It's getting in hot in here...
April 24, 2007 12:25 PM   Subscribe

How can I survive summer in Michigan with out air conditioning? or What should I look for in portable air conditioners?

I'm moving to Lansing MI soon (from New Mexico if that makes a difference) and I'm looking at renting a house that would be ideal except for it doesn't have central air conditioning. This make me nervous because I know how hot and muggy Michigan can be in the summer, and I'm the type of person who is terminally hot. I'm thinking of getting some of those window air conditioners, but I don't know how well they really work. Any suggestions on what to look for in a window type air conditioner, feedback on how they work in the Upper Midwest, or alteranate suggestions for how to stay cool, Hive Mind?
posted by Dr. Lurker to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I bought window units for my house at my local Wal-Mart.

They were about $75 each. You can spend more if you want fancier options, like a remote control.

The box clearly indicated the size of room the unit was designed to cool.

Other than the expense, I have no complaints. Although modern units are supposed to be way more energy efficient than the old units of yore, I haven't seen this reflected in my energy bills. However, like you, I am constantly hot and they run pretty much nonstop in the summer.
posted by Sheppagus at 12:36 PM on April 24, 2007

I've been in hotter and muggier places than Michigan without air conditioning. I recommend a fan, and it is very important to shade south and west windows. And that is it. After the first couple days, I acclimatize. You just have to push through it.
posted by Listener at 12:43 PM on April 24, 2007

you don't need central air. just get window ac for your bedroom and maybe the living room. I agree its not that bad.
posted by alkupe at 12:56 PM on April 24, 2007

I survive with a ceiling fan in my bedroom and a table fan in my kitchen. Wet washcloths on the face, not much clothing in the house, open windows that face each other for cross-ventilation, not cooking when it's crazy hot.
posted by clavicle at 1:05 PM on April 24, 2007

Response by poster: I forgot about expense. What kind of jump do you see in your energy bill, Sheppagus?
posted by Dr. Lurker at 1:35 PM on April 24, 2007

Welcome to Lansing. It's hot and moist here, for sure.

We installed a whole-house fan in our house last year. It's a powerful fan in a centrally located ceiling, venting into the attic. What we do is, after the evening cools off, is open up all the windows and run that fan for a bit. It pulls all the hot air up and out and the cool air in through the windows. We sleep well and cool, although still a bit moist. In the morning, we shut all the windows before the heat of the day. It works pretty well. Even during a major heat wave last year it took four or five days for the ambient heat in the house to get mostly unbearable. You could duplicate the effect with window fans, some pulling cool air in and some pulling hot air out, at opposite ends of the house.
posted by not that girl at 1:40 PM on April 24, 2007

Native Michigander/Michiganian. The astute use of shades and fans can indeed help a lot. If you're heat-sensitive you will want to get a window AC for your bedroom for sleeping at night.

If you're also price sensitive, as your follow-up suggests, that's all the more reason to go for your ideal rental -- a place with central air is going to be a lot more expensive, especially since you'll become addicted to the cool air and it's harder to cool just the bedroom.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 1:55 PM on April 24, 2007

I spent the best summer of my life in Lansing in an un-airconditioned house. I shared a single sized matress with my girlfriend (now wife!) in a room the size of a closet. Best advice: fall in love, take long walks holding hands, and eat lots of ice cream from dairy store on MSU's campus.

That and a table fan pointed right at you will do wonders.
posted by Eddie Mars at 2:26 PM on April 24, 2007

I grew up in MI and went to U of M, and never had AC in the summers. I wasn't the type of person who is terminally hot, tho. You will probably do fine with a window unit. I was surprised (in Pittsburgh) at how cold they can make the house feel. And this was a whole house, cooled with 1 unit upstairs, and 1 down.
posted by selfmedicating at 2:31 PM on April 24, 2007

Move to northern Michigan. Problem solved. :) Or check out Best Buy. They should have their summer seasonals up, and by summer seasonals, I mean portable air conditioners, window air conditioners, fans, etc.

When we lived in an unairconditioned house, my parents had one unit in their room that they turned on just before bedtime, and we had one in our guest room for nights when it was really hot. (My brother and I would camp out on the floor in there those nights!)
posted by santojulieta at 2:36 PM on April 24, 2007

Just stay in air-conditioned buildings all day (i.e. malls, shopping centers, etc.) and turn up the AC at night.
posted by Aanidaani at 2:49 PM on April 24, 2007

Haha, Lansing-summer-hot-yes.

