Staying Cool the Old-Fashioned Way
Walking into a cool house on a hot day is one of the great pleasures of summertime. It must be, considering the energy we expend on cooling. Every year in the United States, homeowners spend more than $11 billion to run electric air conditioners. Of course, it hasn't always been that way; our ancestors stayed comfortable using natural, low-tech tricks and plain common sense. You can do so, too. Before air-conditioning, people cooled off in summer in part by adjusting their personal routines. Some of their strategies are still useful.
Watch What You Consume
Drink plenty of liquids, but limit caffeine and alcohol. Enjoy spicy foods and even hot herbal tea; they make you perspire, which cools you down.
Wear Loose Clothing
Choose cotton, linen, or similar breathable fibers, and avoid anything synthetic.
Pare Down Furnishings
Roll up carpets, and store heavy drapes for the summer. These items hold moisture, making a space hotter and air conditioners, if you use them, work harder.
Avoid Chilly Places
If you don't have air-conditioning at home, that is. Abrupt changes in temperature will only make the heat seem hotter. Why not just find a shady spot with a nice breeze, and relax for a while?
Try A Whole-House Fan
This powerful fan, often built into an attic hatch, pulls air in from open windows and pushes it out through the attic and roof. This is particularly useful in drier climates with hot days and cool nights. The fan is run at night to eliminate the hot air that was trapped inside during the day and pull in the cooler air, reducing the temperature of the house.
Open windows on opposite sides of the room or, if they are all on one side, set up a fan near the opposite wall to direct the air flow. (This is more effective than placing a fan facing outward in the window to swoosh hot air from the room.) If your second story is oppressive while a lower floor is cool, try opening a window downstairs and venting heat as close to the top floor's ceiling as possible -- by opening the top sash of a window, for example. Open windows wider on upper levels than on lower levels to increase air speed and cooling.
Install Ceiling Fans
A fan can make a room feel several degrees cooler. Use one alone, or, if you have central air-conditioning, turn up the thermostat by several degrees when the fan is on. You'll feel just as comfortable and save on cooling costs. (Fans don't actually alter the temperature, so switch them off when leaving the room.) Ceiling fans work best when the blades are seven to nine feet above the floor but no closer than eight inches from the ceiling. Use fans 36 to 44 inches in diameter in rooms up to 225 square feet. For larger rooms, use fans 52 inches or wider. If any room dimension is more than 18 feet, use multiple fans.