The weather is becoming more and more frequent and intense, and it feels that way. The last decade has been the hottest on record, and it seems that each year we are facing a new level of global warming. Heat waves are getting hotter and lasting longer than previously known.
Adding to the issue, our first solution is usually cranking the air conditioning up for some relief. Unfortunately, air conditioning, however comforting it is, damages the environment, increasing the very problem—heat—we are combatting with it. And, the long-term impact of running the AC doesn’t balance out with the instant respite it provides on a hot day.
In other words, we need to be finding/rediscovering different ways to stay cool, or we are going to continue to exacerbate the climbing temperatures every summer. That likely means we start adjusting to less-than-perfect conditions in our homes at all times. Our thermostats should become a last resort rather than the first option.
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In a well-insulated and regulated home, using our windows to harvest and hold cool air can make a huge difference, a few degrees, without ever having to tap the AC for a turn. This is as simple as opening the windows in the evening when temperatures drop and closing them in the morning before temperatures rise.
When we (in the Northern Hemisphere) have windows that face south, the sun shoots through them during the day, and that heats things. These windows, as well as other sunny windows, should be closed, if possible and sensible, during times when the sun is pouring through them. Blocking the sun will keep the house from passively warming.
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Eating cold foods—pasta salads, smoothies, certain soups, sandwiches, slaw, dips—helps in a couple of ways. First of all, a cold meal doesn’t heat us up the way a hot meal does. Also, by not using our stovetop or oven, we won’t be adding to the heat. Finally, we can use frozen foods—ice cream, popsicles, sorbets—to feel cooler.
Or cook outside.
Our clothing has a lot to do with how hot we feel. We can dress appropriately for the temperature in the house rather than trying to make the house an appropriate temperature for what we are wearing. Clothing can also be an issue when we dry it in a tumble dryer. This appliance produces a lot of heat. Hanging clothes up is a much better option for keeping cool.
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Fans use a lot less energy than air conditioners, and they don’t involve the same destructive chemicals required for artificially cooling the air. While fans can’t technically cool the air, they certainly cool us down by blowing away the hot, humid air our bodies create. This body heat will hover about us, making us even hotter, but fans blow it away.
Fans can be used in other strategic ways during heat waves. Aside from blowing on us, they can be used to blow cool air where we want. For example, if there is a basement beneath the house, it is probably naturally cooler. Open the door to the basement and use a fan to blow the cooler air into the house.
Another effective thing to do in the evening, when the air is cooler, is open a window on one side of the house, the one you want the coolest. Then, go to the opposite side of the house, open a window, and set the fan to blow the hot air out of the house so that the cool air sucks in through the other windows.
Bathroom fans and kitchen exhaust fans perform a similar function, removing hot and humid air from the house.
Turning off the lights can help to keep temperatures in the house lower. Light bulbs, particularly incandescent light bulbs, get hot and put that heat into the rooms where they are on. So, it can be helpful to turn off all light bulbs, TVs, computers, etc., when they aren’t being used. Going the LED route with the light bulbs next time they need to be changed is a good idea, too.
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Dehumidifiers can be helpful for cooling homes in humid environments, and they don’t use quite as much energy as air conditioning. What they do is pull the moisture out of the air—drier air is more tolerable than humid air—to make the room less steamy. However, they do have refrigerant chemicals that are best avoided if possible. That said, if mold is an issue, which can be the case in hot, humid places, dehumidifiers prevent it.
Cooling the house naturally is a great thing to do. It saves you money, protects the environment, and can legitimately keep the house comfortable in most situations. So, maybe we can survive the heat waves without air conditioning.
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