Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Keepin' it cool

Keep Yer Cool ChallengeWell, this weekend really tested my techniques for staying cool without air-conditioning. We had highs of 91 both Saturday and Sunday and just about broke some records here in Seattle.

I realize this is pretty tame stuff as far as temperatures go, but we generally don't see these sorts of temps until August. Through June and most of July it's normally just gray and 60s. It will hit mid-70s if you're lucky.*

So, not only am I truly testing my new-found magic deodorant (I'm still fresh as a daisy by the way!), but I'm testing all my non-air-conditioning techniques as well.

Here are my hints and tips for keeping cool this summer while either forgoing air-conditioning or pushing up the thermostat a little at a time.

Home Cooling Tips
  • Open windows at night and/or in the early morning and shut them once the outside temperature rises above the inside temps
  • Close the drapes or blinds on the side of the house where the sun in shining in. So that means the East side of the house in the morning and the West side in the afternoon and evening. Consider purchasing insulated window curtains (these will also help hold heat in during the winter) or install inexpensive heat-reflecting film on windows that face the sun
  • Turn off lights, electronics or appliances that you aren't using and generate heat
  • Fans, fans, fans
  • Put in a window fan and blow the air out of the room while keeping the doors to the room open
  • Recreate your own air-conditioner by blowing a fan across a bowl of ice. This will simulate the same sort of cool air but without the energy involved
  • Longer term home solutions include better attic/roof venting, getting a lighter colored roof or planting shade trees

    Keeping Cool
    The old ice block chair
  • Drink ice water (or sit on a huge block of ice)
  • Stay hydrated and avoid caffeine, alcohol and heavy, high-fat meals. All of these will increase your internal body temperature
  • Stay in the shade and out of direct sunlight
  • Wear loose-fitting, light-colored and lightweight clothes
  • Do like they do in the tropics and eat spicy food. This stimulates sweat and, therefore, will cool you off
  • Soak your feet in cool water or even throw in a few ice cubes
  • Soak a rag or tea towel in ice water and wrap around your neck
  • Sit outside in the evening to enjoy the cooling temperatures

    Sleeping in Comfort
  • Take a cool (not cold) shower before bed. Why cool and not cold? Well, if you lower your body temperature too much you'll exert extra energy (aka heat) trying to warm up
  • Soak a t-shirt in ice water and wear to bed or wet your hair before bed
  • Dig out that rice bag you made last winter and put it in the freezer for a couple of hours before bed
  • Use linen sheets as they stay cooler than other fabrics
  • Put your pillowcase (or sheets!) in the freezer a few hours before bed
  • Sleep downstairs or outside if you can

    For more ideas, check out this little how-to video on How To Survive Without Air-Conditioning.

    If you really must use air-conditioning, or something like an evaporative cooler won't work for you, try to avoid central air-conditioning as you're spending a ton of money to heat up the whole house when in fact you probably only need to cool down a few rooms at best. Window air-conditioners are one way of getting around this problem as you can set them up in the most heavily used portions of the house and assist with fans if need be.

    What are your favorite methods of keeping cool when the temperature rises? Which ones did I miss?

    Note: I'm fully aware that I'm probably the worst person to give advice on keeping cool since I don't exactly live in an area that experiences heat like others. But I did spend many summers in Brooklyn with no air-conditioning and that certainly left a resounding impression on me. So, I commiserate with your pain.

    Robj98168 said...

    you can also make a homebrew a/c using a fan, a pump and some copper tubing.I made a 12volt version for my un-a/c cars, an ice chest a bilge pump and a 12 volt fsn. Really it works!

    stace said...

    i feel your pain w/o the ac....we live in italy now and they do not have ac in houses here.....we have been in the 90's since may.....we try to beat the heat in the basement playing games and watching movies, or we will go to the beach for a swim......we often eat late meals that are grilled and enjoy them on the back deck after the sun begins to set.....oh, by the way....the fan over ice trick really works....

    Riana Lagarde said...

    its been 100 everyday now for awhile. we are doing lots of swimming in the sea and we are making a "summer kitchen" outside with the bbq and a camp stove to keep the cooking heat outside. wash cloths in an ice bucket by the side of the bed and frozen bottles of water under the crib with a fan for the baby.

    we turned on the AC that day you posted the pledge and we all got SICK! with summer colds, i am sure it was the AC so we are more motivated than ever to keep the aircon off.

