Author Topic: Cooling strategies in the south  (Read 10366 times)

igthebold

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Cooling strategies in the south
« on: May 29, 2012, 07:43:05 AM »
Every time I read an article by MMM about A/C I chuckle bemusedly about the Dreaded Southeast. However, that doesn't mean I'm particularly good at managing energy costs during the summer.

I keep my A/C at 81 during the day, and 77 at night. I'm happy to tweak the temperatures, but I'm curious.. for those of you in the south, what do you do to keep things cool? I plan to get a window fan to pull air in during the cool times, but if I'm not mistaken, pulling in air at 80% humidity does the house a disservice, so that technique is out for most of the summer.

We have ceiling fans and oscillating fans in most of the living areas, and definitely the sleeping areas.

What are your techniques? What should I try?

MrSaturday

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2012, 08:46:08 AM »
I just bought a couple of window AC units to spot cool the two rooms I use most.  My central air is pretty old and inefficient but works well enough that I don't want to spend the money to replace it.  So I'll leave the central air set for mid 80's (maybe higher) and use the window units to cool smaller areas when I'm using them.

I'm guestimating my energy costs but I think the savings will pay for both new units in less than 2 summers.

austin.y

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2012, 10:32:08 AM »
I don't have any particular insight, but as an Alabama resident, I'm curious to see what solutions or techniques others have come up with to beat the heat!

velocistar237

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2012, 11:48:38 AM »
ChiliPad
Thermal mass.
Don't use the oven or stove much.
Bed fan.
Awnings or shutters on the sunny side
Wear damp clothing.
http://www.instructables.com/id/Stay-Cool-Without-AC/
White roof.
Shade trees.
Energy efficient appliances.
http://www.buildmyowncabin.com/geothermal/diy-geothermal.html

tooqk4u22

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2012, 01:05:22 PM »
Just installed a whole house fan on friday, timing was good because it was 90 degrees all weekend.  Used at night  and Fri, Sat, and Sun it worked great and felt like A/C was on - last night not so much as it was real humid and didn't cool off as much but still sucked the hot air out of the house. 

We'll see how it goes.

igthebold

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2012, 02:12:15 PM »
ChiliPad
Thermal mass.
Don't use the oven or stove much.
Bed fan.
Awnings or shutters on the sunny side
Wear damp clothing.
http://www.instructables.com/id/Stay-Cool-Without-AC/
White roof.
Shade trees.
Energy efficient appliances.
http://www.buildmyowncabin.com/geothermal/diy-geothermal.html

Have you tried any of these?

For oven and stove, we use the rice cooker, and are considering getting a breadmaker since my wife's bread, though awesome, heats up the house. Our weekly homemade pizza is going to be tough, but we'll work incrementally.

velocistar237

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2012, 02:36:56 PM »
ChiliPad
Thermal mass.
Don't use the oven or stove much.
Bed fan.
Awnings or shutters on the sunny side
Wear damp clothing.
http://www.instructables.com/id/Stay-Cool-Without-AC/
White roof.
Shade trees.
Energy efficient appliances.
http://www.buildmyowncabin.com/geothermal/diy-geothermal.html

Have you tried any of these?

For oven and stove, we use the rice cooker, and are considering getting a breadmaker since my wife's bread, though awesome, heats up the house. Our weekly homemade pizza is going to be tough, but we'll work incrementally.

We have a pressure cooker, which cuts down on cooking time.

Our house has plaster walls, so it has a good deal of thermal mass. The foundation is stone. (Am I supposed to do anything in particular to benefit from this thermal mass?)

We have CF and LED bulbs.

One thing I'm thinking about trying is drawing the basement air slowly up into the house.

I haven't tried the other ideas.

tooqk4u22

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #7 on: May 29, 2012, 02:48:15 PM »
I just looked up the Chilipad, that looks interesting but it is pricey...anybody try this. 

AJ

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #8 on: May 29, 2012, 03:29:12 PM »
Our weekly homemade pizza is going to be tough, but we'll work incrementally.

We have some friends that built a pizza oven in their backyard. It is pretty bad ass looking! It was a lot of work, but it is a pretty cool centerpiece for hosting BBQs.

velocistar237

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #9 on: May 29, 2012, 06:21:51 PM »
As I understand it, older houses can handle humidity, but newer houses can't. If you have a newer house, focus on making it energy efficient. You'll need some sort of dehumidification no matter what.

