Chances are at some point this year you were in a place that was incredibly hot.
Across North America and Europe, temperatures have hit record-breaking highs; and next year likely won’t get much cooler. Unfortunately, not every home is equipped to provide maximum comfort and relief during such weather.
Air conditioning is a North American invention developed at the beginning of the 20th century and one that gained in popularity in the 1940s and 50s; in some parts of the U.S., it’s virtually imperative to have. Not having access to a window unit or central air doesn’t have to be disruptive and uncomfortable, however.
The following are ways to beat the heat without AC, but it’s worth noting that you should familiarize yourself with signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, both of which can be very harmful. This guide is geared towards comfort; if you’re feeling ill, please take the necessary steps to get medical attention.
Watch the forecast and plan ahead
If you know you’re going to have to endure some hot nights, there are a few things you can do to properly prepare. Invest in blackout curtains to start, which will keep heat from traveling through your windows on those scorching days.
While you want curtains that block heat, you should also seek out sheets that breathe. Cotton is a great fabric for your clothes and sheets during the summer; it circulates air well instead of making you feel stuffy. For your bed specifically, opt for bamboo or microfiber sheets. They allow air movement and spread the heat absorbed from your body instead of trapping it like flannels and fleece do. Investing in cooling pillows and cooling towels may be worthwhile; keeping your head, hands, and feet cool will go a long way in keeping your body from overheating.
Changing lightbulbs may be beneficial. Incandescent bulbs give off heat, and when you’re trying to cool in the summer, every little bit helps. Invest in bulbs that don’t heat up your home.
In the days ahead of a heat wave, be proactive about doing meal prep. You will want to avoid using an oven or stove when it’s hot; plans meals ahead of time, particularly cold ones, to keep you from turning on heat-emitting appliances.
Ceiling fans are more effective and efficient than we tend to give them credit for. The right ceiling fans can lessen the effects of not having AC, provided you find the right size, shape, a location for one. Ceiling fans don’t actually cool the room – they cool you. The air that’s pushed down helps your body remove excess heat and aids in evaporating perspiration. It’s also worth noting that some fans have a downdraft and updraft option; the former moves counterclockwise and cools the room while the latter can warm up it by spinning clockwise.
Lastly, add some plants in and around your home. Plants outside will absorb sunlight and even block some heat from getting inside if they’re near windows. Inside, plants add moisture to the air through transpiration, and thus increase humidity, which will help cool the air as well.
Focus on sealing a room or two to stay cool; block out heat and light and trap in the cold air.
Tips for when heat strikes
Have the curtains drawn to keep the hot air out and close off doors to keep cool air in. Depending on the size of your place, focus on keeping just one or two rooms cool; it’ll take less energy and work. Closing and sealing doors will prevent cool air from traveling to unused spaces.
If possible, dwell in the lower parts of your home; the closer to the ground, the cooler you will be as warm air rises. Some ACs even struggle to cool the upper floors of homes. If possible, consider sleeping in basements or the coolest part of your home.
Fans can be useful for moderate cooling, but if it’s really hot, then they are just blowing warm around. You can help them out if you position a bucket of ice or freezer packs in front of your fans; they will circulate the cooler air instead.
If the above tips aren’t working
If you haven’t had time to prepare, or the heat is just worse than expected, there are a few last resort choices you can try for instant cooling and temporary relief. Don’t be afraid to put your sheets and pillowcases in the freezer prior to sleeping.
Soak in a cold bath or take a cold shower to lower your body temperature.
Enjoy some cold food and drinks as well. Cooling your core aids in the battle against the heat.
Monitoring outside temperatures may help too; if nighttime is significantly cooler outside than the day, open the windows, remove the curtains, positions your fans, and lets the refreshing as get to you as quickly and efficiently as possible.