I don't really like air conditioners. I didn't grow up with them. And I find them overly cold and unpleasant the vast majority of the time. To me, that all adds up to mean Not Worth The Energy They Suck Down. Usually, there are a couple of days in August that are hot enough for me to give in and turn on a window unit overnight. I know, I know. It's Minnesota. Ain't no thing. But I didn't use them in Kansas, either, which is orders of magnitude more uncomfortable in Summer. When I lived in Alabama, they made more sense. But my husband and I still went one Summer (of the two we lived there) a/c-free.
I bring this up because I have a theory. I think "I don't use air conditioning" could become the new "I don't use soap."
Now, personally, I adapt by living in a house that holds its temperature pretty well—so a very hot day in June is still comfy inside, while a hot day in August is not. I also open the house overnight and use fans to suck in cool air. Then, at dawn, I close all the windows, draw the blinds, and only use fans to circulate what's inside. Christopher Mims has a different method. His involves a fan and a damp, synthetic cooling towel:
Once you've got one of your special outdoorsperson cooling things draped about your neck, you will be amazed at the degree to which the power of your conventional fan has been magnified. That's because now you're exploiting the magic of evaporative cooling. Every molecule of water that evaporates off your neck carries with it an amount of heat equivalent to water's latent heat, which is pretty damn high.
It also helps that your super-cool definitely-doesn't-make-you-look-like-a-weirdo evaporative bandana is now immediately adjacent to a pair of gigantic arteries running straight into your head. It's as if you've attached your Personal Swamp Cooler directly to a heat exchanger carrying your blood supply.
As I write this, the mercury is climbing. I'm sequestered in my home office, it's 83 degrees inside, yet I'm perfectly comfortable. I'm not spending a dime on air conditioning. Wouldn't you like to be able to say the same?
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.