As I type this at 9:56 p.m., it’s 95 F/35 C outside. Temps topped 100 F today and there’s no letting up until Sunday. France is in the middle of a heatwave, or une canicule, and sweet Jesus is it hot. I’ve told you before that winter is my favorite season and summer is my least favorite. I melt in the heat, sweat easily, and just hate being hot or sweating unless I’m working out. During the summer in France, I’ve been hot since 2012. You see, air conditioning in French homes is far from the norm and this year is different. 2019 is the year where I finally bought myself a portable air conditioning unit and it’s the best money I’ve spent all year. Why didn’t I do this 7 years ago???
Air conditioning in France
First, a reader wrote a hilarious guest post several years back on air conditioning in France and why the French are afraid of it, so if you haven’t read it, have a look. But jokes aside, temperatures upward of 100 F are uncomfortable, dangerous, and not bearable if your name is Diane. I can’t stand getting out of the shower and trying to put on makeup and nice clothes for work when I’m literally sticky with sweat.
Each year, I’d just suck it up and like clock work, the insufferable heat each summer reminded me why not having a/c was a bad idea. Do like the French, I’d tell myself, and open the shutters in the morning to get the cool air in and then close out the heat and light to trap the cool air indoors. If the French can get by just fine, I can too.
Except 2 things happened: I reached my breaking point and also realized the French actually like air conditioning and are buying portable air conditioners, too. I got sick of the volet dance and snapped myself back to reality. There’s an easier way that fixes everything with the touch of a button.
And yes, I realize air conditioning isn’t the most environmentally friendly option, but if we try to make responsible choices both with the AC (don’t leave it on when we aren’t home, don’t put the temperature too low, buy an economical unit, etc.) and in other areas of our life, I think it’s more than OK to invest in an air conditioner if it’s going to make you a better, less cranky version of yourself.
So what was my resistance to buying an air conditioner all about? The truth was that I didn’t want to spend the money. Air conditioners aren’t THAT expensive, though. For 300 euros, you can get a nice unit that cools a normal size bedroom. I guess I figured the money could be better spent. How hot could it get? Couldn’t I manage during one little heat wave? NO. No, I cannot manage in 103 F heat.
The day before my parents left last week, I did what I should have done 7 summers ago. I bought myself a portable air conditioner that we’ve set up in the bedroom.
Here’s my beauty in action:
Not only do we sleep well, but there’s another plus. With the window kit that seals off your window around the exhaust hose, there are no mosquitoes (remember, no window screens in France). The pesky insects are my archenemy, so nothing makes me happier than to head upstairs to my cool summer retreat — mosquito free.
Even Dagny marvels at this newfound contraption. She curls up right next to it.
Why isn’t there widespread air conditioning in France?
The lack of air conditioning in France and other parts of Europe can catch visitors by surprise. It’s not as common as it is in the USA, and if buildings do have air conditioning, the temperature will be comfortable and not icy cold.
There are several reasons explaining why air conditioning isn’t as common in France and I’ll briefly run through a few of them.
One is because French homes are built a little differently than homes in the USA. Many French homes are built of cement or stone making them well insulated against the heat of summer. But even still, thick walls aren’t a match for a heatwave! Thick walls or not, sometimes it’s a legal matter. In some historical buildings, there are restrictions in place that prevent the modifications necessary to install air conditioning.
Also, windows are a bit different, making window a/c units a challenge. Instead, portable air conditioners in France are the simplest option and usually have wheels to move it to a different room and an exhaust hose that you vent out the window or door. It’s not dangerous to use it without the hose, but the warm exhaust air will stay in the room you’re trying to cool down, thus making the air conditioner less effective. It’s not a super attractive addition to your decor but neither is sweating through your clothes at rest, so….
Another big reason is because many homes (especially older ones) don’t have central cooling/heating systems with duct work like many homes in other areas of the world. Also, air conditioning is expensive! Installing a permanent unit, not to mention the electricity costs, can get pricey.
So what’s a heat-hater to do? Well, there are 2 options. Suck it up or get some air conditioning in France. I finally made the right choice and it sure took long enough. No clue what I’d been thinking the past 7 years. I think the heat was messing with my head!
Anyway, happy Friday, tout le monde. Hope you’re staying cool! Over and out from my cool bedroom…