Beat the heat with trees and fans, even in Florida

trees shading house
Screen capture Trees shading house

We do go on about living without air conditioning, but have assumed that in much of the southern United States is that it is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Air conditioning was responsible for much of the explosion in the population of Florida, making it habitable in summer.

However, Reader Renard of Bradenton, Florida writes that our tips for living without AC are pretty effective for him, particularly the ones about trees and fans.

Your comments concerning foliage usage as protection was spot-on. [On Google image, shown above] you'll find a home with the entire backyard (west side) and the over 80% of the front (east) side in total shade due to trees planted and now mature. Only my south and north sides are plant deficient. As my home has the master bedroom on the south and is able to be cut-off with internal doors, that room acts as a heat buffer for the northern rest of the house during the interval the sun is in the southern sky and can shine upon that wall.

I make mention here that I've successfully lived now for over 3 years with NO air conditioning use. And comfortably I might add. Indoor temperatures rarely exceed 82 degrees. With interior fans, and acclimation over my years of Florida residence - easily liveable. Also - whereas I pay average $50 a month electric bills, my neighbors are enjoying forking out easily $125 more per to run their AC.

So, two of your principles - foliage and fans - are being used by me as is. A light-colored roof, white exterior walls and not following the norm of rabid and extreme pruning (rather, allowing a tree's canopy to reach the full sphere) causes such a drastic lessening of the impinging solar radiation it is a wonder.

© Trees shading house

It should be noted that trees don't only cool by shading; the transpiration of moisture from their leaves absorbs a lot of heat, a form of evaporative cooling.

Renard also picks up on a point Mat made in Beat the Heat: Begrudging Acceptance of Sweating: our bodies have a mechanism for dealing with heat and we shouldn't fight it.

People of our modern society seem to abhor sweat. We use cosmetics and chemicals to prevent or cover-up such human bodily functions. Want to live in the heat? Stop. Not only is such usage heat fatigue producing; in addition, the perfumes attract insect attention. Humans are meant to perspire when hot. It is our body's method of cooling. And if that same water is lost quickly and directly to the surrounding air, not trapped by the clothing, the body will never stop producing availing internal water to the skin until it no longer can. Remember, one symptom of heat-exhaustion is no sweating - dry and 'clammy' skin.

Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof/Screen capture
From: Beat The Heat: 10 Design Tips To Help You Live Without (Or Use Less) Air Conditioning

Loose-fitting shirts (or blouses) and pants are beneficial for similar reasons. Tight-fitting clothing accelerates the transfer of the body's water to the atmosphere. A layer of air between the cloth and the body somewhat encloses a region of evaporation. So, T-shirts, tight shorts - merely make the heat affects worse in terms of time able to be spent working or active outdoors. I'd kid you and tell Elizabeth Taylor (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof pic) that that sheer full slip/nightgown looked great; but, she'd've been cooler in something a bit more 'fluffy'/loose-fitting while indoors.

If you are going to sweat properly, you have to drink a lot of fluids. Recommendations:

Obviously, replacement of fluids is a must....steer clear of any drink containing sugars - all that does is cause thirst ultimately. Live as a Floridian originally did - citrus, fruit, mint and teas. Avoid dairy, coffee beyond morning needs, alcohol.

Renoir: Luncheon of the Boating Party/Public Domain
From: How to Live Without Air Conditioning and Beat The Heat (Spoiler: It's All About Design)

Finally, Renard picks up on the notion that we should keep cool with culture, not contraptions. That people who live in hot climates traditionally did things differently, at different times of the day, at different paces. Renard summarizes it all in one sentence:

I advise any person desiring to learn to tolerate and have the ability to do without air-conditioning to literally 'dress for it', keep any substances off your skin during the day not produced from within (other than perhaps from a hose!!!), drink and eat high-fluid containing foods, move to the rhythm of the heat (languid is good), and learn to relish the cool shower-off at the end of a long day.

A long email, full of useful tips. Thanks, Renard!

Tags: Air Conditioning | Beat the Heat | Florida

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