This has been a hot year in many parts of the country. I recently heard from a friend who was at her wits end because of the extreme heat. She cannot afford to run the air conditioner all day and was asking me if I knew of any budget ways to beat the heat. Obviously AC is the best, but if you don’t have it or can’t afford to run it constantly, there are ways to stay cool without breaking the bank.
Fans: Get as many fans as you can. Ceiling fans work great, as do box and pivoting fans. Box fans can be placed in windows where they suck in more air volume to blow around. Box fans placed at opposite ends of a hallway, or in opposing windows create a wind tunnel effect that is more cooling than a single fan. Ceiling fans mix the air in a room and keep the hot air from just pooling at the roofline and creating a warm blanket over you.
Misters: You can buy special misters, or just fill a clean squirt bottle with water. Spritz yourself with water and let it evaporate. It’s the evaporation effect that cools you. You can also buy misting fans that both squirt you and blow you dry, enhancing the cooling effect.
Soak your feet in cool water: A pan of cool water is all you need to get a little relief. Cooler feet seem to cool the whole body.
Put a cool, damp towel around your neck.
Put your underwear in the fridge: Clean underwear only, please. Pulling on a cool pair of panties feels wonderful.
Don’t open blinds or doors: You want to keep the sunlight and heat out of your house. Keep your blinds closed, don’t open doors (even if you have a storm door, keep the main door closed because glass storm doors let in heat), and don’t go in and out any more than you have to. Every time you go in and out, you let cool air out and warm air in.
Limit showers Take shorter, cooler showers to keep the heat and humidity from escaping into your house.
Don’t use the stove: Cook meals in a microwave, or eat cold dishes. The stove heats up your house. If you must use it, do so early in the morning or late at night to keep the heat gain to a minimum.
Don’t run the dishwasher: If you can hand wash dishes, great. Otherwise only run the dishwasher late at night or early in the morning. A lot of heat and humidity escapes from a dishwasher.
Go somewhere cool: Go to the library, a museum, the community pool, a bookstore, take in a $1 movie, or visit a local coffee shop that lets you hang out. If you don’t have AC, go somewhere that does.
Park the cars outside, not in the garage: When you park your car in the garage, all of the heat from the engine accumulates in the garage. Eventually some of that heat finds its way inside your house via the door or because it heats the walls that adjoin the garage. Keep your car outside to keep the heat outside.
Drink water, eat cool food: Drink a lot of water or other non-caffeinated beverages. Staying hydrated helps you stay cool. Eating cool food like chilled fruit, cold salads, cold pasta dishes, or cool sandwiches helps, too.
Buy window AC units: If you can’t afford central AC, maybe you can afford one or two window units. They don’t use nearly the electricity that central air does. Put them in the rooms you spend the most time in and then only turn them on when you’re in that room. For example, put one in your bedroom but only turn it on at night. Close your bedroom door while the AC is in use to keep the heat from escaping to the rest of the house. When you get up in the morning, turn off the unit.
The hours between about 11:00 AM and 5:00 PM are your worst enemy. This is when the sun is at its highest and the heat is at its worst. You want to do everything you can to combat the heat during those peak hours, while trying to retain whatever little bit of cool you managed to get during the night. The tips above that don’t add to the heat in your house are your best weapons in that battle. The ideas that keep you personally cool will just make you feel better.
Using these tips my friend managed to get her AC use down to just a few hours per day. She turns it on in the evening to cool the house before bed, then opens the windows and cranks up the fans at night. In the morning, she turns on the AC to generate one last bit of cool to enhance the cooling done during the night, then she shuts it off. By keeping all doors and blinds closed and some fans going, she manages to make it until about three or four o’clock before it gets really warm in the house. Then she heads out to run her errands or goes to the library until about six when things start to cool down. It’s not the ideal situation, but it is keeping her solvent until fall.