Air conditioning OTG

One of our neighbours, during the worst of the heat wave, strung up white sheets on tight lines outside her house as a kind of reflector of the sun. That did not work, of course, but it likely did deflect some of the sun’s direct in-the-window rays. She may have kept the heat down a degree….

Because we have swallows nesting on a gable end right smack-dab on the hottest part of the house, I usually water down that side of the house a few times a day and also wet the decks. The swallows seem to be doing OK.

I also have an air conditioner. I bought it two or three years ago. It is a cheap Danby portable and it blows out air at 17 degrees C. The problem is that it blows out 17-degree cool air kind of weakly into a 26+ degree room and it had no real effect. Still, by the end of the day, the room was still 26C and the immediate outside was 33C. It must have helped some.

We live OTG. All electricity used has to be first ‘made’ by our panels and then ‘managed’ by our equipment. Basically, we can only handle about 30 amps of draw at a time – and only 20 amps on any one circuit. The AC took 15+ and, of course, we have all sorts of other minor draws that add up and so, if we used the chop saw or, way worse, washed clothes (water pump and washing machine), we’d threaten to pop a breaker not to mention suck down the batteries. In the worst of the heat, I was thinking of getting another few ACs. But the math just doesn’t work.

OTG’ers have to be mindful of their power use and, of course, we are. If you are not, you go dark and that serves as a stark reminder in real time. We are good power brokers, so to speak. But, but, but…..when the sun is high in the sky and beating down mercilessly, that makes for gobs of power. With surplus power at the ready, you can use it to…..(wait for it)…run an AC! One would think that an AC is one of the top verboten appliances living OTG but, because of when it is needed there is also gobs of power to run it, so it works out just fine.

But not two of them. I am gonna have to think on this challenge a bit more. One untested plan is to string up a line of misters around the house and over the roof. The water is pumped (big draw but somewhat intermittent) up through the pipes and it then ‘rains’ on the house all day long. That might be effective to some extent….better than white sheets on tight lines, not as good as 3 or 4 ACs.

During the hottest days, we pretty much stopped working but, of course, as soon as the temperature became normal we got back at it. You’ll never guess what our then-current chore was….? Yeah, you guessed right…firewood! Those piles of logs we pulled up and I blogged about some time back are now reduced to half what they were. Our wood shed is full! We have more to do but the pressure is off. We have enough in the shed for a whole winter.

This blog on the elements wouldn’t be complete without a water report. And, as you likely guessed (God, you know me so well) the water stopped flowing again. We weren’t really surprised. Heat waves do that kind of thing. But our source is pretty reliable so Sal went off to climb the stream and see. Walking along to her boat, she heard a heavy gushing sound…one of the pipes had broken. She stuck it back together and we are now fully water-backed.

Living OTG is all about the simple things. Keep the water running, keep the place warm in the winter and cool in the summer and keeping the larder full. Keeping all machines operating perfectly is virtually impossible so ‘live with it’ but learn to fix everything. And the icing on the cake? It takes an amber-coloured liquid form from Scotland or a similar purple form from a variety of grapes and places. Anything more complicated is not really welcome.

14 thoughts on “Air conditioning OTG

  1. My grandfather had a store in Rural PEI back in the early 1900’s
    He sold dry gods, and perishable foods.
    One of his sons ( my uncle) eventually inherited the store in the 1960’s
    He converted it to a gas station/ store.
    Coca Cola and other companies supplied him with logo coolers and refrigerators.
    However the huge walk in freezer that was over 100 years old was not a mechanical freezer.
    I remember as a kid helping my uncle drag 200lb blocks of ice from the back warehouse with ice tongs.
    We would drag these 2ft h x 2ft w x 5 ft l blocks of ice along the floor into the old, insulated freezer where they would slow melt.
    The water ran down a drain to the out side.
    The walk in freezer was always a cool 45 deg F.
    The block ice was cut from a pond in the winter and hauled to the warehouse where it was stacked with tongs, ropes and old pulleys into a huge pile of block ice.
    The pile was then covered with a canvas tarp and buried under a pile/stack of sawdust.
    I worked at that store all summer one year and there was always ice until the next Winters freeze.

    Perhaps free block ice and a fan?


    • If dragging ice from the warehouse was a chore, you can imagine what getting it from town, on ferries, down logging roads, on boats and then up a hill would be like. The last ten years have been getting hotter. Except for Republicans and Conservatives, everyone knows that and are likely wondering the same as me: ‘what can we do to keep cool?’ We may just have to AC a small room and spend more time there when it gets that hot.


    • It was 36C/97F. We usually have a breeze due to our location and that breeze makes everything just fine…but not this time. When we did have the breeze, it blew hot, like the wind off the desert. And, on that one (Monday) hottest day, there was no breeze at all. Nada. For those of us built like a bar of soap, it was almost unbearable.


  2. Get some milk/juice containers and fill them with water and freeze them. Find yourself a cooler you don’t want anymore and cut two circular holes in the lid. Get your self a small circular electric fan and fit it in one of the holes. (facing down) Insert a PVC elbow in the other hole, Fill the coolers with the frozen milk containers and turn on the fan! When the warm air starts to melt the ice, VOILA!