    Ace said...

    Quite a lot of tips to keep cool without a/c during summer! As I live in Kathmandu, Nepal, the summer here is not so hot, so don't need a/c at all similarly, in winter the temperature never goes down freezing point, so don't need even heating system except the warm clothes.

    Ace S.
    "Social Media Marketing - 1096211438.5341"

    Anonymous said...

    It's been in the high 90s each day since I began this pledge and I thought I was doing okay with it.

    Yesterday, however, I noticed that the house was starting to look a bit wrecked. I realized that part of my strategy for dealing with the heat was to not move around much or to vacate the house.

    I admit yesterday I caved and cranked up the a/c a bit so that I could get myself to move around and do things that needed to be done.

    I've been cooking outside. And I seem actually to be doing better about sleeping without the a/c. But I would appreciate tips from those with more experience on how to keep up with necessary inside activities that are...well, active.

    knutty knitter said...

    Can I have some of your heat? We had a -5 centigrade frost this morning and I had to scrape the ice off the car cause we forgot the cover.

    It's 12 degrees centigrade inside at present...I think that's about 61 F. I'm running a small one bar heater and its fine since we improved the insulation. Its cold everywhere else in the house but the kids all have extra blankets and covers, warm pjs, slippers etc.

    viv in nz

    Anonymous said...

    NYC summers are a total battle between energy waste and water waste. Either inside with AC or let the kids run the sprinklers outside and take a few extra cold showers a day. (Fans and toddler hands not a great combo.)

    Unknown said...

    Oh yeah - is it getting hot?!!! I did try the trick of recreating my own air-conditioner by blowing a fan across a bowl of ice. It usually works like a charm.

    Greenpa said...

    Stace hit my comment- get down into the basement/cellar! Assuming, of course, you have one. The cellar can be a perfectly comfy place to live/work/sleep- if you take the time to make it that way.

    (oh, and 12°C is 54°F- hope you've got another sweater handy)

    maryann said...

    I have thermal drapes on the too biggest window and slider and blinds on all the rest. During the day the windows on the south side of the house stay closed and the blinds shut. We also have ceiling fans in all the rooms that we keep running. At night we'll open all the window and skylights.

    We did hit around 95-96 and high humidity this weekend though, by Sunday afternoon I'd had enough and turned the central on at 78. It was still warm but at least tolerable. I hate running it but I was overtired, hot and miserable so I gave in and turned it on.

    Cave-Woman said...

    Two words: Mississippi. July.

    On the upside, ceiling fans are GREAT.

    Lynnet said...

    We have two skylights in the room next to the kitchen. They had to be replaced, so we got replacements that open. We keep them open an inch or two all the time; it exhausts hot air from the top of the rooms, allowing cool air from the basement to enter.

    We can get shades for them, but haven't really felt the need.

    We open windows at night (cool nights in Colorado usually), and put a box fan in front of a window, blowing in. Then close everything up in the morning. On hot days I watch the indoor-outdoor thermometer, and as soon as they get equal, I run to open the windows.

    The other thing I did was replace our old 23-ft side-by-side frig with a new Vestfrost, 11-ft, highly efficient. We save $20/mo on electricity, and the kitchen stays 2-3 degrees cooler. And we have all CFL bulbs in everything. Every little bit helps.

    EJ said...

    I do all of your house cooling tips plus:
    cook outside
    bamboo blinds for south facing porch

    Anonymous said...

    We had 100 yesterday and it's gonna be 102 Idaho....ugh! I waited until the last possible moment to turn the A/C on. Then it was only on for about 4 hours. We do all those things you listed. I currently have all the doors and windows open!

    Chile said...

    Additional tips from a desert dweller. Many really only work well in a dry climate as they involve moisture and evaporation.

    Personal mister for outdoor activities. Example

    Get hair wet and sit under a ceiling fan.

    When biking in heat, pour entire water bottle over head and body. Repeat in 5 minutes when you are bone dry.

    Bandana for neck filled with polymer crystals. Stay cool longer and far less messy than wet or ice-filled bandana.

    Cut hair short or learn to love hair clips and ponytails.

    Wear clothes that breathe. I've heard hemp linen breathes better than cotton.

