Enduring extreme heat during the summer isn’t easy, especially without A.C.
But the sooner you learn to adapt to an A.C.-less heat wave, the better off for your household. Not only could you sizably reduce your power usage, it also would prepare you for cases of power outage or an all-out grid-down emergency. It’s good to be prepared.
Of course, you may be living in a scenario where you already don’t have A.C. Whatever the case, here are 12 tips:
1. Get an early start. If possible, be a morning person. If you woke up at 5 a.m., you’d have accomplished a lot by the time it gets hotter in the day. You’d do as well to prioritize the chores that involve the most heat. Whether it be working in the garden or cooking and ironing clothes inside, it’s best to be rid of those heat-generating activities by mid-morning. Of course, you could choose to do them at sundown, but you won’t have the benefits of natural light.
2. Keep windows on the warm side of the house shut. And those on the coolest side open, especially at night. Those that get direct sun during the day can be lined with solar screens or plain old aluminum foil, which reflects heat back into the atmosphere. It’s the same principle used in sun shades for windshields of parked cars.
3. Choose cotton. This goes not just for clothing but also beddings and curtains. Cotton is light and breathable unlike silk, satin, polyester and most synthetic fabrics. Use multiple layers of cotton for curtains, if you must, depending on the gravity of the heat outside. If you’d prefer blinds, consider using Roman-style shades, which are made of cotton canvas. They’re thick enough to block heat and sunlight, but permeable enough for air to pass. Wear loose, light-colored long-sleeved shirts when venturing outside, and wear a hat with a large brim. Opt for cotton gloves when working in the garden.
4. Cool down with a cold compress. The pulse points of the body are the ones that heat up most quickly. These are the neck, wrists, the insides of elbows and knees, the groin and inner thighs, the tops of your feet, the temples, and the insides of your ankles. Drape a cool washcloth over these areas when you feel the need. Keeping rolls of these baby towels in your freezer might come in handy; just grab one as needed, moisten with water, and it’s ready for use.
5. Be a fan of fans. Improve the air circulation in your home with fans and vents. There are different kinds of apparatus that you can use and install around your home to either blow away warm air or suck it out of your whole house: box fans, desk fans, stand fans, ceiling fans, window fans, whole house fans partnered with vents, and whirlybirds. When it gets hotter inside the house than out, set a box fan by the door or window facing out — so the hot air is sucked out of the room. You also can set ceiling fans to run counter-clockwise so the blades pull the hot air up and then out, instead of just swirling it around and around the room.
If you have a basement, then keep its door open and position the fan there so it pulls up the cool air from underground. Or if there’s some crawl space under your house, install floor vents to draw the cooler air from that level up into the main level.
6. Make your own evaporative cooler. Set a large bowl or pan filled with ice or ice packs in front of any fan, or place jumbo-sized sponges in it, soaked in cold water. Alternatively, you can hang a wet towel in front of the fan. There are lots of cheap, ingenious ways to make DIY coolers online, using just a regular fan and easily available materials. Choose one that suits your fancy.
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7. Shade the openings of your house. If you don’t have awnings or trees lining your house, try hanging baskets of cascading plants and flowers along the eaves and porch roof. Or mount pergolas or trellises above windows and glass doors, covered in fast-growing vines. They won’t just cool and beautify your home; they’ll also bring extra privacy and the sweet scent of summer.
8. Bring in some of your potted ornamentals, too. Plants help a room cool through transpiration, a process by which moisture is released and evaporated from the leaves, stems and flowers. This evaporation involves energy, which they get by pulling heat from the surrounding area.
9. Try to do as much of your cooking outdoors. Barbecue on the grill, bake pizza in a solar or cob oven, or bring out the crockpot and plug it in the garage. If you must cook inside, use your toaster or microwave, as these don’t heat up the kitchen as much as a regular oven would.
10. Opt for cool meals. Salads, sandwiches, lettuce wraps, cold pasta, hummus, sushi or cold, leftover meat wrapped in taco or pita. Easy, no-cook or quick-cooking lunch meals don’t have to remain noontime affairs. Have lots of juicy, refreshing fruits peeled, cut and stored in the fridge for ready snacking in between meals.
11. Sleep in the living room or any part of the house that’s roomier, more ventilated, and closer to the ground. Hot air rises, so the lower you go, the cooler it gets. This even would mean laying your mattress on the floor. Or, you may want to make your basement habitable; you never know when you’re going to be desperate enough to sleep in it! Also, consider having your porch screened so you can spend the night there, al fresco.
12. If all else fails, sleep like the Egyptians. Before bed, soak your top sheet or a thin blanket in water, wringing out the excess. Strange as it may seem, it’s a life-hack the ancient Egyptians used, and it works. Alternatively, you could wear damp socks with you to bed. Keep a spray bottle handy, too, in case you find the need to re-moisten them in the middle of the night.