Wikinvest Wire

It's Hard to Think When It's So Hot

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

From where this blog originates, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean in Southern California, air conditioning has never been a standard feature for residential housing. Given the rate at which temperatures seem to be rising in recent years, that may change in the future.

Within a few miles of the ocean, temperatures normally don't get any higher than 70 degrees or so, even when it is scorching hot inland. While it may be over a hundred degrees twenty miles to the east, it will be closer to 75 degrees on the coast.

[This can be a great source of entertainment if you invite "inland" friends to come out for the local fair in August. After having lived in triple digit heat for months, they arrive wearing shorts and flip-flops only to find themselves shivering at 9 PM when the fireworks go off and the temperature has dropped to the mid 50s.]

One of the real benefits to being so close to the water is that summer electric bills don't include the high cost of central air conditioning required to keep things cool. Having lived inland, summer electric bills that would come in three or four times higher than the amount paid during the winter were not unusual.

Such high cooling costs could be a source of friction within a household as the family member writing the check to the utility company at the end of the month could almost see dollar amounts on the thermostat, commensurate with the temperature setting.

With a cool ocean breeze and with no air conditioner in the house, the thermostat setting poses no such dilemma.

Hot Spells

The downside to living in a place such as this, especially in the last couple years, is that for a few brief periods during the summer the temperature can be quite uncomfortable - not so much because of the severity, but simply because you can't easily escape it.

Living here, it's natural to wonder why homes near the ocean come with a heater and no air conditioner since the length and severity of the cold spells have been less than those of the hot spells in recent years.

All the homes come with fireplaces and it's a lot easier to get a space heater than it is to install an air conditioner ... which brings us to the subject that stands as the only tenuous link between today's rambling essay and the standard fare at this blog.

In a cruel twist of fate, the local climate predicament is made even worse in this particular household, not because of any physical condition, but because of the irony.

Normally, when a situation like this arises, an industrious homeowner would find a remedy by either having central air conditioning installed or by figuring some way to get a window air conditioner into the hottest room or two, even if it requires poking a hole in a wall.

But, as a renter who temporarily exited the real estate market some time ago, options are limited.

Fans do little more than move the hot air around and portable air conditioners are too expensive. And, while the landlord could be contacted, he will not likely be sympathetic to this minor inconvenience - especially when considering the investment involved on his part.

So Close, Yet So Far

To make matters worse, having spotted an air conditioner at Costco a few weeks back that could be had for only $50 (yes, made in China), the opportunity was too good to pass up and it was brought home in the hope that it could somehow be installed and made to work in a house that has only vertical windows.

It now it sits in the garage, mocking its owner everytime he passes.

Where's the irony?

You see, led by the housing mania in the U.S. and factories in China, the booming world economy, while not solely responsible for global warming, certainly hasn't made the world any cooler. In decades past, cool ocean breezes would be sufficient to counter most any warm spell here on the Southern California coast, but it has become a less effective remedy with each passing year.

For those who succumbed to the recent real estate madness and purchased digs by the ocean, the solution is simple - if the expense of central air conditioning is prohibitive, buy a cheap Chinese air conditioner and knock a hole in the wall if necessary to cool the place.

But, for those who have resisted the real estate siren call of recent years there is little that can be done.

Aside from complaining at every opportunity, sitting amid inexpensive imported electronic equipment that only makes the temperatures go higher, there is nothing to do but wait it out.

It's hard to think when it's so hot.


Anonymous said...

what you need is a casement window air conditioner

Search google, and you will see there are many options out there

Local stores may be sold out because of your heatwave, so be sure to call around

Anonymous said...

Some ideas from a hardware engineer:

- If you have a back door, sit the air conditioner on the floor in the doorway and duct tape a blanket to block off most of the rest of the door.

-I don't know how handy you are, or if you have a handy friend, but air conditioners are actually quite simple nowadays. There's a compressor, an evaporator coil and a condenser coil. You would need to take the unit apart to find some way to set the evaporator coil and a fan inside, and the condensor coil with a fan outside. Just find a wooden or metal box that would fit your window.

- I grew up without air conditioning in Northern NJ, where it can get quite hot and sticky in the summer. Lawn chairs and a shady tree work. You could even set the infamous air conditioner on a rock and let it blow cool air on you.

I'm having a hard time getting my head around the idea of zillion dollar houses without air conditioning. Whoa!


Anonymous said...

That $50 Chinese POS will fail in short order. It is probably run on Freon 12. I suggest taking it back. Get off your wallet and get a better one.

What does a hugely expanding inland population into cheaply insulated huge McMansions do to the electricity demand? Any wonder there are electrical supply shortages?

Anonymous said...

Rising tempertures will increase the value of ocean property at the same time rising sea levels begin submerging it. Cliffs are reasonable solution if they sufficiently stable. The views are wonderful and take no energy to appreciate.

ajn said...

I live in Goleta.. just 2 miles from the coast. The house I live in is appraised over 1 million. No A/C. It got up to 89 on Sunday and was miserable for 3 hours at the most. What did we do? Go to the community pool.

The heat wave won't last forever.

Anonymous said...

A bucket of ice with a fan blowing over it makes a good spot air conditioner. Or keep some damp washcloths or bandanas in baggies in the freezer and pull 'em out to put on your neck. Ah.

And this "heat wave" is going to continue most of the summer, and be worse next summer, and even worse the one after that. It's called "global warming". And if you think this is fun, wait for the hurricanes. Ought to be a really good year for those, too.

apollo3333 said...