    Cook outside, cook fast (pressure cooker), or eat cold food. If you cook inside, set hot pans outside to cool instead of radiating heat into kitchen.

    Dry clothes inside on racks with fan blowing through them.

    Take shoes and socks off when inside.

    Even with these suggestions, though, we run our evaporative cooler much of the summer to retain our sanity. I've tried the ice/fan trick and it really doesn't work to cool a room. If you sit right in front of the set-up, it's okay but somewhat annoying having the air blow right on you. Better than dying of heat but not necessarily practical.

    The Simpleton said...

    One more long-term solution that has worked wonders for me: windows with low-e film. I replaced only the windows on the west side of my house and have realized huge savings in heating and cooling.

    Drought is no joke in Hotlanta, but the upside of low humidity is that I still haven't used the A/C after a brief initial burst(about three weeks ago now).

    Green Bean said...

    So far this year we've made it without even pulling out the fans - though we do have ceiling fans in the bedrooms.

    A couple weeks ago, it was super hot. We lugged the wading pull into the shade, filled it up and sat with our feet in it all afternoon. Definitely a nice way to cool off.

    Anonymous said...

    I basically go for keeping my house cave-like. Blinds shut on whatever side the sun is on, lights off, stuff unplugged. I open the windows when the sun goes down. My house has great insulation and good airflow, and I have ceiling fans in the living room and in my bedroom. I also have shade trees on the south side of my house. This weekend was rough, 90+ north of Seattle.

    I like to take a gel first-aid icepack out of the freezer and stick my feet on it. Kind of a reverse hot water bottle. My feet are my regulators. heh.

    Peak Oil Hausfrau said...

    We slept in the basement during our 5 summers in Denver w/ no A/C. Very helpful.

    Also, use a Sun Oven to cook outside or make cold meals like bean or pasta salads. We still use A/C, but it works less if the house is kept cool by not using an oven or cooktop.

    A quick alternative to shade trees are shade VINES. The right vine or combination of vines can cover your West or South walls within one or two years. If you plant both annuals and perennials, the annuals will do most of the work the first year and the perennials will fill in on the second.

    Carla said...

    Two words: Too Hot!! I don't much care for temps above the mid-80s, & this weekend shot up to the 90s, high 90s yesterday & today. Hi-temp records breaking all over the place here (No. Idaho & E. Wash.) One more day of it.
    A good trial run for late July & August (smile).
    I put up some bamboo blinds that my daughter was not going to use along the back/south side of the house, over the windows. Kept the house closed up after the sun came around to the south. Opened windows in the evening & all night. Got out the fans. The kitties lay in front of the fans, too.
    Kept the garage door open to the outside - kept the hot air from building up in there. Won't be able to do that during the week (when I'm not there).
    Car A/C: don't use it. Park in the shade, leave windows open a bit, use one of those windshield shade things - and don't drive much!
    Going to try leaving the car out of the garage when I get home from work until the sun goes down to see if NOT putting a hot car in the garage helps to keep the house cool.
    Carla in No. ID.

    nemo said...

    Don't deceive yourselves as this is easy to do. Anything that uses ice uses energy. Not at the time of use but at the time of making the ice. Freezing water is a very energy intensive thing to do, as is heating water. Water has huge heat capacity.

    Batteries are no different from A/C. Energy is energy and the same amount is needed for the same amount of cooling. So you are better off using your factory produced and likely more efficient A/C than building your own.

    The best cooling methods are shading the house from the sun. This works best on the outside. Once the light goes through the window it will most likely end up as heat.

    The other tried and true method is to change your life-style. Sleep in the early morning, take a siesta, etc. It is what people in Spain, Southern Italy, Greece, etc used to do. That is the sensitive solution. A/C is the modern solution, so you can comply with business rules.

    Much of our infrastructure won't allow a sensible solution because people built homes in places where nobody should live. Think Southwest for example. These deserts are not (normally) inhabitable. They exist because of cheap oil. And when cheap oil goes, so will the settlements.

    Katie said...

    I swear, I'm not into stumping for cheesy products like this, but my mother swears by the Chillow (water-filled pillow thing) - she got it to manage hot flashes, with a lovely bonus of being able to beat unconscious in a single swing anyone dumb enough to challenge her to a pillow fight (it holds about 5 lbs of water).