If it's an older house make sure to buy an air conditioner that is rated for to cool an area 30% larger than the area you'll actually be cooling is, especially if it's on the south side of the house.

"What kind of jump do you see in your energy bill, Sheppagus"

For an 800 square foot apartment on the east side of the building and in the shade of some nice trees, I paid between $20 and $25 dollars a month in order to be comfortable.
posted by 517 at 4:08 PM on April 24, 2007

Best answer: For those who grew up w/o AC, sorry but you're not helping by saying it is not so bad. You like what you're used to, and if you're used to AC in the summer then it is difficult to live w/o!! Can you live w/o your Tivo??

We got Kenmore units from Sears and they've done us well (in NW Vermont). We got one for the home office (we both work from home), the bedroom and the living room (which is open to the kitchen -- we tried living w/o it but we were *miserable*).

But in addition to that, make sure you keep your windows closed during the day, and possibly at night depending on temps, and get good curtains/blinds to keep closed wherever the sun is facing. That really helps in the areas you can't cool.

Oh, and get a window fan for the cooler nights. We've got one where it shuts off at the designated temp and has multiple speeds. It is awesome for Spring/Fall. (and does a great job when roasting coffee at getting the stink out!)
posted by evening at 4:47 PM on April 24, 2007

Seconding the fan arrangements. I grew up in Michigan and the family never had AC. One good window fan on exhaust in the evenings cools a house remarkably quickly. By shutting certian windows/doors, you can control wich rooms are cooled. If it's possible, position your bed under a window that is drawing in the cooler air. Even when it's hot hot hot during the day, I always found myself waking up shivering at some point in the night with this arrangement. Cieling fans and table top fans are also good back-ups. If you're not home during hte day, or don't care about getting sunlight, draw shades and blinds to reduce solar gain. And if it's too bad, get thee to a Great Lake. Guaranteed 10 degrees cooler on the lake.

If you do go the AC route, and aren't interested in turning the house into a meat locker, the AC will knock the humidity out of the air. When it's 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity outside, 80 degrees and 50% humidity inside feels pretty good. And much more energy efficient than cooling down to, say, 72.
posted by fantastic at 4:48 PM on April 24, 2007

For those who grew up w/o AC...Can you live w/o your Tivo??

Touche. I could not.

Just wanted to add that, if you're from N. Mexico you may not realize that the mosquitos are the state bird in MI and if you do end up opening windows, etc, you will want impenetrable screens.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:35 PM on April 24, 2007

I lived three years in Detroit without AC, not too bad. The home we ended up buying and lived in for an additional 3 years had AC, but honestly, we didn't use it much.

Does the home you're renting have a basement? If it is just hotte than blazes they are usually still pretty cool. Set up a cot down there.
posted by Doohickie at 6:15 PM on April 24, 2007

Baby powder on your personal regions. Hot and muggy is much more manageable when you're not suffering from ball sweat (or, my girlfriend tells me, from the feminine equivalent).
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:07 PM on April 24, 2007

Best answer: Born and raised in metro Detroit, and I cannot live without AC. Despite what everyone is saying about fans doing the job, Michigan humidity can be unbearable if you're not a fan of heat. You can get inexpensive window units at Costco or KMart or wherever, and it's worth the money to get some solid, sound sleep during the summer months. You can augment it with fans placed throughout the house. Electricity-wise, our bill goes up around $40, but we work from home and have the unit running 24/7.
posted by Oriole Adams at 9:53 PM on April 24, 2007

The thought of Michigan in the summer WITH air conditioning makes me happy I moved to Seattle. . .

That being said, while in college at UM in Ann Arbor I spent 4 summers with no central air. A few apartments I had had a window ac unit and it made our bill go up a lot - however - they were probably not as efficient as some you can buy now. One thing I found helpful in reducing the bill was to run it for very short times when I was home during the day and then I just used fans (except on those ridiculously hot nights when you can't sleep w/o ac and you just have to deal with the cost ).

P.S. Even when it is crazy hot during the day, the nights can be very pleasant to be out in - find a great bar or other outdoor venue and head there once it gets dark! It's a great time!
posted by jengineer at 10:04 PM on April 24, 2007

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