Introduction: Replace Your AC With Laundry, Crystal Curtains and a Fan
Even though we had a hot and sticky city summer last year, I only used the AC once in my southern facing office. This year I'm getting rid of the big ugly window unit and replacing it with wild strawberries.
The following steps describe my strategy.
Step 1: Laundry
I mentioned in a previous money-saving instructable that I dry my laundry on the line rather than in a dryer, even though I do not have access to outdoor space. This obviously saves the energy used by the dryer, and since it is also gentler on your clothes it's greener because your stuff won't wear out so fast. But there's another, huge advantage to drying clothes indoors. In the winter, the clothes add humidity to the air, reducing the need for a humidifier, and in the summer, the process of evaporation cools the air, drastically reducing your need for air conditioning. It works so well that on occasion I'll just soak a few dishtowels which don't need cleaning in cold water and hang them up to dry.
Step 2: Crystal Curtain
Darkening a room is a simple but very efficient way of keeping the space cool. Obviously if your only goal is to cool down you can save yourself a lot of trouble and block your sunny windows with any old sound blanket (the same type movers use). Here I will show you how I blocked the sun and heat without making the room gloomy. This used to be the baby's room, so at the time I wanted it to be cheerful despite the darkness.
Dark blue velvet
Sheer silver fabric for the moon
About 2 dozen chandelier crystals of varying sizes
Curtain hardware (rods, rings, etc)
I made a simple curtain with dark blue velvet. The width of the cloth is approximately two times the width of the window so it is still wavy when the curtains are closed. I sewed simple pleats on top, so the side attached to the rings has the same width as the curtain rod. If you wanted to you could make curtains which are flat when they are closed are closed (like roman shades), but in that case, unless you line the fabric you won't cut out as much light or heat. If you can't sew you can just have curtains made, but honestly, it's really easy and it's much cheaper even if you need to buy a sewing machine.
After I finished the curtains I spread them on the floor and cut out little x's where I wanted the stars. I sewed the flaps down by hand, then sewed on the chandelier crystals I'd bought at the flea market. Use polyester rather than cotton thread -- it will last much longer.
I used a plate to mark the shape of the moon, cut it out and sewed on the sheer fabric. You need it to keep the curtain hanging nicely, however, the sheer fabric is much more fragile than the velvet and will not last as long. The sun dissolved my original moon (after about 7 years), and although I have more fabric I have yet to get around to replacing it: if you look carefully at the second picture you will see that the curtain doesn't hang properly under the moon. That's because now it's just an empty circle.
The curtains work beautifully. They keep the room cool, and the babies used to go around chasing all the rainbows the stars would throw around the room. Once in a while I even catch myself playing with the rainbows on my hands rather than doing my work....
Step 3: Fan
This step is fairly straightforward. Ceiling fans are great, but temporary standing fans work too, particularly if you're just sitting at a desk. Combine them with a darkened room, light clothes and fresh laundry drying nearby and you really don't need the AC.