Relative humidity should be kept below about 60%. Last fall, we ran into the problem of having high humidity with outside temperatures in the 50s, meaning it was too cold to run our window A/C units. The windows were wet on the inside, so we bought a dehumidifier to keep the mold at bay. In the Southeast, you can just run your A/C.

We have some friends that built a pizza oven in their backyard. It is pretty bad ass looking! It was a lot of work, but it is a pretty cool centerpiece for hosting BBQs.

I forgot that one: cook outside.

nolajo

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #10 on: May 29, 2012, 06:32:11 PM »
ChiliPad
Thermal mass.
Don't use the oven or stove much.
Bed fan.
Awnings or shutters on the sunny side
Wear damp clothing.
http://www.instructables.com/id/Stay-Cool-Without-AC/
White roof.
Shade trees.
Energy efficient appliances.
http://www.buildmyowncabin.com/geothermal/diy-geothermal.html

I'm about to set up my floor fan near my bed since it is getting toasty; our heat index hit 100 by some counts this past weekend and it's not getting below 75 at any point in the night. Damp clothes though wouldn't work through most of the Southeast as it's way too humid for that to feel pleasant. It's the same reason that a swamp cooler, despite being so much cheaper, would be worthless around here. I'm waiting to see how bad this new apartment I'm in gets during the summer, since as a renter I can't make some of the capital improvements you're suggesting. Not to mention that I'm in a converted 1890s home, so it was designed for cooling in a different fashion - namely really high ceilings that my AC seems to be trying to cool and transom windows that have long since been sealed. Being on the eastern side of the house though with the house next door casting a shadow does seem to be keeping it cooler than other places I've lived.

All I can add is to be diligent about minimizing the AC when you're not around. Later this summer I'm sure I'll have to keep it on all day, if only to keep the mildew at bay and my food from rotting on the shelves, but I try to make sure I turn it down or off altogether while I still can. Accepting that you'll be sleeping on top of the covers or under only a sheet is another tactic that a lot of people don't seem to bother with (a friend of mine just talked about switching to his summer, lighter-weight comforter and I had to give him some crap about it).

windawake

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #11 on: May 29, 2012, 08:07:26 PM »
Before I got a free air conditioner from a friend I had a couple strategies for dealing with heat at night.  Granted I live in Minnesota, but the summer in question had a fair number of 90+ degree days. My main strategy was keeping water bottles in the fridge/freezer and sleeping with them at night.  Also getting my pajamas damp before bed and having fans blowing from two angles on me.  Drinking lots of iced water helps too.

fiveoh

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #12 on: May 29, 2012, 08:48:00 PM »
I'm in Houston and one thing I will not compromise on is the A/C.  We hit 100 heat index today and it will only get worse.  Use a programable thermastat and set the a/c to turn off or go very hot when you go to work.  Also its better to run the a/c more at night since its cooler and doesnt have to work as hard.  Basically my a/c is set to 76 at night for sleeping, shortly after my wife and I leave it goes to 99 until about 30 mins before we get home, I have it set for 78 from the time we get home until right before we go to bed.  By using this schedule I noticed a 10-15%+ reduction in my electric bills vs just having it set to the same temp all the time.   

bogart

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #13 on: May 29, 2012, 09:27:08 PM »
I'd note the following ...

Available A/C (for the "masses") is a pretty recent innovation, especially central air.  That's not to say it's a bad thing and I don't think it's an accident that around the time a/c became more widely available, the population of the US SE/SW started growing (at a rate disproportionate to earlier patterns/other regions), but still.  I've lived in the middle of the SE (NOT Houston ... or Alabama ...) without a/c for significant intervals (first 13 years of my life, 2 years of high school, first year of college, 3 additional years in my 20s) and am not noticeably the worse for wear (I also don't suffer from asthma or assorted other health problems that might otherwise complicate the a/c-less life).  Where I live I'd say summer temps are typically high in the high 90s/lows in the high 70s (+99% humidity, or close) for at least 2 months of the summer, often with a 2 or more week block of 100s + lows not below 80.  So it's not brutal, but it's not pleasant.

