Record summer heat waves have everyone thinking about how to get cool when the temperature soars. You can work with nature rather than against it. You don’t necessarily need to resort to an energy-sucking air conditioner.
My house has air conditioning, but I have used it only a couple of times since moving in 9 years ago. Both the waste of energy and the bill for that wasted energy make me hesitate. So, I have come up with strategies to stay cool naturally in the summer.
Temperatures have hovered between 95 and 105 for the past couple of weeks where I live. I’m hot, no doubt, but I’m not miserable because I’ve been working with my body and my house to cool off.
Work with Your Body
Ways to Sweat
We sweat to cool off. Recognize and work with this, and you can find ways to keep yourself feeling cooler.
If you avoid sweating, you won’t cool off as easily. Just give in. (And, remember the natural deodorant.)
While you are finding ways to sweat, remember that your dog does not sweat. Your dog pants. Avoid exposing your dog to extreme heat, and think of ways to let your pet cool down as you and your children cool down.
Have a cool bath or shower, or take a dip in the wading pool, then don’t dry of. Sit in front of a fan and cool off as the moisture evaporates. A quick technique I learned when I lived in the tropics was to carry a spray bottle of water then mist my face (temples), neck, and wrists. Those are the pulse points where you will feel the cooling the most.
Eat Spicy Food
Really! Super spicy foods with chili peppers make you sweat, and this cools you off. Think about it. People who live in the hottest areas of the planet eat a lot of spicy food. Plus, who doesn’t love spicy foods. I love having light, spicy Thai chicken coconut soup (tom kha gai) for lunch during the summer. My husband makes a big pot of soup on the weekend, and I have it for lunch every day.
Choose light, loose layers of cotton. This allows air to circulate and sweat to evaporate. Dress your bed the same way. Use cotton sheets to keep yourself cooler.
Sometimes you can just give in to the heat, and it doesn’t matter so much. People do live in Tucson, Arizona, with weeks of 100+ temperatures every year. One gets used to it. So, get used to it.
Until you manage to make the shift of perception, how about fooling yourself into feeling cooler. I have been using the Peppermint Headache Stick on my temples over the past week, and I find that the menthol gives me a temporary cool boost. You can adjust your perceptions by cooling your temples and wrists.
Work with Your House
While it might be too late to plant a tree to shade the sunny side of your house for this season, you have plenty of short-term actions you can take to work with nature to keep your house cooler. Each of these suggestions has a small impact, but together they have a big noticeable effect.
Open the Windows
At nighttime, when it is cooler, open the windows to let in a cool breeze. If there is no breeze, help that cooler air circulate by using a fan. I do this every night then close the windows as soon as I wake up each morning. Despite the temperatures outside, most of my house is surprisingly cool—in the morning. This coolness does fade through the afternoon.
Close the Curtains
Keep the sun out to keep the air as cool as possible. On the sunny sides of my house, I keep the blinds and shutters closed all day. This helps a lot.
If you have allergies, be sure that you damp dust surfaces before you start your fan to prevent as much as possible sending dust or allergens into the air.
I have two fans: a blade fan, and a stand-up fan with a filter. The blade fan doesn’t accumulate dust, but the filter does. I have to clean out the filter every other day or so. To avoid using extra energy when it isn’t needed, I use the fan as my back up for other ways of staying cool.
Do your light bulbs give off heat? Regular incandescent bulbs waste energy by giving off a lot of heat. My kitchen was designed with a bunch of hot, very bright bulbs in the ceiling. Since these are set-in lights that won’t take a different type of bulb, changing that will have to wait until I completely remodel my kitchen. In the meantime, in the summer, I avoid as much heat as possible by opening the kitchen blinds and not turning on lights unless I really need them.
The same goes for electronics. I have three computers plus other electronics in my tiny office, and it gets warm faster than any other room in my house. Put your computer to sleep when you leave the room to avoid adding heat (and wasting energy).
Head to the Basement
Because the ground heats slower in the summer and cools slower in the winter, your basement can provide you with the most comfortable temperature in your house during extreme weather.
Heat rises, so the upper floors of your house will get warmer during the day. When I know I need to work in my top floor in the summer, I do that early in the day then head downstairs.
We all go to the basement in the hottest part of the late afternoon when the rest of the house has warmed up. I have a work table set up in the basement, so I can escape my hot office, and my children set up board games near the closet where we keep all of our games.
Save the Laundry
Do your laundry in the evening after you have opened the windows to cooler air. That way, you aren’t adding to the heat during the warmer times of the day.
Stay Cool Naturally!
Drink plenty of water and keep the air circulating. These are keys we found to summer comfort in babywearing, breastfeeding, and cloth diapering. The heat will be gone soon, and we will be talking again about how to stay warm naturally.