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!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Surviving summer in Hades

I am in absolutely no position to dispense advice on how to keep cool during the summer. While most of the U.S. is experiencing insufferably hot temperatures, I've been wearing a sweater and a coat.

Not to complain or anything, but this temperature inversion has caused us here in Seattle to have an extra cool summer. In fact, the statistic running around is that we've experienced only 78 minutes of temperatures above 80 degrees so far this summer.

I couldn't imagine how miserable 100+ temperatures must be so I'm not going to lecture anyone on air conditioner usage. Because when I'm hot and uncomfortable, my brains tend to go squishy and I couldn't give a rip about energy usage and CO2 emissions. I feel really claustrophobic when I'm hot and tend to get panicky.

Anyway, in order to help out just a tad, here are my hints and tips for keeping cool this summer while either forgoing air-conditioning (ha, ha, ha!) 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?


FernWise said...

I'm sleeping in the basement. With a fan.

You sure are rocking Twitter lately!

Lee Borden said...

We're getting along just fine in central Alabama without air conditioning. I could talk about how carefully we've designed our little home in the pole barn to reject the sun's heat in the summer, but to be honest, the main thing we do is get used to it. Many of us who think "I could never survive without air conditioning" would be fine too after a season. Promise.

Sharon Sarles said...

Hi! Good thoughts. Also we can imagine we are in Seattle.

Here in Texas, this is nothing new - just earlier and more prolonged than we would like. Here is my tip: Don't get wild. Met a woman in the park last weekend who typified the "get scared and jump on any wild idea no matter how silly." Stay calm. Go soak your head. (Yes, a cool shower in the afternoon.) But really, it is going to be okay.

I put my AC on 80-85, and knowing it costs more in the afternoon, it is a great time to take a nap then, too.

Hand held fans are especially great.

Of course, do outside work as early as possible.

Enjoy -- and be sure to be hydrated. It has always been thus -- that is why water is free in Texas. Yes you can find bottled water to pay for, but all public buildings have free water available -- by law.

And be doubly sure that small children and older people have enough hydration. Pop, tea, coffee and orange juice do not count.

Stay cool! Don't be a fool! ;)

Prairiemom said...

We have had 115 heat index for the past week. For us in south Dakota, that is pretty dang hot. No breeze, high high humidity. We made it until mid July before turning on the AC. I usually just close out the sun, and open the windows to the breeze. It gets hot in the late evenings, but cools in the night. I can't stand it warmer than about 82 in the house tho.

Debbie M said...

Shade, shade, shade. Use those windshield shades on your car to minimize the greenhouse effect (or wear gloves when fastening your seatbelt or steering the car). Wear a hat when you're out to keep your brain from frying.

Wear shorts and bare feet or sandals when possible and put up your hair if it's long. I wish there were tux shorts for men, but the only halfway cool way for them to get formal is a kilt, and then the top half of them is still covered with too many layers. So go casual when possible.

For a quick cooling off, say after you get home but before the AC has cooled the place down, rub your exposed skin with a wet wash cloth and lie under a ceiling fan or get in front of the AC vent.

Another long-term idea is concrete or stone tile floors. Pull up your little rugs and walk on those floors in your bare feet.

(Where I am, it often doesn't get BELOW 80 at night. Sometimes even a strong breeze just feels like hot bus exhaust.)

Let me reiterate to drink plenty of water. If you don't like water, make sure it's nice and cold and think of using carbonated water and/or adding a squeeze of citrus. Suck on ice cubes if you have to. Iced herb tea is okay, too, at least if you can train yourself to drink it without sugar.

Anonymous said...

Here in Japan, energy saving is the big thing right now, what with one nuclear plant having melted down and others out of action for safety checks.
It might be too late for this this year, but an idea for next

I can also attest to typhoons having a major cooling effect, but downsides like son's kindy being closed.


Adrienne said...

You'll pry my central air from my not-so-cold dead hands. I keep it as warm as I can stand (warmer when I'm not at home), use fans, keep the blinds closed, etc. but I'm just not willing to be sweaty and gross all the time. It's utterly miserable.

I'm much better at being cold in the winter than hot in the summer.

amy said...

Also, for those of us who are stuck with central heat and air for now, try closing the vents in the rooms you are not using. This will allow more of the cooled air to get where you are. Also you can buy, for just a few just a few bucks, magnetic vents covers. We use those in our basement. For some reason it has vents, but it's not finished so the only thing we use it for is storage and laundry.

Olivia said...

Well, we on Canada's Atlantic Coast are also having an unusually cool and wet summer. As I can stand temperatures a lot warmer than cooler, I am not too pleased about this. I have gone to the beach exactly twice - both times on the same day and only because my daughter was visiting.

I wuld LOVE some heat. . . .

Miser Mom said...

We have no air conditioning, partly because the house just didn't come with it, and partly now by choice. We've managed to make this quite live-able by reading a bunch of 1970's books on passive solar heating -- ironically, what I learned from those books was how to use passive solar cooling. The highs in the area that I live are up to about 100 degrees, but our home is still only 80.

Cover those windows -- tightly! -- during the day. We use heavy quilted curtains and styrofoam "pop-ins" to keep the sun out. Use the cooler evening air to cool off the home.

Kristina said...

We don't have AC and we have decided to invest in retractable awnings for all the windows in our house and a screen door for the front to get a nice cross-wind in the house. We live in a new suburb and therefore have no trees for shade. This is the next best thing. Honestly, I don't know how we survived the heat before these additions.

knittingdragonflies said...

Thanks for the tips! Love reading your blog!
STay cool!!

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Great tips, love the humorous take on it. I would have to say that insulating curtains definitely help. We have been 10 degrees above normal since the first part of June. I would add ceiling fans to the mix. A ceiling fan adds a breeze that makes the room feel 5 degrees cooler, and yes you do get used to the heat gradually. We started with our a/c set at 80 and gradually work it up to 85 during the day when it the central a/c kicks in. Trying to stay cool in Oklahoma

April Alexander said...

I was in Thailand a few summers ago where it is over 100 degrees mostly with 80% humidity. I would shower before bed, then get my sheets wet. Not just damp, wet. Then if I didn't go to sleep before my sheets dried, which was generally about 5-10 minutes I would spritz myself and my sheets with my spray bottle. If I didn't do all of the above I couldn't sleep.

Adrian, Fashion & Earth said...

Great ideas here. I'd like to add a couple ideas of my own.

Something I've wanted to try which could work if you have a basement is to run two vents between upstairs and downstairs. Place a fan on each vent, one to push cool air from the basement up and another to push warm air from upstairs into the basement.

If I might also make an unabashed and "crunchy" self plug - viscose bamboo sheets are great for keeping you cool on hot nights while viscose bamboo clothes are great for keeping you cool on hot days. This material has an uncanny way of wicking sweat away and cooling you down - try it!

Wendy said...

We fill a spray bottle with water and add a few drops of peppermint oil. Peppermint is cooling, and there's this very satisfying cold sensation a few seconds after the water hits you.

Admittedly, here in Maine, heat isn't our biggest problem, but when it does get hot, it can be a real problem for people who aren't accustomed to mercury levels above the 80° mark. We don't have AC, and for those four days when the temperatures are really hot (!), in an attempt to keep the house cooler, we do things like closing windows and blinds or curtains on the sunny side of the house, staying in the shade, and keeping hydrated.

My daughters' favorite way to stay cool though, is to go down into the brook and smear mud on their legs and arms, which also works to keep the mosquitoes off of them ;).