What works ... keep some perspective (see above); shade (trees around your home); whole-house fans and/or (as air cools and overnight), turn your home into a wind tunnel if possible -- one fan blowing out one open window at one end and another fan (or 2) blowing air in at the other end; avoid anything in the house that generates heat; take cool showers; wrap a few ice cubes in a bandana and tie it around your wrist and/or neck; for the worst days, go to a mall, the library, or the movies in the worst of the heat.  Try to vacation somewhere cool during 1 or 2 weeks (or more) of the summer that will be the most brutal. 

adam

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #14 on: May 30, 2012, 07:24:50 AM »
We just spent $1600 fixing our 4 year old AC under warranty.  It took a week.  We had all the windows open and bought a few dollar store fans to get air moving through the house.  We still could barely sleep.

My wife grew up in the upstate SC with no AC, but its significantly cooler there than where we are now.  They got by with an 'attic fan' that would pull the hot air up into the attic and blow it out of the house.  I think that's how it works at least, you can definitely feel the difference when they actually turn it on, which is rare.

Since we got the AC fixed we've had it at 74, but we usually keep it at 76-78 during the really hot months.

trammatic

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #15 on: May 30, 2012, 07:33:59 AM »
Our weekly homemade pizza is going to be tough, but we'll work incrementally.

We have some friends that built a pizza oven in their backyard. It is pretty bad ass looking! It was a lot of work, but it is a pretty cool centerpiece for hosting BBQs.
You can actually cook pizza on a grill relatively easily.  Just pre-cook the dough for about 3 minutes on one side.  Then, take it out and build the pizza on the pre-cooked side (so the raw side is down).  Return the pizza for about 5 more minutes to finish the crust and melt the cheese.

trammatic

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #16 on: May 30, 2012, 07:39:15 AM »
Available A/C (for the "masses") is a pretty recent innovation, especially central air.  That's not to say it's a bad thing and I don't think it's an accident that around the time a/c became more widely available, the population of the US SE/SW started growing (at a rate disproportionate to earlier patterns/other regions), but still.  I've lived in the middle of the SE (NOT Houston ... or Alabama ...) without a/c for significant intervals (first 13 years of my life, 2 years of high school, first year of college, 3 additional years in my 20s) and am not noticeably the worse for wear (I also don't suffer from asthma or assorted other health problems that might otherwise complicate the a/c-less life).  Where I live I'd say summer temps are typically high in the high 90s/lows in the high 70s (+99% humidity, or close) for at least 2 months of the summer, often with a 2 or more week block of 100s + lows not below 80.  So it's not brutal, but it's not pleasant.
The only thing to remember with this is that recent construction expects low humidity in the house.  You can easily get mold on a 5 year old house left without AC in southeast summers.

I lived in the valley outside of Los Angeles growing up, and while it wasn't humid, it got over 100 a fair number of times per year.  The library was awesome, as was a nicely timed matinee at the movies.  One summer I got a deal where for $10/week, I could have all of the free bowling I wanted between 9 and 5 M-F.

MsD

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #17 on: May 31, 2012, 07:55:29 PM »
Water your roof. 

If you google for it, you'll find info on it. 

 


Arbor33

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #18 on: June 12, 2012, 12:42:06 PM »
... My main strategy was keeping water bottles in the fridge/freezer and sleeping with them at night.  Also getting my pajamas damp before bed...

That sounds awful! Though I shouldn't dis it until I try it... How'd it work out??

I feel like you could rig a make shift air conditioner by putting the ice bottles in front of the fan. Might not be too efficient though. Anyone ever try this?

Monkey stache

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #19 on: June 12, 2012, 04:14:25 PM »
Before I got a free air conditioner from a friend I had a couple strategies for dealing with heat at night.  Granted I live in Minnesota, but the summer in question had a fair number of 90+ degree days. My main strategy was keeping water bottles in the fridge/freezer and sleeping with them at night.  Also getting my pajamas damp before bed and having fans blowing from two angles on me.  Drinking lots of iced water helps too.

I also live in Minnesota and those recent 90 degree days were pretty brutal. Instead of sleeping with the frozen 2 liters, I'll put one in front of a fan pointed at me. As the bottle melts, the fan blows cool air on you. Don't forget to put a towel or bowl under the 2 liter to avoid water damage to your furniture. I'll keep several 2 liters in my freezer and swap them out as needed. Another benefit to this method is that if you keep your freezer full it actually uses less energy.

crunchy_mama

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #20 on: June 13, 2012, 06:21:10 AM »
We live in the Midwest here(highs up to 100+ and humidity in upper 90+ as well).  We can handle it getting up to the 90s pretty easy, IF the temp at night is cool enough AND the humidity is not too high.  As I believe pp mentioned we open the windows at night and put in box fans to bring in the cooler temps, during the day we close the windows and shade to block as much sun as we can.  We have box fans and ceiling fans in each of the 3 bedrooms and recently added 2 box fans the great room on the opposite side of the house.  We just have the super cheap variety and they work well.  We considered an attic fan but with our insulation it would be counterproductive to the design.

