Americans are often stunned when I tell them air conditioning in a Jamaican house is uncommon. For those of who do have AC units, we use a mini-split. While I am sure someone owns one, I have never seen a Jamaican home with an HVAC unit or central air. The obvious question then is how on Earth we keep our homes cool in the tropics.
Jamaica is known as The Land of Wood and Water, and we have a great deal of both. We also have many hills. In the hills, where my family lived, the days were warm and the nights were chilly. We rarely ran a fan during the day time, and I actually used a space heater sometimes at night.
On the flatlands in Jamaica, we have the benefit of shade from trees and breeze coming in from the Caribbean Sea. Thus, we usually throw the windows and doors open to let in fresh air. We also plant trees within a safe disance of our homes to provide shade.
Of course, many of us also rely on fans, but let’s face it. That’s not the real reason every Jamaican home has several standing fans. To share a quick snippet of where this article is headed — and so you can enjoy the input of other Jamaicans, here’s the tweet that inspired it all.
I recently bought a white noise machine because I'm a light sleeper and outside noises have seemed louder than usual lately.
I see ocean, rain, thunder etc. But…where is the Lasko fan sound setting??
Clearly this was not made with Jamaicans in mind.
Mi vex 😭
— Alexis Chateau 🇯🇲 (@alexischateau_) July 19, 2019
Now, let’s consider the real three reasons Jamaicans will own fans even if we live in Antarctica.
1. Better Sleep
On one of my routine summer visits to America as a preteen, I remember discovering that late night and early morning television was mosly infomercials on cable TV. I found it fascinating sometimes to see what the Capital of the Capitalist world was up to and wondered why on Earth anyone needed 90% of these alleged inventions.
One of them that made me question the sanity of Americans was the silent fan. Inventors said consumers never needed to worry about the loud, annoying buffering sound of the fan ever again. I thought to myself, “But really, these people are mad. Who doesn’t want to hear the sound of a fan at night?”
In Jamaica, many of us are unable to sleep without that sound. Consequently, I sleep with a fan on even in the winter time, and two, in the summer. Some Jamaicans miss this so much that when they move abroad or travel, they purchase white noise machines or use an app. I am guilty of this. My white noise machine has ten fan speed sounds!
2. Noise Control
The comforting sound of the fan serves a second purpose: noise control. Just as many people rely on white noise machines to either concentrate or sleep, fans serve the same purpose for us. Here’s a perfect example at my own home here in Atlanta.
As I’ve mentioned before, my Mom and I bought our current home together. My parents have the top two floors and the bottom level is for my tiny household. Both homes have separate entrances. Their front door opens to the driveway, while mine opens to the backyard.
The one problem with this setup is that I am inevitably the downstairs neighbour and they are stampeding overhead even on tippy-toes. I am a very light sleeper, so if you drop a pin on the carpet upstairs, I am awake. No one else who sleeps down here, or has slept down here, even notices the noise upstairs.
I always do. My white noise machine and two fans helps to drown it out. In the winter time, this is one of the main reasons I still sleep with a fan. I just point it towards a wall.
3. Pest Control
Remember how I said that in Jamaica, we cool our homes by throwing the windows and doors open? Unfortunately, when we do this, fresh air isn’t the only thing that comes in. While more homes now have protective screens ouside the windows, not all of them do.
So, what does come in? The main problem you will need to contend with in the tropics is mosquitoes. First World people are probably already cringing, but for us, this is fairly normal. We don’t usually have problems with malaria or other diseases. The main problem with mosquitoes is the constant singing in your ears at ungodly hours of the night.
We have several ways of getting rid of them. Some homes burn what we call “destroyers” but frequent long-term use is unhealthy. Another option is vapes, but it poses a similar risk. Other times, we spray the house with Baygon, lock the windows and doors, and go about our business for the day. Then, we air it out when we return.
But the master solution for immediate relief is the fan. When the fan is set to blow in your direction, the breeze disrupts the flight of the mosquitoes. This helps to keep them away from you until you can find better solutions in the morning.
For the record, not counting certain parts of Jamaica, you will probably only have one or two mosquitoes in at night. But, if you have ever heard a mosquito singing in your ear at two in the morning, you know even one is one too many.
Are you a non-Jamaican who also uses a fan for these purposes? What about Jamaicans who might have additional purposes to share? Share your thoughts below!