I got that same $50 Costco air conditioner last summer, and it's worked great! I built a 12 inch platform for support (just a piece of plywood with angle supports), then cut another piece of plywood to fill in the open window. I'm sure you can find a way to mount it. Can't sleep at night without it.

Anonymous said...

living in Santa Monica

I can understand what you are going through. We have rented our unit for 15 years. The first five we did not need AC. The second five we had about 2 weeks a year it was very hot. The last five the period has grown until it looks like it will go from July through October (for those who do not know September and October are the two hottest months of the year). The townhome we live in would cost $800,000. I asked our landlord a couple of years ago if he would install a window unit in one of the rooms. I was willing to pay for it (we pay 5% of our income for housing by renting versus the average Californian who spends 50% so I could handle the one time investment). He said no big deal. Thought it would increase the value of his property and covered it himself. We have watched after his property including several other units so he threw us a bone. Ask your landlord. The worse he can do is say no!

Anonymous said...

Atmospheric CO2 levels are starting to accelerate faster than scientists anticipated, per Mauna Loa observatory data. To borrow a trading term, here is where we start to "go parabolic". The positive feedback loop is going to be an absolute b^tch.

The McMansion and SUV boom surely has aggravated the problem. Chinese and US coal-powered plants have been working overtime the past few years providing the electricity to make/heat/cool all this unneeded crap. Alas, by the time Joe Sixpack realizes the problem, it will be too late.

Can you say "rolling blackouts" for the entire nation? Won't be very comfortable sitting in Phoenix or Las Vegas in 120+ heat and no A/C. It's coming, folks. Time to move North before the rest of the world realizes it's a good idea.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one to consider that lack of insualtion in houses is a huge problem?

I'm renting in the San Fernando Valley and am dreading this months DWP bill. if this was my house, I'd shell out the money to get my roof insulated, at the very least. As it is, i know that about half of my cool air is leeching out of the roof/walls and single-paned windows.
What a waste..

Also, in sunny CA, why aren't solar panels more popular? With the 200+ days of sunshine a year, why haven't they taken off?

Anonymous said...

Russian tundra, wildfires, China / India, it is not trending in a favorable direction. We did not have AC when I grew up in socal and I never felt hot.

Maybe nuke power isn't so bad afterall.

Anonymous said...

Interesting hipocracy: The environmental special interest groups that appose Nuclear Power in this country are probably the same special interests that are most upset and outspoken about global warming.

Anonymous said...

Then there's N.H., where we get at most 5 days a year above 90 degrees and in October we begin 6 months where it's below freezing at least part of the night. (There's 3 solid months below freezing 24/7, and in a bad year 6 weeks of below zero day and night.) We don't much worry about global warming here. If Al Gore’s most hysterical predictions came to pass, our climate would improve to the point where we were about as warm as Maryland.

the pope said...

Canada will be the new southern california when the USA is reduced to a hot dusty bowl. That's why our real estate market is booming!

tech98 said...

An MIT climatologist says the north coast of CA (Mendocino and thereabouts) will have the best climate when warming really kicks in. Currentlky the climate there is cool, rainy and very frequently foggy, but becoming less so.

Anonymous said...

Interesting hipocracy: The environmental special interest groups that appose Nuclear Power in this country are probably the same special interests that are most upset and outspoken about global warming.

Riiiigggghhht, because nukes have *no drawbacks* at all, so it must be that opponents are just hypocrites.
Try again, 'tard. And get a spellchecker while you're at it.

Jason said...

Interesting hipocracy: The environmental special interest groups that appose Nuclear Power in this country are probably the same special interests that are most upset and outspoken about global warming.

That's not HYPOCRISY. It's a case of two potential choices, both of which suck.

But those two choices are neither the only two choices, nor are they both applicable to the same problem.

A large portion of greenhouse gases are created by transportation, not electrical generation, I've yet to see a fission powered car. (the sole exception would be an electric powered car that plugged into power from a nuke plant)

Jason said...

BTW: Have you considered a portable dehumidifier/AC system?

Anonymous said...

Jason, 36% of US CO2 emissions are produced by coal-powered plants. It's much easier to deal with power plant conversion than to institute a major change in mass transportation. A large percentage of Nuclear waste can be recycled for power use. Even one of the Greenpeace founders has jumped on the nuclear bandwagon. Fortunately, many of the Dems are becoming less influenced by the environmental special interests on this issue, as they realize nuclear is the lesser of two evils.

Eventually, though, both problems will need to be solved.

Anonymous said...

Some Moron wrote:
Anonymous said...
Interesting hipocracy: The environmental special interest groups that appose Nuclear Power in this country are probably the same special interests that are most upset and outspoken about global warming.

What an idiot, Like there is no corolation between the environment and a nuclear disaster. People who do not think that the amount of crap we have dumped into our atmosphere will not cause some problem at all are fools.
Go back to you Rush Limbaugh show you fool.

Anonymous said...

why aren't solar panels more popular?

At $0.25/kwhr, they are rather expensive, but they can also provide some added insulation and shade which may make them worthwhile.

Just wait until we have hydrogen cars and we have to burn endless amounts of coal to provide the electricity for them. Global warming is just getting started.

Anonymous said...

Obviously you were able to buy cheap unreliable airconditioner made from China.
I know how hard it is to think right when its so hot.


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