As of this writing, “No-Air Conditioning Summer” is over for us (thank goodness!), but before I talk about how and why it ended, I thought I’d offer some tips on staying cool for those who either choose to or have to live without A/C for frugality’s sake or due to power outages, etc.
Before we begin, I want to make it clear that I am not advocating for you to live without A/C. It can be very dangerous, not to mention extremely unpleasant.
Here are our personal circumstances and living conditions because some of these tips won’t work for everyone depending on where you live or what sort of constitution you have.
- Geography: Desert
- Temperature: as high as 112º F, lows usually 60′s-70′s, mid 80′s during heat wave
- Humidity: low for the most part except for extreme heat waves
- House: 1-story, 3-bedroom single family home
Us (Madoline and Penelope)
- Ages: 29 and 30
- Health: strong immune systems (haven’t had colds since Jan. 2006)
Water is Your Friend for Staying Cool
Almost all our tactics for staying cool this summer involved water. We won’t deny that water usage costs money, but it is a lot less than electricity usage. Our city bills us twice a month for water at a flat rate for up to 2,000 cc’s which we rarely exceed so we’re paying for it anyway.
Obviously, there is really no way to cool an entire house with an internal temperature of 95º-100º F without air conditioning, so we focused on cooling ourselves and the rooms we were occupying.
- Drink lots of water
As basic as this tip is, it is basic for a reason: It is vitally important to stay hydrated. So drink lots of water, but be moderate; don’t guzzle a gallon at a time and give yourself water poisoning. Keep a glass with you all day and sip from it.
We talked about this in Madoline’s post, A Simple Cooling System, from earlier in the summer. While we received some comments telling us that our system didn’t work, it did for us on days with high temperatures of up to about 101-102º F. Despite our freezer having to work a little harder, our electric bill of $45 was much lower than bills from previous years when running our central A/C which averaged $150-$180 per month.
Each night, when the temperature had cooled (down to 60′s-70′s), we placed bottles of water in the freezer to freeze overnight. Around mid-morning when it started getting hot, we took out the ice and placed them in front of fans in the room where we hung out and worked (100 sq. ft.)
- Ice water jugs
Freeze bottles/jugs of filtered water to use to cool your room and to serve as cold drinking water as it melts. Staying hydrated is very important and nothing feels so good as a cold glass of water when you’re hot.
- Wet or damp towel, bandanna or shirt
This is one tactic which should be used carefully. As stated above, we’re young and in good health and not prone to catching cold. A wet or damp towel draped over the shoulders or head, and a wet/damp shirt keeps you cool for a good while. But if you’re prone to catching colds, I wouldn’t recommend this as having a cold when it’s hot would be really un-fun. If you’re prone to headaches, I would advise against draping a wet towel over your head.
- Water spritz
Keep a plant sprayer filled with water and spray yourself occasionally. The water evaporating off your skin gives a cool sensation. Again, if you’re prone to colds, exercise caution, but this one is less risky than a wet shirt.
- Ice packs
One of those ice gel packs for coolers held over points with major arteries – neck and wrist – can help cool your circulation a little.
- Damp sheet
When the heat wave hit in full force and I couldn’t sleep, I would wet a sheet or towel and drape it over my legs. This helped me cool off quickly and get some sleep.
A note on Wet vs. Cool: I found a completely wet towel, shirt or sheet a little too cold for comfort, but when damp, it was perfect.
Other Tips for Staying Safe in High Heat
- Wear light-colored, loose and natural-fiber clothing
- Eat smaller meals more frequently
- Avoid strenuous physical activity during the hottest time of day
- Avoid drinking diuretics such as tea, coffee, etc. that can make you lose water
Visit the Red Cross website for more information on Heat Wave Safety.
For more on staying cool without air conditioning, refer to this post I wrote last fall when our A/C first broke: 10 Days Without Air Condition and Counting! It includes other tips on cooling your home.
Cooling Tips for Pets
Because our dogs are large (hotter than small dogs) and long-haired, we also had to take measures to keep them from getting too hot and risking heat stroke.
Note: small dogs are not as hardy as large dogs and may be prone to catching cold very easily.
We trimmed their 3-4 inch long coats down to about 1-2 inches. The bag of hair off my dog weighed a lot!
- Wet bandanna or shirt
As with ourselves, we either tied a web bandana around their necks or put on a wet shirt. The parts of their bodies under the wet or damp clothing stays cool for a good while.
- Water spritz
Spritzing them with water also helps. Wolfgang especially loves this one.
- Cold treats
Give them cold snacks and meals as much as possible – mozzarella cheese sticks, ice cubes, chicken flavored jello (yum), and refrigerated food prepared the night before. Don’t give too much ice as it can cause stomach upset.
- Lots of water
Make sure your pets have lots of fresh water. I would be careful about giving ice water, though, which may cause an upset stomach.
- Keep it down
Dogs are enthusiastic creatures and might run and jump around too much for their own good. Keep them occupied with treats that take a while to eat and toys that keep them in one place.
Well, this about wraps it up for our tips on keeping cool. These tactics helped us get through 3 months — from the end of April when we usually turn on the A/C to the end of July.
Come back soon for how and why “No-Air Conditioning Summer” came to an end.