    Mary said...

    I'm not sure what the humidity is like in Seattle, but what works really well for me here in California are these two methods:

    1) Keep a misting pump bottle around, and mist any bare skin lightly when you feel warm. The water will evaporate using the heat from your body. Whenever you skin becomes dry again, just re-mist o your skin. Essentially, this is mimicking how sweat works, but it feels much better. I found out that this is actually an army tactic used to bring down the temperature quickly of someone who is experiencing overheating or sun stroke.

    2) At night, I put my wet laundry on a laundry drying rack between my fan and my bed. The moisture from the wet clothing essentially acts like an evaporative cooler.

    Jennifer said...

    Doing well here... here's my hints.

    Sleep under a sheet instead of under a blanket.

    Don't bake anything in the oven. We just started using a breadmaker to cut down on oven use and heat. It really helps.

    Cook outside as much as possible... grilling, etc.

    Eat lots of juicy veggies and fruits.

    Stay outside as much as possible, int the shade.

    We are lucky to have 17 mature trees on our property, and a light grey roof. It really does help keep our house cool!

    mollyjade said...

    I find the hardest time is just after I've come back from walking somewhere outside. Hair goes up, shoes and socks come off, I sit by the fan, and drink a cold glass of water in a cup that's been hanging out in the freezer.

    Anonymous said...

    We go out for an evening bike ride finishing at the river, hopping in for a dip and freezing all the way home as our clothes dry. Get home open windows and turn on the whole house fan and suck in that nice cool, dry Colorado air. I don't know if I could ever live in a humid climate again. None of my friends and neighbors even own air conditioners.

    mudnessa said...

    much of the summer is handleable for me in san diego but our apartment is in bad position and all that but i am currently baking because my cat will not stay off me, its like a personal lap warmer, great in winter not so much in summer. I get that cats like heat but its in the high seventies, does she really need to be on me NOW!!!

    I am going to really try and stay cool but the bedroom is on a corner, upstairs, and the sunshines on it all day, I think I might have to spend some money on insulated blinds or whatever they are called. I have no problem staying out but it gets so hot inside and the cats would be dead if I just abandoned the hot home.

    Anonomystyc said...

    Visit the Middle East sometime and trust me, 91 will stop feeling hot. It was a steady 104 today, and that's not even close to the peak temperature for summer.
    Teenager solution to heat issues: eat ice cream. Lots of ice cream.

    Amy_the_Wombat said...

    Just found your blog, and I can't stop reading!

    Here in NC, it's HOT. Some of my methods of handling it are:

    Only cooking on the grill. Either it can be grilled, or it's salads for supper!
    Making myself acclimate to the heat! If I'm outside, in the shade, in the middle of the afternoon, it feels that much cooler when I go in with the thermostat set at 80. So, I take work outside, and do it there, keeping a big mug of ice water at my side.
    I stick my head under the faucet in the sink, and run cold water over my head and tie it up in a bandana, so it soaks and drips directly onto my scalp, not down my back. After a while, I take the bandana off, put it in the fridge, then when it's cold, I hang it around my neck. So cool!
    Amy the Wombat

    Grad Green said...

    I don't have much to add to these comments. We use the AC, but keep the use to a minimum by doing:
    -minimize oven use
    -drink lots of water, pref. iced
    -take really quick cold showers after coming in from outside
    -close the curtains after about 10 am.

    Another thing to think about is spending the day outside. It feels wrong to be hot when you're inside, but if you're outside relaxing in the shade or swimming at the pool, it doesn't seem too bad. We like to take the kids out to the children's museum or the library if it's just too hot to be outside.

    Ceiling fans are cool. Sleep under a sheet or with nothing. Wear light pjs :)

    Anonymous said...

    Well, you're lucky. Even without the AC, you see when you put it backwards it says CA. Here in Cali it gets pretty hot, about 105 some times, but what's over 100 temperatures when you have all kinds of techniques to keep it cool. You should really worry about temperature when you're working hard in the sun. A lady just died because of the high temperatures (Sacramento).

    MKD said...

    You actually have Air Conditioning in your house??? WOW!! I have yet to experience that sweetness...

    It was HOT as Heck this weekend. My poor plants were roasting...guess I should have sprinkled a little tinkle on them since I was nice and hydrated!

