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Air-Conditioning Alternatives

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Creative ways to use less energy, save on utility costs and preserve the environment

As the spring arrives and temperatures climb, many people turn to air-conditioning for relief. While air-conditioners have their benefits, they can be a drain on the environment. They often consume large amounts of electricity, and older air-conditioners may contain harmful chemicals that pollute the surrounding air and environment.

Choosing an alternative to traditional air-conditioning can save energy, lower your electricity costs and reduce your environmental footprint.

Turn off other appliances

When the weather warms your home midday, keep heat-producing appliances turned off and find alternatives. Eat a cold salad instead of turning on the oven. Hang laundry versus running an energy-consuming clothes dryer.

Keep the heat out

When the weather is cool in the evening hours, open your curtains and windows and let the cool air blow through the house. However, when the sun begins to heat up the house in the morning, close the windows, blinds and curtains to keep the cold air in and the heat out.

Create your own air-conditioner

While fans can help circulate air, sometimes they are just circulating hot air, making the house warmer. When running fans, place a bowl of ice in front of the blades. As the ice melts, the blowing air will turn cold.

Consider an air-conditioning alternative

An alternative to air-conditioning is an evaporative cooler or swamp cooler. This alternative produces the same effect as the fan/ice bowl process. Water is cooled and evaporated to cool the surrounding air. Evaporative coolers only use about 25 percent of the electricity of air-conditioners, and they are often portable. However, the air produced by these types of coolers is not as cool as that of traditional air-conditioners, so you should not expect comparable results.

Use air-conditioning, but less of it

If you still feel like you cannot live without your air-conditioner, consider using it less often. Turn off your central air unit, which cools the entire house and cools rooms you may not use regularly. Buy a window air-conditioning unit appropriate for the size of your home. Run the air-conditioning only in rooms you use and only during the times of the day when the heat is the most oppressive.

If you work outside the house during the day, keep the unit off until you come home, cooling your home in the early evening hours. If you work in your home office, run the air-conditioner in your work environment during the hottest parts of the day. If you don't mind the heat during the day but want to stay cool at night, run the air-conditioner only while you are sleeping. Using your air-conditioner intermittently during select times will reduce energy consumption, lower utility costs and allow less pollutants into the air.

When the temperature begins to rise, limit your air-conditioning use by thinking ahead for viable alternatives. A few small changes can lead to big savings and reduce your energy consumption and impact on the environment.

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