Heat Adaptation and Low A/C Bills in Texas This Summer

This is something I get a lot of shit for from friends, family, and co-workers so I figured this was a great topic to talk about. It’s the end of July here in Texas, which means frequent 100+F (37+C) days. Unless you’ve been practicing heat adaptation, chances are your A/C bill is going to be ridiculously high this summer.

The topic of the weather is a natural thing for Any Human Ever to talk about. So beginning in May and ending in November here in Texas, it’s typical to hear people subtly complaining about the weather quite frequently with, “Waah! It’s so hot outside!”. OK that’s not so subtle and I’ve been guilty of saying this often, too. 

Call me crazy, but I no longer think this way. Yes, it is hot. But I’ve found a sweet trick that helps mitigate the misery. Not only that, it helps you to become less reliant upon the modern convenience of the A/C unit.

I wanted to bring up two important topics that I think embodies the mindset here at Just Stop Spending quite well: First is Heat Adaptation and the second, which is an effect of the first, is Low A/C Bills. 

Heat Adaptation

Your body, when exposed to the elements for a decent amount of time (a few days usually), begins to adapt to its surroundings ever-so-slightly. This works for both hot and cold, but because “It’s So Hot, Waah!” here in Houston (and most of the US) right now I thought we could talk about this.

There’s legitimate science behind this technique, sometimes also called Heat Acclimatization. There’s also ways to efficiently and effectively get your body to adapt, which can be found laid out for you nicely over at the Korey Stringer Institute’s site. For me, I got there by bicycling to work every day for about a week plus slowly increasing the A/C in my house. KSI’s methods might be more effective, but they’re laid out for athletes.

One quick note to remember if you decide to try this: stay hydrated!

Now… I work in an office environment 5 days a week. I didn’t think this experiment would work. But it did. And I think the key for me getting it to work was commuting by bicycle to work (35 minutes each way). As soon as I began biking, even 2-3 times a week only, I began to notice that I could stand much higher temperatures than many others around me.

Once I did that, I began by turning my A/C UP as high as I could tolerate it. We turned it completely off while we’re gone at work and our house gets up to around 86F (30C). When I get home I usually turn it anywhere between 80 and 85, depending on what room of the house we’re in, if we’re cooking, and what we’re doing. When we first began, we were doing 79 to 80 and that was difficult and slightly uncomfortable. Now we’re sleeping with it at 83 pretty consistently!

I consider this a huge win because this makes me less dependent upon A/C to be able to function in my everyday life.Click To Tweet

Many people refrain from doing absolutely anything when it’s hotter than, say, 80F (26C) out. Now there’s no excuses and I can carry on with my life, which is great!

The downside is that I’m now perpetually FREEZING at my office for most of the day. But I planned way ahead and I have a sweater I keep at work just for that reason. When visiting family or friends, we take note of how low their AC is just for fun- the lowest we saw was an astounding 68F!! (20C).

The Actual Worst Part

Another thing to mention about the area I live in is the humidity. Truth be told, 80s and 90s aren’t all that bad, but when the humidity is 80 to 100%, it makes the air thick and sticky. It appears we may be adapting to the humidity, which is sweet, because it’s humid almost ALL the time here.

I should emphasize here again that I pay close attention to my hydration, I dress appropriately, and I stay in shaded areas when I can – I’m not reckless when it comes to getting sunburned and I’m definitely not attempting to get a heat stroke (duh).

 

A/C Usage

Houston Climate Averages

Average temperatures in Houston, TX, thanks to Wikipedia (click this link to view a larger version of this graph- our theme isn’t a fan of wide images yet, apologies).

I never tend to think about the money first when making these decisions. It’s strictly about freeing myself of the dependence of a luxury or convenience.Click To Tweet

With that being said, something I have noticed is that our electricity usage compared to last month is down quite a bit – obviously. I’m still not to $20 A/C bills like some, but we’re looking at a $60 bill here in July. I think we might squeeze into the $50-range in August. It was $73 last month, which we considered our “transition” month. Previous years prices were $90-110 (June through August).

This is for a house built in 1935 that is terribly insulated, has single pane windows, and is maybe 800 to 850 sq ft. Maybe a little more if you count the upstairs area. If we can drop that even lower, then I’ll be happy. If not, I’m content with how things are going so far.

Saving potentially $30 to $40 a month is a sweet benefit to living a little more difficulty. I also subsequently am saving more by not utilizing my car nearly as much (the actual benefit + win in my opinion). While it may not sound like much to some, when you’re in debt over your eyeballs or just on the path to FI, every little bit counts. 

The Biggest, Unforeseen Benefits of All

So far, the biggest benefit of all is knowing that I can live without the AC. Something I do is to think about my ancestors that lived here in the South. Or the Caddo, Karankawa, and other various Native American tribes of this area. None of them had AC, except the AC that’s built into our bodies: sweat & natural acclimatization. I didn’t expect for this to happen, but it did and I’m eternally grateful for learning this lesson.

And that just makes us that much more appreciative of being in the AC when we are. Whether you call it Mustachian or Stoic, I think that by not focusing on the money and instead using this as a lesson in voluntary discomfort, makes decisions like these all the easier.

The last benefit is decreasing our consumption of electricity. I’m a closet environmentalist (I have to be, I work in Oil and Gas), so this appeals greatly to me. To be fair, our electricity is already 100% solar, but I’d like to bet there’s still some environmental impact of using less – and if there isn’t then it’s still a mental shift and win for us.

 

In Conclusion

We went from heavy A/C reliant people to heat and humidity adapted folk. And while we are saving some money in the end, the physical and mental strength gained far outweighs all of that, period. 

This experiment fits perfectly into our mantra of “Spend Less, Live More”. Spending less on electricity. Spending less time indoors. And spending more time doing whatever it is we please, with no limiting factors because of the heat and humidity.

My next experiment is not using my dryer. The first test went quite well! Oh, and expect a counter-article to this one to pop up in the winter describing some sweet cold-weather tips and tricks to adapt and stay warm more naturally.

A final word: We’re not saying don’t enjoy the luxury of the A/C, but instead find pleasure in knowing you’re secretly a badass who won’t let a little heat stop them from doing stuff. Your ancestors would be proud.

 

Think we’re crazy? Or maybe you’re an expert and already do this yourself? Let us know in the comments below.

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2 Comments

  1. Hi Seth – great post! I am in the DC Metro area and I live in an old prison that has been converted to housing. Last winter was horrific with drafts and heat pumps running nearly nonstop for $600+ monthly bills. I wasn’t looking forward to the summer AC season. I believe I’ve become more tolerant of extreme temps in my home. I refused to have more than one enormous bill last winter and piled on the layers and set the heat at 65. It was perfect for me and my large hairy dog. But summer is a different story with my dog. I’ve got a rather large industrial fan that I run because I find he can tolerate the warmer AC setting better when the air is circulating. 76-78 is a good set point for the AC and my current bill is only $150. If it were just me I’d keep it even higher. #mylifeismydog

    1. Christine – WOW, $600+!? Good for you for toughening up and making some changes – very impressive!

      Don’t forget while the A/C is a huge electricity suck, so are other things like clothes dryers and various things being left on, like computers. Just a thought. 78F with a fan definitely feels better than without one – we’re big fan users too. Maybe you can keep pushing it a little higher if you can stand it. That’s the beauty of acclimation!

      Since writing this article last week I’ve been able to continue to push it even higher, typically citing that it’s quite chilly anytime the house is under 82F, especially in the evenings.

      Thanks for the comment!