  3. Dave, we have a couple of Ryobi outdoor misting fans. They have a tube thar you can put into a bucket of water. It draws the water from the bucket and the fan provides the mist. It runs on a rechargeable battery. It is remarkably efficient. My husband has also set up outdoor garden sprays, but our town water is gravity fed.
    One suggestion is to rig up as much shade as you can, especially over concrete and stone outdoor surfaces. Also, set up makeshift external blinds over windows too. If you have a dry breeze and can generate a cross breeze through the house, you can mist your external blind and it will blow the cooler air through the house.
    Or you can close up the house during the day. Shade all windows and stay inside “the cave” during the day, opening the house when the inside temperature is the same as outdoors. A non misting fan is also good. We have those too. They run on rechargeable batteries. We are on the grid but when demand peaks during heat waves, electricity providers often load shed.
    If humidity is high and temperatures get above mid 30c, misting doesn’t work, sweat doesn’t evaporate, people can get into real trouble. A fan is best if people don’t have access to refrigerated cooling.
    We have a couple of outdoor roof sprinklers, water tanks and a generator, to run those sprinklers in the event of ember attack. In Australia, some people have lost their homes and lives when generators failed because the fuel evaporated in the line. Hope these suggestions are helpful.
    PS. We have not temperatures anywhere near 49c in Canberra. Unless you live in a cave and can escape that heat, then 49c amounts to hell on earth.
    My thoughts are with you all. Take care.


  4. Kreegha Bundolo Tarmangani!!!, I took, at first blush, to mean “It’s Bloody Hot”. But no.

    Anyway Dave, glad to see you have harkened to Moira’s words and have now confined your comments to plain old OTG stuff. Good boy! Welcome back to the fold.

    As for the vexing problem of how to stay cool off grid, as you point out, when the sun shines brightly, as is usual on those hot days, solar panels can put out more than enough juice to run A/C. But, again, as you say, one’s system might limit how much one can actually draw. Do you think a swamp cooler might work? Uses a lot less power and should work fine if the air is not humid. Seems to be there has been little humidity in the Discovery Islands zone in the recent hot spell.

    My own situation has not really required me to think of these things, having a full basement under the house. Not many OTG homes seem to come with basements. Maybe because they rest on granite and blasting that stuff gets expensive. We had to do some of that, but mostly took advantage of the lay of the land. The result is a basement that’s fully underground at one end of the house and mostly above ground on the side facing the ocean. In the recent heat, the basement temperature maxed out at about 70° F. at one end and 76° at the other. One floor up was about 10° higher and the top floor about 10° above that at its peak. I never did find the need to take shelter in a basement bedroom. The upper floor cooled to below 80 by 10 p.m. and for 2 nights I used a fan up there and found it too much by about 5 a.m., so I turned it off. There has usually been some cool NW breeze at night.

    I commend basements to everyone, but some just don’t like ’em. I find they have advantages both summer and winter. Pipes in a basement don’t freeze in winter, except in the coldest of climes. Once warm, basements stay warm, insulated by all that rock and earth surrounding them. I grew up in Toronto. We did not have A/C. Houses in our area in those days were heated with oil-fired hot water, circulated to iron radiators in every room. Our oil furnace was originally a coal furnace. Houses came with coal chutes (milk chutes too!) Hot water systems are not like forced air, systems which can also be used for central A/C. Some bought window A/C units. We never had the luxury of those. So, on those sweltering summer nights, when the brick house took on the characteristics of a brick oven, the sofa bed in the basement was my refuge.

    Big difference between Toronto and Discovery Islands. Toronto could go to 90° and stay close to that all night. It was hot already, getting up in the morning. Then one had the pleasure of donning the monkey suit and riding the subway downtown, everyone crammed in like sardines and sweating like pigs (at least so the expression has it) to arrive at the air-conditioned sweatshop in the TD Tower. Fun times! Maybe Moira or someone can tell us why it is that women can be considered suitably dressed for an office in a wide range of outfits, some very well suited to hot weather. Men, on the other hand, are suitably attired only in the mandatory “business suit” with a jacket, tie, the works in the sweltering heat. White man’s burden.

    On the topic of heat, I have on my wall a mercury thermometer my granny had on the wall in her summer home on a lake in Ontario. Made with climate change in mind. It’s calibrated from -40° F. to +240°F. Obviously made recognizing warmer days to come.

    I won’t apologize for no reference to temps, etc. in the metric system, that was forced upon us by government in Canada long ago. The excuse offered was “the U.S., our largest trading partner, is going metric”. Of course the U.S. would never do such a thing. But, in Canada, give ’em a centimeter, they try to take a kilometer. Could anyone ever see some Texan walking up to the deli counter and saying “Excuse me ma’am, but could I have 250 grams of the chicken fried steak and 175 grams of the black eyed peas?” Or Americans stating their height and weight in metric? Or hitting a mule with a 47mm x 100mm instead of a 2 by 4 to get its attention? I am old and grouchy and I’d rather fight than switch!


    • I’ll say at least one thing Rjukan, you ARE old! Those details of your childhood sound VERY similar to mine, even to the Toronto part, tho we had a forced air oil furnace, a huge dark multi-armed Monster that had a wee tank on the side that needed a water fill-up, to humidify. We were just talking yesterday with a neighbour and I remarked how I did not recall being sweltering as a kid tho I slept in the attic and we certainly did not have A/C. I wish I needed it here but there is almost always a cool breeze, and cool temps at night, us being on a south facing point, washed by the east breeze or a mountain adjusted NW wind that arrives as if it was from the SW.
      I do tho wish we had a basement, but as you say, the house sits on a rock! Storage is arguably our biggest issue so a basement would be ideal. Still, I’d not trade our new Life for anything. We have never been so Happy, and content. I hope it is so for you. Be Well!


  5. When we got up to 40 degrees, we packed up and spent 4 wonderful days at Port Hardy. Of course, being used to the heat, we didn’t pack for the frigid Pacific breeze (and 2 meter swells) and darn near froze to death! The good news we have a freezer full of salmon and halibut, and some wonderful memories!


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