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When the AC at my condo has stopped working during the summer here in Raleigh, NC, USA, I have gotten it fixed pronto even though you have to pay a heavy price for fast AC repair in the summer time and I am generally considered by most people I know to be frugal/cheap. I live in a small 2 bedroom, 2-story condo. My home is built for air conditioning, not ventilation. In the Philippines, during my last visit I spent a month in an average one story cinder block home, Mama’s House, which is built for ventilation. I went to town about every other day and spent 2 to 4 hours shopping in air-conditioned malls. The purpose of this article is to compare the advantages of what I consider a USA home which is insulated to keep cool air from an air condition in to a Filipino style home built for ventilation. The premise is the benefits and disadvantages of both in the Philippines which has an eternal summer at least in Bohol. I will compare: Comfort, Climate Acclimation, Carbon Footprint, and Cost.
I do not have some superhuman ability to handle the heat neither do Filipinos. At Mama’s House in Bohol from 11 am to 5 pm I would describe the comfort situation in her Filipino home as almost unbearable hot. It feels kind of like I imagine the inside of an oven would feel. The electric fan does little to improve the situation. During the heat of the day ventilation does not get the job done. Something magical happens when the Sun sets. The temperature of a Filipino-style home dramatically drops. The reason for this lies in the ingenious design of the homes. When I first saw the homes in the Philippines, I did not understand why the walls sometimes don’t go to the roof or why there was no ceiling. You can see the rafters and the underside of the roof. I just assumed they did not have the money to finish the house. I also thought the cinder blocks with holes designed in them were for decoration the truth is they are for ventilation. A properly designed Filipino house is comfortable at night and in the early morning. That being said the unbearable heat during the day gives a big edge to a USA air-conditioned and insulated home where the temperature can be controlled 24/7 unless there is a black-out or brown-out. Without electricity an insulated USA-style house will be like an oven both day and night. The insulation keeps hot air in just like it keeps cool air in. This is when you start camping out in the yard at night and taking hours long baths in ice cold water in a kiddie pool with an ice cold beer during the days. For Comfort the USA House wins big as long as there is electricity!
As I said in the Comfort section a Filipino-style house is unbearable during the day. This pretty much forces the people living in the home to get out in the elements at least until they can make their way to free air-conditioning.
Where is this free air-conditioning you ask? The mall, standing or sitting waiting at the bank, some offices, etc. is my answer. I met an expat on my last visit and the man has an air-conditioned house. He gets in his air-conditioned van quickly and goes to an air-conditioned mall. The air he does not get conditioned to is the air outside. The man seemed happy and if that works for him then fine. It would not work for me. I want to spend at least some time outdoors, just not the heat of the day when I can avoid it. For Climate Acclimation the Filipino-style home wins big!
A Filipino-style house uses a lot less electricity than a USA-style house. The Filipino electric fan does not suck the juice like an air-conditioner. Electricity is usually generated by burning fossil fuels that are believed to harm Mother Earth. I am not big on worrying about Global Warming, but I did think it worth mentioning that Filipino-style homes are a lot friendlier to the environment!
I don’t know for sure how much more it cost to run an air-conditioner than an electric fan, but I do know that it is a lot more especially if you are trying to keep the temperature at 72 degrees. I have noticed that some of the upper poor in the Philippines have window unit air-conditioners that look like they have not run since Nixon was POTUS. The reason is that once the air conditioner was bought and probably used for about 1 month the devastating electric bill came in and the realization that paying for the electricity was a big budget buster. I am by no means an expert on the difference that not running an air-conditioner has on the monthly bill, but I am sure it is significant. If any readers with knowledge would like to share on the comments below it would be greatly appreciated! Anyway the Filipino-style house wins big again!
By winning 3 out of 4 of my categories I declare the Filipino-style house the winner of this addition of Filipino vs USA! If comfort is most important to you and you cannot or do not want to leave the house, then maybe you want a USA -style house. You just have to be ready to pay for it and realize that your home can become a kind of prison if you cannot deal with the outside elements. That is a personal choice. If I ever make my move to the Philippines, I think I would want to have a Filipino-style home with one small well insulated room with an air-conditioner that I could retreat to when the heat of the day got too bad.
Questions of the Day:
Please feel free to answer one, both or none of the following questions of the day:
- Do you believe in-home air-conditioning is a want or need in the Philippines?
- What temperature would you set an air-conditioner at night?