By Michael Tyas
I am going to say two crazy things, one more insane and maddening than the other, but they are both true: 1. Sweating is the cheapest way to stay cool in the summer. 2. Sweating can make you feel like a king or queen.
If you are still reading, thank you. I will attempt to redeem myself by explaining how you can be the absolute most comfortable you have ever been while reducing your dependence on air conditioning, save tons of money and reconnect with your body.
Have you ever noticed that the same temperature we might consider gorgeous outdoors is horrible indoors? For example, remember a beautiful evening just after sunset around 26°C, sitting on your porch and enjoying the smells of summer…ahhh, bliss! But that same temperature indoors feels oppressively hot and miserable. Sweat starts to pour down your face and get stuck in your eyebrows. Even worse, pit stains form under your armpits. The difference in these two spaces, between heaven and hell, is not air conditioning: It is moving air from the wind. Moving air and the relationship with sweat is the magical duo hope to connect you with in this article. And spoiler alert, it does not mean you will be moist!
Our bodies are marvelous and have all sorts of methods to keep us in homeostasis, which in plain English means to stay balanced, no matter if you are shivering in -40°C or sunbathing in +40°C. When the body is in homeostasis, all the cellular activities (enzyme actions) that make you, you, are enabled to function. You sweat or shiver when the body gets too hot or cold, because it is so important to keep those life-giving enzyme actions chugging away. Sweating happens when you are too hot and at risk of knocking your body out of homeostasis. It uses a law of physics that when a liquid turns into a gas, the gas absorbs energy and is blown away from you. Heat is transferred out of your body this way. It does not require cooled air, like from an air conditioner, to work. The problem is that house fans have gone out of fashion in the past couple of decades. They are almost never installed in rental apartments. Air conditioning sales are projected to increase year over year into the distant future. An over-reliance on air conditioning as the premiere necessity to keep cool has made us forget an ancient way of life.
Sweating (with moving air) is the cheapest way to stay cool in the summer.
I am a fan of fans. I have ceiling fans in most of the rooms of my home. I have moving air wherever I am, which transfers heat from my body no matter what I am doing. I am authoring this article from my home office and my home thermostat is set to 26°C. Remember, 26°C is that gorgeous summer temperature that most people dream about when they think of the perfect evening on the porch. My Air Conditioner does come on in the hottest days of summer, but because the thermostat is set so high it only needs to run for a half hour here or there to take the edge off. And because it is warm, skin begins to produce small pearls of sweat ready to be whisked away in the wind.
All this talk about sweat, and yet I feel dry as a powdered nose! I am in perfect synchronicity with the breeze. The moving air evaporates the sweat from my body as quickly as it is produced, and so I do not feel clammy with miserable dew running down my back or soaking my shirt. This is worth repeating: When your body is operating in sync with moving air, it only produces enough sweat to fine tune your body’s temperature, which leaves you feeling cool and dry. I achieve this perfection without needing to crank the air conditioner. All I am paying for is the cost of moving air indoors, and boy-oh-boy, is there a difference!
A typical window air conditioner on full blast uses 1500w of energy per hour. In Manitoba, we are billed $0.0893¢ per kilowatt hour. A kilowatt hour (1kwh) is one thousand watts, and the air conditioner uses one thousand five hundred watts, which equals $0.13 per hour (0.893 times 1.5). Thirteen cents are not that bad, right? It adds up. It costs $3.21 per day on full blast, set, say, to 21°C. Times that by a 30-day month, and you are paying $96 to keep your air conditioner chugging away. You will be cool, no doubt about it. But you also will not sweat at all, and that is robbing yourself of your own ability to keep cool and comfortable for way cheaper.
Each of my ceiling fans uses 20 watts of power per hour on the lowest setting, which is a good estimate for desk and floor fans, also. That equals $0.0017 cents per hour to run (yes, that is a tenth of a cent). My ceiling fan running 24 hours a day for a whole month costs me $1.28! Times that by every room in the house and that is some cold hard cash staying in my pocket (and out of Manitoba Hydro).
Sweating (and moving air) can make you feel like royalty.
I have proven now that the cost of bringing paradise indoors by raising the temperature and moving the air is a fraction of the cost of cooling that same space. Keeping an extra $90 in your pocket is enough to make anyone feel like Jeff Bezos! Speaking of the rich and powerful, moving air has a bougie ancient history. In the age before even electric fans, it was a highly valued service, central to society and cultures of old. Pictographs from ancient times depict Pharos, Emperors and other well-to-do people being refreshed by opulent and ornate feather fans. Only the super-rich and powerful could afford to be followed by someone to sweep the air around their body. In the age before air conditioning, they bestowed comfort like nothing else. Today, we take for granted that a table fan can be bought on Kijiji for a couple bucks and cost pennies a day to run. We too can live like royalty, and we owe it all to sweat and the breeze.
For many, it is possible to air condition your home to the point where you do not sweat at all and bypass your body’s natural functions. You can bundle up in a blanket in front of the television in a room with no moving air while the sun roasts outside. You can feel a slight shiver in the grocery store next to the freezers. Yet, these are not the moments we think of when we remember the best feeling of summer: temperate mornings or evenings in the backyard or in the bush. Warm, moving air and indirect sunlight are a potent combination, and like the best things in life, it is basically free. So, turn up the thermostat and set air moving indoors, any way you can. Table fans, floor fans…dust off that ceiling fan you forgot about! Do not even worry about leaving them on, they use so little energy it is not worth giving a second thought. Keep air moving around you indoors, and you will be amazed by how much you save, and how magnificent you feel.