It's the official start of summer, when we light our grills, jump in the pool and in many parts of the country, run the AC full tilt. A blast of cool air can be refreshing when the temperature starts to climb, but the financial, environmental and health implications of air conditioning may have you adjusting the thermostat. 

  • AC is 16 percent of total electricity used in a home, and in warm regions, AC can account for 60 percent to 70 percent of your summer electricity bill.
  • One-sixth of all electricity consumed in the U.S. is for airconditioning, and where does that electricity come from? Mostly from fossil fuels that pollute the planet and contribute to global warming.
  • AC may contribute to obesity by keeping the body in the thermoneutral zone, a temperature range in which we don’t burn calories.
And the energy is only part of the story. Air conditioning keeps us insulated in our homes ... away from neighbors and isolated from the sounds of nature and life ... in a cocoon. So why not turn down the AC — better yet, turn it off — and save some cash, help the planet and join the natural world with MNN’s No AC Challenge?

HOW THE CHALLENGE WORKS:

  • Don't use your AC between now and Labor Day.
  • Unless you really have to. :)
  • But, even then, ask yourself, "Do I absolutely, positively need to have it on? Could I go another day?" 
  • One caveat: Our readers in, say, Texas might get a bit more credit than followers in British Columbia. But we all live on the same planet and all steps help! 
  • And please let us know how you do. We're going to sweat together on this and need your inspiration.
Here are some tips to get you started:
  • Wear short-sleeved, loose clothing. You dress lightly to go out on a summer day. Do the same indoors. Absorbent, wickable cotton (organic, of course!) is the hot weather classic.
  • Drink lots of water. This is good practice under any circumstances. Cold drinks lower your body's core temperature and cool you down quickly.
  • Draw your drapes. Keeping your blinds, shades and curtains closed — particularly on the west side of the house. This helps keep heat from getting inside in the first place.
  • Turn off unnecessary heat-producing devices. Incandescent light bulbs are a big heat generator. Shut down electronic gear when you're not using it.
  • Use the microwave. Conventional cooking dumps heat in the house, but microwaves cook the food directly.
  • Wash and dry clothes when the day is cool. Do laundry early in the day and late at night. Don't forget clotheslines: they generate no heat in the house.
  • Skip your dishwasher's dry cycle. Rack your dishes and let them air dry instead.
  • Open the bathroom window when showering. Vent heat and humidity outside, rather than back into the house. Obviously, you don't want to put on a show for the neighbors. If you have privacy concerns, open up after dressing. Keep the bathroom door closed.
  • Run your air conditioner's fan on low. This is particularly helpful in areas with high summer humidity. The low air volume helps your A/C dehumidify.
  • Keep heat-producers away from your thermostat. Don't allow a closely located TV or water heater to convince your thermostat that it's hotter than it really is.
  • Check your refrigerator settings. The fridge takes heat out of your food and transfers it to your kitchen, so be sure it's running efficiently. The refrigerator is best set between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the freezer around 5 degrees.
  • Turn off your furnace pilot light. You can always re-light it next autumn.
  • Close the fireplace damper. Don't send cool air up the chimney. If your fireplace has a glass door, shut it.
Check out some more tips for staying cool this summer, including some home projects that will keep both your temperature and your power bill down.

Leave a comment below if you're up for the challenge, and let us know how you plan to beat the heat!

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