Thanks to pp for linking about bringing up the air from the basement, dh and I have been contemplating how to do this effectively.  He is looking at doing a modified approach to the one shown, to best utilize our layout.  I've been trying to use the crockpot more to cook and put it in the basement.

Also, I agree that ac is a relatively no phenomenon, however, as stated by someone else new houses aren't well designed for this purpose.  Our location and design is the absolute worst for surviving without ac.  As I mentioned elsewhere our house sits on "hell hill" there is no shade, whatsoever and even fast growing trees take a while to help.  We are also situated at the exact opposite orientation for optimal passive use of solar in the winter.  My mom has an insane amount of shade and her house is generally 10 degrees cooler than mine, it is a lot easier to survive without ac when you have shade.

So, we have to do the best with what we have.  We have insulated as we can.  We hoped to have the basement finished enough to move our bedrooms there when it was the hottest, but it is not looking like that will happen this year but next.  I'd like to install retractable awning over our windows when we have funds.  When we have to replace our roof we are looking at going with something more reflective.  We need more options for cooking outside, as our grill has died, I'd love a fire pit and homemade smoker.  For now we are doing things that are super cheap or free as that is the only thing in the budget.

 When we do turn on the air we will keep our daytime temp at 82/80 during the day and 77-80 during the night.  So far this year we've only had it on 3 days I believe.  It has been steadily 80+ most every day and other days 90+.  We won't turn it on again until it stays 83-84+ for a few days.  Right now the house is only 60-65, as last night/this am it got down to about 60.  I'm actually a bit cold but we're trying to cool it as much as possible in anticipation of a heat front coming through this weekend.  the more we cool it now, hopefully buys us a little more time before having to turn it on, and maybe if we are lucky we'll make it through this heat front as well.
« Last Edit: June 13, 2012, 06:29:59 AM by crunchy_mama »

happy

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #21 on: June 13, 2012, 07:29:50 AM »
Hmmm, I lived all my life in Australian summers without aircon until last year. We are right on the coast so humidity is high. OK so the odd day its 110F,  you really need it. Over 95, well its pleasant to have.  Below that,  turn it off, don't be a complainypants!  I really think like Jacob from ERE, you acclimatise, living in aircon continuously makes you feel the heat more.  Exceptions are the frail elderly who can die in the heat.

sideways8

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #22 on: June 13, 2012, 08:17:20 AM »
Bikini + cover-up dress around the house, "mist" setting on the hose = my version of AC :)

I MIGHT turn on the AC if it gets really bad during the day and is effecting my sweet, drooly, old mastiff since her health and happiness are more important to me.

skyrefuge

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #23 on: June 13, 2012, 09:01:05 AM »
Bikini + cover-up dress around the house

ha, as I was reading this thread, I was thinking how for most of the summer, when I'm inside my house, I wear nothing but a pair of shorts (no shirt, no socks, seems like minor stuff but it makes a pretty big difference).  Living alone and being a guy, I figure if someone peeking in my window sees me walking around, it's not too strange, but that made me think that women aren't lucky enough to have quite the same option.  But your solution sounds pretty close!

I turned on my A/C for the first time in like four years last summer, only to find that it wasn't really working that well.  Oh well!  For much of the summer, opening the windows at night and buttoning it up during the day is sufficient (weekends are the only time I'm home during the day), and then a bedroom ceiling fan takes care of those muggy nights and a box fan pointed wherever I'm sitting helps a lot during the day.  I'm lucky enough to have good shade trees and good insulation, so that helps a lot too.

fiveoh

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #24 on: June 13, 2012, 09:20:10 AM »
I just got a "tips" sheet from my power company.  It listed creating shade for your A/C unit(plant trees/bushes) as saving 10% on A/C costs.  Anyone know if there is any truth to that statement?

