Here are nine smart ways you can keep cool during the summer’s heat waves that will save you energy and money, too.
1) Cool your home to 78 or 80 degrees, then use fans. The hotter it gets outside, the colder you probably want it inside. Resist the urge to turn your home into an igloo this summer. Set the thermostat to 78 or 80 degrees, which will keep the temperature– and the humidity level — under control (along with your electricity bills). Then use strategically placed fans to cool the rooms you and your family are in at the moment. In our house, we turn off all fans during the day, when everyone is at work, then turn on the fan downstairs in the living room when we get home. We also have a fan in each bedroom.
2) Take off your clothes. Well, not all of them. But you know how in the winter, you add layers to stay warm? In summer, it’s just the opposite. In my house, unless we have company over we’re all running around barefoot, in t-shirts or tank tops and shorts or loose fitting dresses. In winter you put on a hat; in summer, take off your socks.
3) Eat cold food. Cooking over a hot stove or in a broiling oven overheats the kitchen; then you eat hot food, all of which makes you — you guessed it — hot. A summer like the one we’re having calls instead for salads and cold soups for dinner, sandwiches for lunch, fruit and yogurt for breakfast instead of pancakes and eggs, and ice cream or popsicles for dessert rather than home-baked cookies and cakes. If you need to heat something up, use the microwave. Boil hot water for tea in a kettle rather than on the stove. Grill outdoors (following these tips for an eco-friendly barbecue).
4) Make sun tea outside then drink it on ice all day. Get a large clear glass jar, fill it with water, add several tea bags, and let it steep in the heat. It will take a few hours to turn into tea, so plan ahead (I make tea every day for the next day). Of course, any iced drink helps bring down your body temperature; try squeezing fresh lemon or lime into seltzer water you fizz at home for another refreshing tonic.
5) Do your chores at night. Wash full loads to minimize the amount of washing you need to do. Let dishes air dry. Use an outdoor clothes line or drying rack instead of the clothes dryer. Summer is not the time to sweat through labor-intensive chores like washing walls and baseboards or cleaning out closets. Save those for cooler days in fall or winter.
6) Draw your curtains. Keep the sun out and the cool air in. While you’re at it, close the fireplace damper to prevent cooled air from sneaking out the chimney.
7) Insulate. We have a tendency to seal up cracks around leaky doors and windows to keep our houses warmer in winter. But the principle works just as well in summer. Once you cool the air in your house, keep it inside! Here are more ways to save energy at home, summer or winter.
8) Upgrade your air conditioner. If you’ve been using the same window unit for a while, consider replacing it with a more energy-efficient model. It will do a better job cooling and save you money on electricity bills. In the meantime, shade your air conditioning unit from the sun if possible; just don’t obstruct the air flow.
9) Take a nap. There’s a reason why people who live in the tropics take a siesta in the middle of the day: It’s the easiest way to avoid burning calories and working up a sweat. You’ll probably only be able to do this on the weekends or your day off, but even so, give it a try.
Now is not the time to plant shade trees, but keep that in mind for the fall. My house is surrounded by maple, cherry, oak, mulberry and dogwood trees, easily keeping it ten degrees cooler in the summer than it would be otherwise.