Summer is on its way, and you know what that means — bikinis, warm nights, barbecues, and soaring electric bills. Keeping a house cool during the summer is not a cheap proposition in many parts of the country, and more and more people are choosing to suffer rather than turn up the AC another notch. Here are a few cheap, effective tricks to stay cool this summer without spending a lot of money.
1. Think About Airflow
For many tin-roofed suburban homes, part of the problem is that, rather than the house simply being a shady reprieve from the sun, the house itself traps heat, and is often significantly hotter and more oppressive than the outdoors. One way to fix this is to set up ‘air circuits’ throughout your home. Opening doors or windows on both sides of a house in the direction of the wind keeps air circulating and avoids heat building up in the house. If there’s no wind, or the house doesn’t have clear corridors between sides, a few cheap box fans can be used to enhance the effect.
2. Apply “Tactical Cold”
When you turn on the air conditioner in your house, you’re cooling huge areas of your house that you’re not using. Instead, try cooling just yourself – get a footbath of cold water under your desk (careful of your computer!) — this will keep your body temperature down, even if the house itself is hot. A personal desk fan or a mister accomplishes a similar effect. If that’s not quite doing it, try buying a small, portable air conditioner and moving it around the house to where it’s most needed. If worst comes to worst, a quick cold shower can ward off the summer heat for hours.
3. Mind the Sun
If you’re in a very sunny area, try to limit the amount of sunlight that gets in by buying inexpensive “space blankets,” and hanging them up as curtains – the mylar in the blankets reflects more than 90% of the heat from the sun, helping to keep your house cooler, while being light enough not to block airflow. If you’ve got a little more money, you can buy special curtains specifically for this purpose.
4. Stay Hydrated (and Cool)
One of the side effects of hot weather is that almost everyone is dehydrated. Try to always have a glass of something cold on hand – iced tea, fruit juice, or even just ice water will all help keep your body temperature down while warding off dehydration. Don’t dismiss cold, healthy treats like fruit-juice popsicles and frozen grapes for helping to beat the heat especially if you have small children.
5. Reduce Heat Production in your Home
Stoves, dryers, incandescent lightbulbs, and your computer can all introduce excess heat into your home, which can be brutal in the middle of a summer heatwave. You can reduce the effect by avoiding baking and laundry during the daytime, keeping lights off when not in use (and replacing them with more eco-friendly LED bulbs), and changing the energy settings on your computer so that it sleeps when you’re not at your desk.
Elliot Shah is a corporate environmentalist. He frequently shares green tips with small business owners on blogs across the internet. Click to learn how to save on business gas.