crunchy_mama

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #25 on: June 13, 2012, 09:24:42 AM »
My parents never hardly used ac growing up.  I remember fondly, or not so fondly, sitting around in a bikini when it was super hot.  I was pretty disgruntled about that as they were gone all day while we were home suffering.  They aren't so militant now though.

sideways8

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #26 on: June 13, 2012, 09:42:28 AM »
Bikini + cover-up dress around the house

ha, as I was reading this thread, I was thinking how for most of the summer, when I'm inside my house, I wear nothing but a pair of shorts (no shirt, no socks, seems like minor stuff but it makes a pretty big difference).  Living alone and being a guy, I figure if someone peeking in my window sees me walking around, it's not too strange, but that made me think that women aren't lucky enough to have quite the same option.  But your solution sounds pretty close!

I turned on my A/C for the first time in like four years last summer, only to find that it wasn't really working that well.  Oh well!  For much of the summer, opening the windows at night and buttoning it up during the day is sufficient (weekends are the only time I'm home during the day), and then a bedroom ceiling fan takes care of those muggy nights and a box fan pointed wherever I'm sitting helps a lot during the day.  I'm lucky enough to have good shade trees and good insulation, so that helps a lot too.

I figure if anyone is peeping I'll just send them a bill! No free shows! :P Could be a good side hustle if I get off my butt and tone up a bit hahahaha!

Chris

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #27 on: June 13, 2012, 11:16:01 AM »
I just got a "tips" sheet from my power company.  It listed creating shade for your A/C unit(plant trees/bushes) as saving 10% on A/C costs.  Anyone know if there is any truth to that statement?

That's what Michael Bluejay says, and he's a pretty reliable source.  But note: "up to 10%".

Lavender

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #28 on: June 13, 2012, 12:36:21 PM »
Wow, some of this sounds pretty hardcore. We are wimpy in comparison - we live in Houston TX, and we use the AC June through September, set at 80-82 in the day and 77-78 in the night, mostly to combat the 100% humidity. But the AC is usually turned off the rest of the year, and we use the heat only a couple days each year.

Secret Stache

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #29 on: June 13, 2012, 01:58:10 PM »
Yeah I feel pretty wimpy reading these.  I too am in Houston and run my A/C 9-10 months out of the year.  I leave it on during the day for my dogs (english bulldogs) since they can overheat if left in 80-85 degree weather.

Kriegsspiel

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #30 on: June 13, 2012, 05:31:06 PM »
I'm just glad you all threw out these ideas.  I grew up with air conditioning in WV and OH, and I spent the last 4 years air conditioner-less in beautiful Germany (I had air conditioning in Afghanistan ;) ), but I had no clue how to deal with it now that I'mback in the midwest and air conditioner-less.

So thanks.

dancedancekj

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Re: Cooling strategies in the south
« Reply #31 on: June 13, 2012, 08:46:21 PM »
In the Midwest which also experiences relatively high humidity and a couple week span of 100+ degree weather. I'll also recommend the semi-naked solution. When I get home from work I'm shedding clothing as fast as I can so I can get down to my skivvies. I also live by myself, but the view isn't that bad :).
I have patio chairs that I use for seating in the summer. They're basically a fabric mesh stretched over a frame - much cooler and breathable compared to a dense couch cushion or a leather seated chair. I keep a fan centered on me at all times, just having the air blow over me seems to help.
I try to grocery shop at night or early morning if at all possible to beat the heat.
I try to eat mostly simple, cold foods during the summer. Salads, marinated vegetables, lightly steamed or stir fry dishes, cold soups and drinks, sometimes just fruit and cheese and nuts and veggies sliced up and eaten. I avoid using the oven at all costs, try to avoid using the cook range if at all possible. If I do have to cook or bake something, I'll try to do it at night.
I try to do most of my yardwork either late at night or early in the morning. The east facing side of the house receives some shade starting around 5:00 PM, while the west facing side of the house has some shade up until 11:00 AM, so I'll try to hide from the sun by alternating which sides I work on.
Overall, I kind of just try to keep it easy and not move so much during the summer. I know that sounds rather un-Mustachian, but since I can hustle and bustle at work or when I'm out in a public place (library, grocery store etc.) that is air conditioned, I can kind of slack off at home and keep things moving at a slower pace.
I have a finished basement, and I plan on moving down there for the month of July, possible August and a bit of September if it gets too hot on the main floor.