Hot, water. With a comma. Not hot water, because that doesn’t bear thinking about today.

30 Jan

I think I have mentioned the heat once or twice.

Yesterday was  the third hottest day on record, in Melbourne.

Last night was the third hottest night on record, in Melbourne.

Come with me on a journey. We are going to travel in time, back to the year 2003.

* cue zigzaggy lines and eerie music *

It’s January, 2003. I am hugely, I mean HUGELY pregnant. I can’t seem to find the photo right now, so you will have to believe me. I am also still working for the state government, in a job I loathe. Counting down the days till I can start my maternity leave.

And we have a heatwave. The start of a heatwave, to be precise. And, in that way that pregnant women do, I have a Moment.

My particular Moment looks like this: There is  NO WAY IN HELL that I am going home unless we have SOME SORT OF COOLING at home.

So I get on the phone, and I call around, and finally I find somewhere that has cooling systems for sale. And then I leave work early (which I am ALLOWED to do, because I have flexi-time, but no-one in that area does and so they all look at me suspiciously when I do it) and I drive myself (because it is SO HOT and I am SO SWOLLEN that I am not even catching the tram to work anymore) to the shop where I look at coolers.

And because I have done my research, and I am energy conscious and I know that air conditioners EAT energy, I buy an evaporative cooler and I bring it home.

And it is not NEARLY as good as an air conditioner but it really takes the edge off.

* cue weird montage to show time passing *

And over the years it gets used and forgotten and used and forgotten. And it sits in the dining room gathering detritus on top of it, until finally I snap (or maybe it was the day my OMGFABULOUS professional organiser came and she snapped and I jumped) and it gets retired into a corner of the study.

And it was good.

And then the heatwave started, and Fraser and I got the cooler out of the corner of the study and brought it into the newly clean living room and positioned it in front of the window, because even on a hot day you are meant to run your cooler in front of an open window. And I ran it last night, and it was good.

And I ran it today, and it was good.

Except for one small thing.

The evaporative cooler may not eat energy, but it eats water.  I’m estimating somewhere between 60-80 litres today alone. And we only ran it for 11 or 12 hours.

So here, you see my dilemma. We’re meant to save energy, and the state is sucking on rolling brownouts because demand is so high, because everyone is running their air conditioners overnight because their houses are OMG HOTTER INSIDE THAN OUTSIDE at that time.

And we’re meant to be saving water because it is a precious resource and we have only had 0.8mm of rain this month (I suspect that might be 8mm but it is still a very small number). In fact, our target per-person usage is 155 litres a day. (Weirdly? We used less water than that on our last bill, but were still charged penalty rates for excess consumption).

So I just used half a person’s water running my fan blower thingy. For 11 or 12 hours (because I nicked out to take the kids to the pool, which was OMGWONDERFUL and we might have to go back there tomorrow aggain).

Somewhere, we need a decision tree for green wannabes like yours truly. At the moment, it’s like a game of paper/scissors/stone where you don’t actually know what trumps what: do I worry more about energy consumption or water consumption? Or something else like the recyclability of the product and how much water/oil it took to create it?

Until they do, I’ll be fretting. But at least I will be evaporatively cooled while I do so.

Meanwhile, do you suppose it can run on beer?


Posted by on January 30, 2009 in house, not your earth logic


7 responses to “Hot, water. With a comma. Not hot water, because that doesn’t bear thinking about today.

  1. jon

    January 30, 2009 at 6:36 am

    Urine. It’s the greenest thng to do, you know it.

  2. Larry Levy

    January 30, 2009 at 8:44 am

    I want to preface this by saying I’ve always been energy conscious. I was the kid who turned out the lights in the unoccupied rooms–back in the seventies! And I continue to try to be as frugal with energy use as I can.

    But I would no sooner live in a house without air conditioning than I would perform a do-it-yourself circumcision. (And the second one really hurts!)

