sounds of the children playing outside wafting in and out of our consciousness?
Life enclosed indoors all the time isn't a good one, I can't help thinking. I know that in some places there is a stretch where nothing can be done because of the heat. Well, there are times here that nothing can be done because of the cold and ice.
That's part of the rhythm of life.
But when a breeze comes up, you want to catch it -- not be oblivious to it because the stale air circulating around you prevents you from noticing.
And you know, kids are impervious to heat that slays adults, as long as they are given a respite.
There is no reason to keep them inside when they could be out playing (rather than carting them to organized sports, season in and season out). Even if it's only a whiffle-ball game in the hours before noon or a pick-up basketball game in the evening with a kiddie pool in between, that's where memories are made.
In the hot hours everyone can be reading, and that is a good, good thing.
Keep your lemonade cold and take the hot days a bit slower, rather than trying to obliterate them.
Do share your tips for keeping cool in the hot weather. I look forward to hearing your ideas for living without AC.