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Heat Help

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The world is on fire. Except in Queensland, where they're freezing. Queensland apparently got everything they learned about winter insulation from Florida.

Now just to annoy everyone, I'm seeing a fairly typical summer here. Of course, "fairly typical" here means about 94/94 ­— 94°F, 94% humidity. From late June to late October. So we're not seeing the extreme heat of so much of the Northern Hemisphere. Fun fact: the record high temperature for Tampa is only 99°F and most of the state never hits 100. Being surrounded by ocean helps a lot, even if it does crank up the humidity.

Before I lived in air-conditioned residences, I had to use the old-style techniques. Exhaust fans that could literally pull the front door open from the back of the house. Screened-in porches (rich folks had verandas). Double-hung windows that could let hot air out the top, or Jalousie windows, that would crank open and allow airflow at multiple levels. Ice, whenever possible. And praying to the rain gods for the afternoon deluge what would briefly drop the temperatures down into the 70s.

A popular cooling system that is inexpensive and portable these days is the so-called evaporative, "swamp cooler". I have a client in California who keeps his workshop at a very pleasant termperature by running a pump to soak a hay bale, then running a fan to get cool air out of it (I write the control code). Alas, these economical devices cannot function effectively once relative humidity exceeds 40%, and that's a dry day in January around here, so we all have full-on A/C.

Traditionally, a lot of Floridians with aircon have set their thermostats to Late-Autumn-in-Minnesota temperatures and I hate it. I get headaches when I step directly from ice-on-the-walls to 90-plus, and my glasses fog impenetrably to boot. I used to keep my own thermostat at 83°F/28°C, but in my dotage, I've gotten soft and had to drop it down to 78. I suspect that the current aircon system is running a low duty cycle, because what actually hurts is that even there, I only get the humidity down to 54% (it's current 83% outside, partly cloudy).

Local fans make up the difference. It suffices.

On the other hand, I just got the latest electric bill.

Some may be aware that I set up a solar power system. It's not very big, since all it needed was to be able to run a 104Watt icemaker in the event of an extended (post-hurricane) power outage. Unlike Texas. Florida is part of the National East grid, so our interruptions are generally due to local damage to neighborhood distribution systems, but when a storm rips up the landscape, it can take a while to get things back together. Anyway, this thing has mostly sat idle, although I finally brought 12V power wires inside where I can charge my portable devices for free.

One of the other parts of my post-storm kit, however, was a small fan. You've probably seen them in retail storage. Runs off USB and sometimes battery power. They've nowhere near the power of a large box, floor, or ceiling fan, but then they don't need 35 Watts to run either.

So I've done some experiments. The fan has 2 speeds. The high speed pulls about 100ma. The low speed pulls "zero" current — my handy USB power meter can't register that low. Using a 2000ma USB power pack, high speed will run down pretty quickly, but low speed will carry me completely through the night and actually, it's surprisingly comfortable at close range.

I do need a little moving air to sleep properly, but by placing the fan close to my head, this actually works pretty well, especially in the dead time of night when the peripheral rooms heat up unequally to the distant room with the thermostat in it.

I can charge those little power packs with a portable 5W solar panel. So instead of paying for an extra 35W or so of mains power, I can keep comfortable for free. And of course, the heat generated by the smaller fan itself is less, so the whole planet benefits (very, very slightly).

Every little bit helps.
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Tim Holloway wrote:Traditionally, a lot of Floridians with aircon have set their thermostats to Late-Autumn-in-Minnesota temperatures and I hate it.

Not just Floridians. The Virginias are pretty much the same, and I suspect that in general North-America as a whole uses air conditioning a lot more than they do in Europe. I've also experienced plenty of grocery stores in Ontario where they have the AC on full blast during the summer months.

I'm lucky that our apartment in Cologne is on the second floor of our building, with three more floors above us. Yesterday it was 39°C (102°F) here and I managed to keep a decent temperature inside by keeping all windows open during the early morning and closing them all at around 9:30. We don't have the humidity that the south-east US has though.

Having said that, some days I wish we had air conditioning. But I really don't understand why people feel the need to turn their stores and houses into igloos.
Just the other day, I was thinking ... about this tiny ad:
a bit of art, as a gift, the permaculture playing cards
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