    I guess this is just another indication of the huge gulf in attitudes between the US and the rest of the world. But really, how can you stand it? Cold weather is fine, you can always bundle up, and I like lowering the thermostat and snuggling under the blankets at night. But hot weather saps the soul. And there’s only so much clothing you can take off! If it gets much above 25 degrees (see, I even converted it for you!), AC is a must. Our house is relatively small and single level, so the energy consumption isn’t that bad. But I gotta be honest, even if I lived in a mansion, I’d run the AC and figure out other ways to save on fuel. It’s a major priority in my life.

    Does that make me a terrible person? I just can’t see how you can live through the summers you have without regular air conditioning.

  3. melissainau

    January 30, 2009 at 9:54 am

    Jon: That would mean we didn’t use water to flush, either. Double savings! 🙂

    Larry: I guess we’re just used to it – the architects always say that there are only 10 or so days a year when you really NEED air conditioning in Melbourne (I suspect it’s more like 15-20), the rest is mostly covered by passive cooling and fans. So we draw curtains in the morning, close inside doors, and of course have good insulation. The evaporative cooler works pretty well too – it just annoys the children because it’s right beside the TV, so they can’t hear anything when it’s on. Just one of the tortures of childhood, I guess 🙂

  4. guenny

    January 30, 2009 at 10:01 am


    I hear your every word and say, “honey, you’re preaching to the choir!”

    I feel exactly the same way about AC. I will find other ways to save on energy but there is only so much I can take off before it’s illegal (and really, quite frightening for small children and animals).

    So do not fret, you are not a terrible person!


  5. Fraser

    January 30, 2009 at 11:23 am

    Larry – “If it gets much above 25 degrees (see, I even converted it for you!), AC is a must.”

    Wow, that is a cultural difference there Larry. 25 degrees is maybe swap the long sleeve shirt for a T-shirt iff (if and only if) there is not a lot of wind and you are guaranteed not to be spending time in the shade. Our weather forecasting used to only use the term hot when it was 32 and very hot was reserved for 36 degrees plus.

    For me mid 20s is mildly warm, high 20s is nice. Mind you I think anything under 10 is brass monkey weather 🙂

    Even if we had AC personally I would be unlikely to use it unless it had been high 30s outside for at least two days. That’s what it usually takes to heat the house up to the uncomfortable level, i.e. it is very high 20s or more inside. Last night it was into the 30s inside and was admittedly yuck, although survivable with a standard portable fan.

    And as Melissa quoted from the architects, there are really only few days each summer that are very uncomfortable. It is somewhat annoying when you get them four or five days in a row though!

    I have never had air conditioning in any house in Melbourne, but the fan is an emergency necessity 🙂

  6. Larry Levy

    January 30, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Maybe it’s a humidity thing, Fraser. High 20s is pleasantly warm outside, but inside it gets very close and oppressive. I’ve lived my whole life on the east coast of the US and humidity is always an issue.

    I’m old enough to remember when people used to go to movies during the afternoon, not because they cared what was playing, but because it was air conditioned. You could always tell which theaters had it during the sixties, because they displayed the picture of the Kool cigarette penguin with the words, “Come on in, it’s KOOL inside!”.

    And for me, 20 is definitely t-shirt weather. Then again, I suspect I’m carrying around considerably more weight than you are.

  7. gamesgrandpa

    January 30, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    My wife and I grew up in Oklahoma in the 50’s. No one in our part of the country had A/C, and hardly anyone had an evaporative cooler. Summers could be miserable, from the heat and humidity, but it was all we knew, so it was tolerable.

    Fast forward to the late 70’s, when we (wife and two children) moved to Colorado — very low humidity (compared to Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, and Virginia, our previous residences) and much lower summer temperatures, due to our 6500′ altitude. We elected to not purchase A/C in home or autos. That was fine, until recently, when the summer weather is getting hotter here (global warming effect?). [Also, we’re getting older and less tolerant of the heat.] So, last year we broke down and installed central air (already had purchased it in our autos, of course). We had been doing with floor fans, but discovered that not only did the A/C keep the house (and us) cooler, but we also have a much cleaner home, with closed doors and windows. Okay, maybe we’re not exactly with the program of energy efficiency (except the A/C unit has a good energy rating), but comfort out-voted the other issues. At our stage of life, I guess we have decided that we have earned the comfort. Of course, we do pay for it with our electric bill each month.

    Good luck!


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