There is nothing worse than hot nights without air conditioning; your body stuck to sheets sticky with your own sweat as you toss and turn. But air conditioners are hardly eco friendly, and are not always budget-friendly. Now, I’m not telling everyone in hot climates to forego central air, or for people who are apartment dwellers to give away their air conditioners. But for those of you who prefer living without central air or AC—or for those of you who would like to limit their air-cooling to only extreme heat situations—here are some easy ways to cool your dwellings without the environmental or economic costs.
Fans can do amazing things throughout the year to make your living spaces more comfortable. In the winter, ceiling fans should be rotating clockwise to gently draw air up toward the ceiling while moving the warmest air out from the fan and down your walls. During warmer months, reverse direction so the fans rotate counter clockwise. This will force the air on your ceiling down onto you, creating a “wind chill effect.”
Similarly, bathroom and stovetop fans both work to draw hot air out of your home, and can be used throughout the day whether or not you’re showering or cooking. A small desk fan on a nearby table can be positioned behind a bowl of ice water. As it blows air on you, it will pick up the chilled air and blow it at you. Box fans can be positioned in windows to blow air around the room during the day, and push hot air out of a window at night. You can also open a window and place a box fan across the room blowing in the direction of the window to create a cross breeze.
Chances are good that about 30 percent of the unwanted heat in your home is coming straight in through the windows. Shade trees, blinds, insulating curtains, window film and even just knowing when to close and open your windows can all make a big difference.
Strategically planting trees, vines and trellises on the east and west sides of your house will help to block direct sunlight on your roof an home, giving you an estimated savings of around 30 percent your bill—or up to $250 annually in energy costs.
Using insulating curtains, blinds, and window film on east- and south-facing windows can save you another 7 percent, and used in tandem with shade trees can lower the temperature in your house by 20 degrees on particularly hot days. Your windows can be used in another wise way—by keeping them closed. Open your windows at night when temperatures drop, then close them all (along with your blinds and curtains) around sunrise so the cooler air gets trapped in your home.
Incandescent lights, toaster ovens, stovetops and all other heat-generating appliances are major no-nos on hot days. Utilize your outside grill if you’ve got one, wait to do the laundry, and swap out those heat-producing light bulbs for LEDs. You can also consider eating raw meals based around fruits, vegetables, smoothies, and juices to help beat the heat.
The only sheets on your bed in the summer should be 100 percent cotton, linen, silk, or hemp for their superior breathability. During extreme heat waves, throw your top sheet into a cold shower, wring the fabric out, and then crawl in under it. The sheet will be dry by morning, but will keep you cool all night long.
If the idea of burrowing under a wet sheet rubs you the wrong way, you can reap a similar benefit by hanging a damp sheet or towel in front of an open window. The breeze coming in from outside (or a well-positioned fan) will push cooler air throughout your living space.
Your body has cooling zones that will bring your body temperature down much faster than, say, a cold compress on your forehead. Focus those cold packs and wet bandanas on your neck and wrists for faster relief.
And if you want a great, quick cool down as a bonus, hop in a cold shower and then park yourself in front of a fan, sans clothes. The moving air will cool you off as the water evaporates.