Economic Multipliers (61)

Do you know what these are?

They help CREATE wealth in systems.

Ten degrees is an economic multiplier.


Ten is just a number but for this example, it’s a good number.

During the years that I was in high school (late 70’s), I helped some relatives bale hay. The weather was usually sunny and in the high 70’s and 80’s (°F, or ~25-30°C). I wore 2 pair of pants (to keep the hay from poking through the pants … sort of like chaps), a long sleeve shirt (usually), heavy work boots, a hat and sometimes gloves. We sweated.

And, although we ‘cleaned up’ in the evenings, work clothes were worn for several days and washed once a week. I don’t even want to think about what they may have smelled like (probably sweat and barn odors since it was a dairy farm).

Likewise, during those years, it was a luxury (not a necessity) to own an air conditioner. But know that I was ‘lucky.’ The houses that I lived in during those years had good ventilation, good eaves, shade and drapes (which kept the sun out), basements, temperatures that normally stayed out of the 90’s and cold winters (which meant the ground temperature about 8 ft. down was probably somewhere in the 50’s (°F, or ~10’s°C)).

Today, the United States is dealing with a heat wave and power outages.

As I write this (7/6/2012), it’s 94°F (34°C) by the weather report and supposed to get to 97°F (36°C), 102°F (39°C) in the shade outside by my probably needs to be calibrated thermometer, 88°F (31°C) on the first floor of the house, 92°F (33°C) on the second floor of the house (with some windows open), and 73°F (23°C) in the basement. The expected nighttime low outside is 72°F (22°C).

At one point in time a window was installed in the house to accommodate an air conditioner and was ultimately needed by someone with a health problem but no air conditioner is running today (hence, the rather high temperatures).

Is there a point here? Yes.

Very few people have health problems (on a percentage basis). If you and no one in your family have a health problem, it’s highly likely that you could abide by some simple operating rules that would make it less likely that the power grid in your area would fail:

    • Set your thermostat at 10 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) less than the expected high temperature outside (but no less than 76°F (23°C) for air conditioning). Because air conditioners dry out the air, the temperature inside will seem even lower. If you need to adjust the thermostat down as a necessity to get work done or to sleep, start at the higher temperatures and work your way down.

    • If you have a basement and live in a humid climate, keep the door shut and run a dehumidifier at night only (you can get timers for less than $10 which help you do this). You’ll ‘tap into’ the electrical grid when the wires are ‘cooler’ and humid air won’t migrate into the basement from the upper floors (although heat rises, moisture seeks cold).

    • If you run air conditioning, treat your house like you’d treat a refrigerator (keep the doors and windows closed … especially in humid climates).

If you personally reduce your ‘draw’ on the electrical system during the most extreme weather, particularly during the day, you make it less likely that the ‘grid’ in your area will fail. Power lines ‘heat up’ and even sag when electricity flows through them. During the day in extremely hot weather, there is little that can help keep them cool (except you).

Since I’m quite happily dealing with the heat (we don’t have a water shortage in this area which means a lot) and am lucky enough to live in a house with portable fans, good ventilation, good eaves, shade, drapes and a basement, the air conditioner probably won’t get installed this year unless someone else needs it (and hopefully no one will).

Staying acclimatized to your local climate really isn’t such a bad thing: What’s bad is if you need an air conditioner because without one, your health would fail.


P.S. Buildings are not always designed well for good ventilation in extreme temperatures. If you build ‘new’ in any area, ask yourself whether you’d want to live in the house or unit if the air conditioning system failed … AND how much heat you’d need for an emergency and what you’d do to supply it if the heating system ever failed. Most people will never install secondary heating systems that are designed specifically to keep the rooms with water pipes above freezing and yet they’ll readily install decorative fireplaces (I am WAY too practical … I believe good design focuses on utility first).

P.S. P.S. I’ve never lived any place where I’ve needed it but (as one of the ‘strange projects which seem interesting to people like me’) I’ve wanted to evaluate (in a hot, humid climate or even a hot, humid bathroom) just how much water would drip off of a cold water pipe statue (I do like art) that ultimately routed the water to the hot water system. Because any condensate on the outside of the pipe (hopefully collected for other uses) would represent heat added to the cold water, the hot water heating system would require less energy to function. And, with dryer air with some ‘energy’ removed, the surrounding air temperature should be cooler. Of course, you’d need bypass valves in case the ‘statue’ ever leaked and drain valves if you ever installed something like this in a cooling enclosure for animals in a sometimes cold weather climate. I’m even curious as to how much condensate would drip off a large metal tank installed indoors in a humid climate if the water in the tank was pumped to an external outdoor metal tank at night (for radiative cooling) and then pumped back indoors during the day (for condensate cooling). Isn’t this exactly what you think about during a hot spell?