Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Central Air

I posted a joke on Facebook, saying that air condition in the Netherlands is achieved by closing all of the curtains to prevent any stray photon from getting into your place and heating the place up.  (It should be noted that I'm referring to private residences, here, not stores and the like--though they may have their temperature setting a bit higher than stores in the US, customers dying of heat stroke tend to be bad for business everywhere.) This is actually a lot more true than I'd like to admit, given that air conditioning isn't as prevalent as it is in the US, and that in a lot of places, such as our apartment building, installing your average window-unit is impossible because the windows in this country are retarded.

Actually, the windows are pretty cleverly designed--turn the handle 90° and you can open them like a door, turn 90° further and they open like an oven, but only up to a maximum of six or seven inches.  Still, as you might imagine, trying to put a heavy air conditioning unit in one of these set-ups isn't exactly easy.

Fortunately, summers here are pretty mild, with temperatures usually peaking around 28° C (82° F) and only occasionally venturing above 30° C (86°).  Hot spells don't even last that long, either, a week at most.  So it might seem as if there's nothing to complain about, especially for a Philly girl who's survived Philadelphian summers without air conditioning.  But the fact is, because the rest of the days are so mild, it makes hot days that much more misearable.  And when even the Little It is whining from the heat (by not bumping around as much as he does when it's cooler) it kinda goes without saying that there are days when we wish we had air conditioning.

Central air is out of the question for buildings like ours, which were built in the 70s or thereabouts.  Small units are available for individual rooms (known as "split-" and "multi-split" units), but they are prohibitively expensive to buy and installing them is a bit confusing, to say the least, as I honestly cannot fathom how they work.  Plus they're costly to run, and as I mentioned above, summers are pretty mild here, usually, with only a few weeks of hot weather and even then it's not truly intolerable.

So drawing the curtains shut it is.  Our picture windows have got these dark red curtains, with a white reflective layer facing the outside.  Unfortunately, glass traps infrared energy, which is why despite the windows being open as far as they will go to let the heat out, the space between the curtains and the window is hot enough to cook kitties.  Candles left in their holders will be deformed.  If you start early enough, you might be able to cook something sous vide there.  It doesn't actually cool the place down, just makes it tolerable when the weather gets hot.  But even so, for a couple sheets of fabric, it's pretty impressive.  


  1. I was surprised, coming from Toronto and moving to BC that most of Vancouver does NOT have central air. It's reserved for only the nicest of penthouses. We first lived in a brand new condo, right downtown, NO air. I was surprised, but the real estate agent there said it's normal NOT to have it. A fan or two will do the trick. Which is true for the most part, but sometimes it was 30 degrees celsius at night and would get somewhat unbearable.

  2. I always believed that the brick buildings would be better insulated, but in the late summer, they just turn into little ovens. Maybe the heat finally soaks through after enough time.

    At this point, I am manipulating the front-back windows for cross-ventilation at night,then closed tight to hold it in during the morning, and finally upstairs open-downstairs closed to try to let heat escape during the afternoon. Sometimes it works...

    And Margarita is right: we had air conditioning in Chicago but never in Seattle (or England)