But my typing fingers have a mind of their own: I feel parched by this heat; I feel angered by the hot, drying wind. I want cool air. I want it IN our house, at a minimum. There's no AC. Maybe my frustration is the result of growing up in a place where the humidity spends the summer at 75% instead of 4%? Surely, it is easier to tolerate these high temperatures when the humidity is low (like in Colorado). That's what they say. Dry heat. It's easier.
"Yes, it's 100 degrees, but I'm not sweating!"
"I rode my bike and the air movement was like a hair dryer!"
There is very little shade in our newly built neighborhood of wooden houses. I dislike this quality immensely. The difference between in-the-shade and and in-the-sun can be the difference of 10 degrees in Colorado. It was one of the last barriers to buying a home: I wanted a shady neighborhood, Fritz wanted sun and light. I liked big, mature trees. Fritz liked the clumps of blowing prairie grasses.
I hadn't realized how far apart our ideal level of comfort was when it came to temperature. I am still learning, even on our eighth anniversary.
I find Fritz's love of the sun almost inconceivable. I'm in denial. I make excuses for him: He only likes the sun because he spends all day in an artificially lit office. He only likes the heat because he spends all day in the air conditioning. If he really understood how freaking hot it is in our house, and on the deck, and in the yard, and in the afternoon, he would insist on fixing the lack of NON-passive cooling options. I debate using my trump card and breaking down and installing air conditioning. Or, what I would really love, installing a whole house evaporative cooler. Evaporative coolers, you know, actually work in dry heat. They make it cool. They're cheap to operate. And they make the air moist as well as cool. Oh, how I miss the moisture sometimes. Water! Is that an anniversary gift? Of course, I could force the issue. But you learn, in marriage, pick your battles. Is this it? Or can you convince your husband that your battle IS ACTUALLY his battle? I remember these lines from Shel Silverstein's poem about doing the dishes in A Light in the Attic:
If you have to dry the dishes
And you drop one on the floor
Maybe they won't let you
Dry the dishes anymore.
Should I intentionally make the house hotter? Maybe just our bedroom? Would that convince Fritz?
Let's back up. Try other options. Focus, Ann, focus. I make lists to feel more in control.
Passive / Energy efficient cooling:
- Ceiling Fans. Check.
- Whole house fan that both vents hot attic and draws in cooler evening breezes. Check.
- Solar shades on the windows. Check.
- Use solid, dense surfaces as 'heat sinks' – a better phrase would be 'temperature sinks' – to radiate cooler temperatures during the hottest hours. Check.
- Portable evaporative cooler, a fraction of the cost of a whole house version. Check.
- Sprinkler/water the grass while running the whole house fan in the evening to take advantage of evaporative cooling. Check.
- I set ice on the soapstone counters to make a 'temperature sink' in the kitchen. Check.
- Descend to the basement during the worst hours. Check.
- Go to the pool during the worst hours. Check.
- Or there's always the car, the stores, the movies... Check.
- Be sure to run the whole house fan during the coolest hours, 4am - 6am. (I wake up to do this.) Check.
- Use evaporative cooler to help cool off the west bedroom at bedtime. Check.
- Refill portable evaporative cooler at 1am, because it is still hot. Check.
- Have you heard the arguments that we have become heat wimps? I take those arguments seriously. Be a trooper! I tell myself.
- Europeans say that AC is bad for your health. Yes! It would give us all nasty summer colds! I tell myself.
- The heat only last for a few weeks each summer. But it costs thousands of dollars to combat with AC! I tell myself. This IS true. It's not mind games!
- The heat coincides poorly with my cycle. It's only PMS! I'd feel much better if the heat wave was happening 2 weeks from now, I tell myself.
- The heat inspires me to hit 'publish' on this blog. Look at how much I've posted in the last 5 days!
At 3 pm today, clouds begin to hang over the mountains on the western horizon. Good, I think. Perhaps they will bring rain. At least they will bring cloud cover.
By 5pm, we can see striking lightning. We can see the smoke rising off the Flatirons south of Boulder. It is another fire. It is frightening. Parents of colleagues must evacuate their home.
By 7pm, we can smell the smoke.
Homes. I also liked the cool, hard bricks of the older neighborhoods. Once upon a time, Denver allowed only brick exteriors on the first level of the houses. Fritz shivered at the brick. "It looks so cold," he said. We rented one of these brick houses. They do not conserve energy. At all. In the winter, the double brick wall means that the temperature of the wall itself is barely above freezing inside the house. The wall radiates coldness. An unintentional 'temperature sink.' But using the brick – it was a building code – meant to protect against fires.
For the first time, I look at the eco-sensitive prairie grass yards in our neighborhood a little differently. I ask myself how easily they would burn. I imagine myself standing in the nearest stream with the boys and gasping for air like Laura Ingalls while a prairie fire burns around us. How quickly would our tightly packed wooden New Urbanist neighborhood burn? Would our house go up first, sans AC? Like a hot powder keg waiting to explode? How would I know the prairie grasses were burning with the smell of smoke already in the air?
I shiver thinking about the wooden structure, the 4% humidity, and the rain-less lightning flashes.
Best to go with an evaporative cooler, I decide. At least the house will be more moist and less like a powder keg.
No, no. We can tough it out. Laura Ingalls survived; we will too.