    Anonymous said...

    Great suggestions from everyone! We are doing some of these but the temps have been really resonable this week! We have had a couple of heat waves so I am truly enjoying this burst of cooler air - I know it won't last long though and these ideas will come in handy as the thermostat creeps up and up! I like the thought of sitting on ice cubes in my nightie with a fan blowing on me... Oh, I forgot - I am not a super model or sex goddess so this will be done in private!

    Anonymous said...

    Here in England the temperature hasn't gone above 80F for the last three years! It is nearly always cold, wet and windy in the summer now. At the moment (July 1st) it is dull with occasional glimpses of the sun, cold (59F) with a northerly breeze. In fact it's just started to rain.

    I am still using an electric blanket every night!

    The summer clothes I bought three years ago still lie unworn in their original wrappers in the drawer.

    Even the shops are selling off the bar-b-ques and garden furniture cheap in the sales! As for the fans, they are just not moving! (Pun intended!)

    Megan Coyle said...

    I know what you're going through...I've dealt with 90 degree weather with a lot of humidity and without any air conditioning, while staying in an apartment on the top floor (meaning all the heat was rising, you could feel a ten degree difference walking up the stairs to the floor), and the only way I made it through it was by taking lots and lots of cold showers.

    ChickenGal said...

    Try peppermint soap when you shower, it leaves you feeling chilly. I use Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Pure Castile Soap

    Anonymous said...

    I was glad to see ONE person point out that freezing water over and over again does use a great deal of electricity...

    How about, get used to feeling sweaty? And remember that it's perfectly natural and okay? It sounds flippant but I mean it. My body just behaves differently in summer and in winter. As a result, in summer I wash my t-shirts more often. (I also don't wear them inside if I can possibly avoid it.) And I don't eat much hot food at all during the summer, unless it's out somewhere or it can cook fast. I wonder sometimes whether people don't insist on air conditioning just because they feel uncomfortable around their own bodies. I grew up without it (yes, with plenty humidity) and hate sitting in it. In summer, I think it's okay to feel a little hot. In winter, it's okay to feel a little cold. Our bodies, if we're healthy and not very old or very young, ARE made to deal with that.

    If you love to feel the cold, then drinking iced drinks is probably effective for you. But, as CC pointed out, you body will use ENERGY warming up again. I force myself to make a pot of herbal tea, then I let it cool till it's almost down to room temperature. I drink that. It helps my body temperature get closer to that of the environment.

    Leila Abu-Saba said...

    One word: awnings.

    Sun beating on glass window= solar collector. You want retractable awnings to keep the sun off the glass. Closing drapes on the inside won't help nearly enough - the glass will still heat up and conduct that heat inside your house.

    Awnings are expensive though. How about this work-around I saw in Portland, OR last year: Bamboo shades hung on the OUTSIDE of the windows? Yes, you then have to go outside to roll them up or down. Your house will be much, much cooler if you can keep the sun off those south and west-facing windows.

    I too lived in Brooklyn (and the Lower East Side) with no a/c for many years. My solution was to stay employed - in offices with a/c natch. This took care of the heat of the day. Your other suggestions worked for me as well - I kept a bath full of water and would get in it once or twice a night, just to cool off enough to go back to sleep.

    Anonymous said...

    When it's so hot at night that I can't sleep I lay a damp towel or sheet over me. The evaporation from the fabric cools me off every time.

    Madame Coin said...

    Any suggestions for what to do for kids? My 18-month-old just won't sleep as long as he needs to in the afternoons because our apartment is HOT. It's second floor and has huge windows facing east, west, AND south.

    Did I mention I'm only in this place for a month and have no a/c and no money to cover the windows with anything more than window blinds?

    Anonymous said...

    For Emily C - This may sound strange, but try putting your toddler down for a nap in the bathroom - in the dry tub or on tile floor (cushion, of course!) The lower to the floor, the better. It might be tricky to stop the water from being played with, though. Or on the floor in a room that doesn't have the bright windows. Heat rises, cool air falls.

    naughty pony said...

    Make your basement a fun place to hang.

    Our basement is spooky cold even when it is 90 out. I think it may be haunted or something.

    Our AC is broken right now so that makes the no AC challenge a little easier.