July 13, 2010

Simple Tips For Staying Cool

Many homes these days are built with energy intensive central air conditioning, making hot summer days a major drain on the power grid. In the current heat wave that is sticking to a sweaty North America power use is approaching all time records. Due to high demand and an aging infrastructure power outages have been widespread. It is time for some simple alternatives to power hungry air conditioning.

In 2001 my partner and I spent several months in global hot spots such as India and Malaysia. Although these areas tend to be hotter and more humid than most, air conditioning was not prevalent, except in retail stores - it was the only way to keep shoppers in the stores and spending.

The most common device for keeping cool was an ordinary circulating or ceiling fan, and even then the power to turn them was intermittent at best. Mostly, it seemed, people just acclimatized to the hot, and conducted themselves accordingly. Between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm things just slowed down to a torpid pace. Think hammock rather than hard work.

With cheap energy on its way out, we are going to have to do some acclimatizing of our own. Here are a few ideas for staying cool, and saving money on your power bill at the same time:

  • close windows and coverings during the day - keep the heat out
  • open windows at night, use fans to move cool air in, hot air out
  • migrate north (a high of -2 C in Alert, Nunavut, Canada today)
  • take a cool bath or shower
  • sit in a forest or treed area (the coolest place in New York on a blistering day is Central Park)
  • go swimming at a lake, river, stream, pond or pool
  • use ceiling/circulating fans to increase evaporation off your skin - save up to 40% on a/c
  • learn to enjoy the heat (winter is on its way)
  • go slow, or stop
  • get high - it is cooler at elevation (The Brits built mountain 'hill stations' in India to escape the stifling heat of the plains)
  • sit outside in the shade, eat meals in the yard, use your BBQ instead of stove or oven
  • stay hydrated - drink lots of water
  • get away from the concrete jungle - it is hotter there
  • eat cold meals like egg salad, fresh fruit and veggies, sushi, sandwiches, cold soups...
  • hang out in your basement
  • do hard labour early morning or late afternoon
  • go to the seashore - it is always a few degrees cooler near the ocean, plus there is usually always a breeze
  • adopt the Spanish custom of a siesta, or mid-day rest

Stay cool. Conserve energy. Save money.

Have a nap, and enjoy your summer.

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