Beating the heat while saving money
I find it ironic that I finally post this kind of stuff just when it’s cooled off a bit here in the Hudson Valley (yay rain!), but I also saw my electric bill for May and June (Central Hudson is weird and does two months on one bill) and it was not, NOT pretty. So, in an effort to not repeat that, or, god forbid, have an even higher bill for July and August, here are a few quick tips for doing without your air-conditioning whenever possible. And as a bonus to saving money? It’s good for the environment too.
- Acclimate. Going from a 65 degree cooled building into 93 degree heat is not fun. But going from a 76 degree building into 93 degree heat makes 93 degrees seem not so bad.
- Skip the hot showers. Not only do they add heat to your house, they also heat YOU up and add to your electric/fuel oil bill. When the air is already warm, there is no need to take a hot shower. If you fear the chill, start with water that is warmer than your torso temperature and then gradually turn it to cooler water. Your fevered cheeks will thank you.
- Get air moving. Ceiling fans are the best invention ever. You can also use box fans. If you don’t have a/c but have two windows next to each other or better yet, across from each other, put two large fans in each window, one facing in and one facing out. This will create a vortex of air that brings (hopefully) cooler air from outside in and force the hot air of your heated-up house outside. It also feels nice and is less energy-intensive than running an air conditioner.
- Keep your shades and curtains drawn. Sunlight creates a whole lot of heat, especially when going through glass. If you can get insulated curtains, do so. Otherwise a dark sheet or blanket can be hung up over windows to block light. Even keeping your lights off helps. And saves electricity.
- Use the night. If it gets cool at night where you live (not happening in many cities now, I know), open up all your windows in the evening and turn on the fans. Then, right away in the morning (before the sun is fully up, if you can) close all the windows and draw the shades. This traps the cool air inside your house and will keep the house pretty darn cool until the hottest part of late afternoon.
- Water is your friend. Drink lots of it. Or, if you don’t like plain water, consider using a fruity shrub to doctor it up (or any kind of fruit juice) or make refrigerator tea (see below). Be sure to also eat some salty things so that you don’t get water poisoning. Electrolytes are salts.
- Ground-chilled water is also your friend. Feeling super-hot and sweaty? If you can’t take a cool shower, wash your face and hands in cold water and soak your feet in cold water. Most household water comes out of the tap pretty cold. You can always add ice you want. Your head, hands, and feet have a lot of blood streaming through them with relatively thin skin – these places are where your body loses a lot of heat, which means that chilling those areas will help cool off your blood, which in turn will help cool off your body.
- Sleep outside. Got access to a screen porch? Sleep on it. Especially if your bedroom is upstairs or has few windows. During the Victorian Era “sleeping porches” (generally second-story screen porches off of the bedroom areas) were popular ways to cool off. Of course, if the screen on your porch is full of holes and you already have enough bug bites, proceed with caution. And maybe some extra mosquito netting.
- Dress for the weather. Loose clothing in linen and cotton are your friends. I prefer loose blouses or button-ups made out of light cotton that won’t show sweat. Natural fabrics breathe (meaning they let air in to cool you off) and feel nicer in the heat. Covering up when outside can also help reflect the sun, which makes you cooler than running around in a tank top and short-shorts. Leather or canvas sandals are also helpful as they let your feet cool off by sweating, but also absorb the sweat. Plastic flip-flops will only make you feel hotter. Hats are also wonderful for keeping the heat off AND preventing sunburn.
- Don’t be afraid to sweat. It may not be super-pretty, but sweating is your body’s natural way of cooling down. And any air flow, even warm air, feels cooler going over wet skin.
- Go swimming. If you have access to a body of water, especially a chilly one like the ocean or a mountain lake or stream, get in it. You don’t even have to actually swim – just get wet. As with sweating and cool showers, swimming lowers your core body temperature and can cool you off. Heck, even going through the sprinkler or having a water balloon fight works. Here’s a great site that lists swimming holes for the lower 48 plus Canada.
- Bike. Think about it – using a bike to get from place to place puts you in a constantly moving airflow. And if you make it a leisurely ride? Less sweat than you might think. Here’s more.
- If you must use your car, combine errands. A warm or hot engine turns on more easily and runs more efficiently than a cold one. Using a/c or rolling down the windows will reduce your fuel efficiency, though. So if you’re going on the highway, drive at the optimal 55 mph when you can.
- Don’t bake! For the love of god, don’t turn on that oven! Stovetop cooking is okay, especially if it’s just a quick boil or fry-up. But your crockpot, toaster oven, toaster, and fridge (yes fridge) are even better. A favorite hot-weather but-still-hot meal? Fried egg sandwiches. Fry an egg, toast an english muffin, add some cheese and a little salt and pepper and you’re done. Here are some other no-cook, little-cook, and room-temp ideas: Hardboiled eggs, fridge pickled veggies, crockpot pulled pork, crockpot oatmeal, salt-cured veggies, radish and butter sandwiches, cheese, veggies and dip, salads (leaf lettuce and veggie), fresh fruit, etc. Grilling (if you can stand the heat outside) is also good. Perhaps midnight grilling? And who could forget ice cream?
Okay readers – do you have any other tips or tricks to add? How are you keeping cool?