It’s finally reached the time of year when even Jamaicans remark on the heat. The numbers on the thermometer may have only changed by 2 or 3 degrees since I arrived in February, but the “feels like” index has increased by 11 or 12. All you HVAC/energy management people know that 1 or 2 degrees difference is all that is needed to change how people perceive the temperature, and I can assure you that I definitely perceive a difference, and now apparently everyone else does too.

Jamaicans have this great expression: “The sun is hot”. I love it because it is true! Some days it is the air that is warm. On other days the heat radiates off the concrete walls and sidewalks. But sometimes it is the sun’s rays that make it so sweltering. Jamaicans are genius at seeking out any possible shade to combat this kind of heat; I’ve even seen them line up in the shade of an electrical poll to stay out of the sun.

At the YMCA, I spend as much of my day as possible day seated under a wall fan. Our buildings have louver windows and metal roofs (a common design in this region), so the outside air is often more pleasant than being indoors (especially if a breeze kicks up), so long as you can avoid the beating sun. Every once in a while I manage to squeeze in a daytime swim too cool down… best office perk!

At home, I have been trying a combination of things to keep cool. For a while, it wasn’t very pleasant to have the windows and doors open because the mosquitoes were bad, but my amazing mom and dad mailed me makeshift screens for all my windows and patio doors, so I have finally been able to create some semblance of cross-breeze without getting eaten alive. The natural ventilation isn’t much, and truthfully the air doesn’t cool down much at night, but the fresh air feels good.

I have a love/hate relationship with my air conditioner. It costs a fortune so I have to use it carefully, which means running it in fits and spurts while I sleep (usually 30 mins or so before bedtime, and then any time I wake up from the heat in the middle of the night, which is 2 or 3 times each night). During the day, I shut it off at the breaker because it seems to have a mind of its own; I’ve come home a few times and found it running like mad, the bedroom cool like an icebox. No way I can afford that nonsense on my volunteer stipend! I am sure there is a way to program it to do all these things automagically, but I cannot for the life of me get the programming to stick, and so I use it manually, being mindful of how often it gets used.

I’d really rather avoid the A/C all together. Just listen to this 6 minute segment from  WNYC entitled “How Air Conditioning is Destroying the Planet” and you’ll begin to understand why passive cooling and ventilation would be a better option for the planet, and for my pocketbook. But unfortunately, the apartment wasn’t built to encourage passive cooling. I get morning sun on the south side and afternoon and evening sun on the west side, which functions like a heat sink, radiating the hot air back at me all night.

In spite of all the adjustments I’ve made to my lifestyle in an attempt to stay cool, I MUCH prefer the heat to the cold. As far as I am concerned, I don’t think we’ve had one bad weather day since I arrived, which is more than I can say for life in Canada. As my dear friend and colleague Kevin likes to say, “comfort is a state of mind”, and my state of mind is loving this heat!