Pardon me for putting on my Grandpa voice, but back in my day the idea of air conditioning in San Francisco was something nobody ever considered. Yes, most of the houses didn’t have insulation or double/triple pane windows so they were always a bit drafty. We did have hot weather, but as soon as it was gone everyone forgot we had hot weather and started talking about how foggy it was.
Things have change though. People did these things called upgrades to their house and when we get warm weather the houses can get hot. The San Francisco mindset is that you don’t need air conditioning here and for the amount of day we get really hot weather I tend to agree, but there are some simple ways to remedy the heat when the problem comes up [like now].
If you look at the picture I’ve included I found this on YouTube and in its various forms has been called a Redneck air conditioner, Ghetto air conditioner or homemade swamp cooler. If you have a fan then the rest of the parts should cost you about $5. All you need for the simple form I have here is a 5 gallon paint bucket with a lid. You cut a hole in the top where the fan is and drill out 3 holes in the sides [I choose 2 ?” holes because that was the diameter of the PVC scrap tubing I got was. Inside you can fill it up with ice from the local store or freeze gallon milk jugs with water and put them inside. My house even with the window’s open gets up to almost 90° in hot weather and this brought the room down to just below 70° in about 15 minutes.
I’ve also attached a video that shows the full instructions if you want to pimp out this home-made AC for few more bucks. If you want to beat the occasional heat that we get this is a much cheaper and easier way of doing it and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to do it. It’s not really a swamp cooler as that entails pulling or pushing air over circulating water. San Francisco also has a few higher humidity days that makes the evaporative cooling principles not work so well. If you have a couple of jugs of water to swap out this will keep you going 24/7 for those few days of hot weather we have.
As a last note if you’ve read this far I’ve got a collection of things to write about now that I’ve taken a much needed rest so keep checking back!
Have you been enjoying our warm weather lately? I sure have. I just recently put on jeans for the first time in over 3 weeks. I’m not sure if I’ve ever worn shorts for that long in my entire life in San Francisco. It’s a sign — El Niño is coming.
I predicted this last year. Summer last year was freezing and I also don’t think I had heard more people misquoting Mark Twain talking about The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. It was cold alright, but when our San Francisco Indian Summer kicked in it became kind of magical here. The problem was that usually around late November it starts to get cold — it didn’t. It was a bit on the cool side, but nothing near what it should have been. As time went on we had more warm weather with a freak downpour in February that lasted about 15 minutes after which I was seeing steam coming off the ground in the Sunset District.
It was then I knew that I was right and El Niño would be coming. NOAA has been saying we’ll have one, but it won’t be huge. I’m predicting it will be a pretty big one. We had a big one in 1999 which means only about five people were here to experience it. Let me tell you what it was like…
Expect rain, lots of rain. It’ll be different than the usual rain in that it will be more like it’s raining in Hawaii. It will be like someone turned a firehose on San Francisco for 15-20 minutes and then it will stop. The rain will be so heavy that when it stops if you are driving that you will have to drive through a temporary river that takes another 10 minutes to flow away. It will then be sunny and warm again. The general weather will change from overcast to sunny all throughout the day with weird downpours every now and then. The weirdest part of the rain is that it’ll come from smaller clouds that won’t be blocking out the sun so you’ll get a fierce downpour combined with sun which can look like diamonds falling from the sky. In 1999 it was so bizarre that on New Years Eve I was sitting out in front of my house BBQ’ing Ostrich steaks [I had money back then].
Rain is good. California needs it badly. It will help our drought problem, but it won’t make it go away. California is one of the largest agricultural providers in the entire United States so any water we can get we’ll take. You have to keep in mind though that will lots of sudden rain there will be problems — like land slides.
If you live in Marin or on the Peninsula expect to encounter the hills flowing into your backyards. I remember reading about lots of people losing their homes last time the big El Niño hit us. If you have even a little bit of survivalist in you I’d stock up now just in case. If you’re in San Francisco expect to see the storm drains overflowing to the point that you’ll see a few manhole covers rising up from water pushing its way out. If you’re living in the eastern part of the city where you might have a lower apartment, get sandbags. You’ll be flooded. If there’s any drainage system in place make sure it works because it will be overloaded.
El Niño is a weird phenomenon that hits us about every 5 years where the water temperature in the ocean rises considerably. The warmer it gets the worse El Niño is for us. I remember in 1999 a friend of mine who was a scuba diver bought a dry suit to keep him warmer during his dives and he ended up never putting it on once that year. San Francisco will become a little more tropical for a few months so the best thing I can say is to enjoy it and hope that it’s big enough to put a dent in our drought.
Summer is here and it’s time for weird weather. San Francisco has four distinct microclimates, the fog belt [where I live], the banana belt [Mission area and everything East], Wind belt [downtown which is made possible by all the high rises funneling the air and the Marine Belt [just around the Golden Gate Bridge and extending down to the Embarcadero.
I had the chance to travel to the Potrero District [banana belt] this morning. I left the house to overcast foggy 55° weather and hopped in my car and started to drive East. Suddenly I noticed it starting to get brighter. I had to pull out my sunglasses and when I arrived out on Rhode Island street it was perfect blue skies and sunny. As I opened the door to my car I was hit by 73° according to my iPhone. That’s almost a 20° difference within a half hour’s drive.
There are even sub-microclimates, but for people who move to San Francisco they have to learn the city to understand it best. The first thing you need to learn is layers. In the Sunset District my Dad would go out in the backyard on weekends in the morning to work the garden. He’d have a tank top, t-shirt, sweatshirt and jacket on. As the day wore on the clothes would soon start to come off. Then around 3pm he’d have to start putting them all back on again.
While the Sunset has a bit of temperament about it’s weather, it’s not constantly foggy. We’re actually getting more sunny days than we used to, but I remember my brief stint living in the mission and I don’t think I owned a single long sleeved shirt unless it was for work downtown. Sure it will get overcast upon occasion in the Mission and Potrero, but you never see fog like you do in the outer Sunset and Richmond Districts. Now at least I know if I’m in need of some sun on a cold foggy day in San Francisco all I have to do is head East for a few miles.
There is a little known fact about San Francisco. We like Australia don’t get our summer in summer. June, July and August are normally in the low to mid 60’s and foggy. It’s actually rare that the sun comes out in summer on even a single day. Well thank you global warming, things have changed.
San Francisco typically has its summer wrapped around people’s normal summer. Usually May the weather warms up and the heat rises only to cool down when June comes around. Then sometime late in August we get our Indian summer which runs up to late October. When we have the El Nino weather it’s gone on to last through New Years where one year I remember barbecuing on New Year’s in 80° heat.
Ocean Beach has never been a place for the faint of heart. You usually need a very rustic bearing of Scottish sea farer to stand up to the hardships that Ocean Beach gives you. That wasn’t so yesterday and it won’t be today either. My weather app told me that we could expect up to 78° yesterday and I had the chance to meet up with an old friend out in the Bayview. When I left at noon I walked outside in steamy 90° heat that you never get in June in San Francisco. I immediately turned on the AC only to realize I was half way home before I could feel that there was cool air coming out of it.
As I got home a sweaty mess it was at least in the upper 70° out by the beach. I double check my weather app and notice that the temps are going to stay hot for the rest of the week. I’m come to notice that whatever the weather app says is pretty close to what happens. At least it looks like we’ll be seeing some proper June weather for San Francisco by the weekend when the temps should drop to the upper 60’s, but it’ll be overcast. THAT is what a summer is like in San Francisco.