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!
31 thoughts on “The 3 Real Purposes of a Fan in Jamaica”
I must say you got some giggles out of me with this post. I agree with the need of the fan for mosquitoes, for sure. The noise? I’m a deep sleeper. I’m like dead once I fall asleep.
A deep sleeper! I’m the total opposite. I wake at the slightest change in conditions from what it was when I fell asleep.
I’m paranoid about darwing my mosquito net in motorhome, but also have a battery operated tennis racket for annoying flying insects: it works a treat!
After staying in a few tropical places I don’t know how people sleep without air conditioning haha, especially since opening the windows exposes people to mosquitoes. I noticed in Samoa many people had mosquito mesh on their windows, so they could still open them at night. I suppose that helps.
As for fans, I can certainly see how they help one to sleep. The noise is relaxing, and isn’t the same like what you’d get from a heat pump. Apparently a neat trick to cooling the room down is to have the fan facing an open window, that way you’re blowing warm air outside the room.
I can’t sleep with the AC on. It makes me sick 🤧 And yes, the mesh keeps all bugs out. Although, if you open the door, so much for that!
I grew up near a major highway and was used to that constant hum. Now I use a fan all year long for the same effect. A neighbor taught us that mosquito trick when sitting outside.
That mosquito trick has probably saved many lives 😂 Glad to hear you’re not one of the crazy people who can’t stand the hum of the fan.
We even take a sound machine with us on trips in case the hotel room doesn’t have a fan.
Really interesting post Alexis. I totally get the singing in the ear. It’s when that stops that you have a problem. It usually means it’s landed and is biting!
Those bites are so annoyingly itchy too! Where I lived, it wasn’t much of a problem, but every so often one would get inside and drive me insane. I find that having a cat helps to keep them out because as small as they are, the cat tries to catch them.
roflmao..”.lasko fan sound setting”!!!!!
what is even funnier to me reading this as i have my lasko fan on right now! lol
i have fans in all my rooms of my home and i also have central air. not only do i have lasko fans, but the bed, living and family rooms have ceiling fans. during the summer, the fans are on 24/7.
Haha, my timeline cracked up over that on Twitter as well 😂. I discovered the brand in college and never left it. My two space heaters and the standing fan are Lasko.
I have a ceiling fan in the living area and in the bedroom. I use dehumidifiers too, but I guess that’s kind of pointless in the desert 😅
It’s been hot and very humid here the last couple of weeks. It feels like the East coast but generally we do not have humidity. This time of year the desert east of me may get thunderstorms rolling from Arizona as this is “monsoon”
Interesting! Sounds like my dehumidifier is coming with me just in case! I would be further east than you. Would that include me?
If you plan on being out in the Joshua tree area yes that’s where the thunderstorms happen. Weather it says humid out there as it is where I live I do not know. Usually it’s very dry heat here. Probably better to bring your humidifier and not use it and have to go out and buy one.
Ooooo! I LOVE thunderstorms! Do people get struck by lightning often out there though? God seems to like striking people in Georgia.
i have not heard or read any reports of any people being hit by lightening in my area. im sure if it happened it would be in the news. im not surprised that people in georgia are hit by lightening. 😉 lol
if it rains in the desert, there are big chances of flash flooding.
Yes, I’ve been warned about the flash flooding by my friend in Vegas. I was surprised to learn the water didn’t just keep soaking through. Is there any way to prepare for that when building?
Haha, Californians must be less troublesome. We have at least three lightning strikes every summer here, not to mention the other seasons. People get struck while walking under trees, ringing doorbells and even closing garage doors. It could also be the trees and we do have more thunderstorms than desert Cali.
To prepare? Don’t build in dry River beds or in low areas. Lol
Ask before you buy, and check with neighbors. Drive around and look for any flooding evidence. Look at the roads.
And God just doesn’t like people from Georgia. Lol
i wonder what happened to my reply i wrote hours ago? hmmmm…i dont remember what i said. oh well. lol
Weather time. And anything above double digits humidity is bad for us.
I’m a firm believer that AC should not exist north of DC. Smart use of when windows are open and fans will take care of it. That said, I hate fan noise. I sometimes get headaches and have a hard time sleeping. I have to sit outside to “detox” from the fan noise. When home alone, I don’t turn on the fan until it is at least 90 F and 90% humidity inside of the house….
I don’t have central air in my part of the house in Atlanta. I have a window unit, and I think I’ve turned it on three times all summer. I mostly rely on a dehumidifier and two ceiling fans. I turn the standing fan on for bed.
Sucks that it makes your headache worse!
I remember I couldn’t even sleep without that rhythmic background noise of fan in my childhood..now I could see my little one adamant to fan for the same reason…
Haha, it is the most soothing sound ever. I have no idea why so many people hate it.
Yup…maybe for them it’s just the noise, not that rhythm which we enjoy..
Interesting post… Alexis
I am from India. We do use fans for this purposes. Also we need AC in all season except winter.
Do most Indian homes have AC units installed?
Yes… All middle class families have.
Definitely not the case in Jamaica. A lot of middle and upper class families do, but I wouldn’t say all or even most.