August can be one of the hottest months of the year, and, for those living in a home without air conditioning, one of the worst. Even if you do not have the luxury of central air or wall mount AC units, there are still steps you can take to keep cool during the dog days of summer.
If you are lucky enough to have ceiling fans in your home, get those babies moving! Wait, not yet. There are two things you should do first.
1) Take a pillowcase and slip it over each of the blades in turn. Wipe the blades down and all the dust will fall down into the pillowcase. Throw the pillowcase in the laundry and take a second to appreciate those dust-free blades, because they will not stay that way long.
2) Turn on the ceiling fan. For the summer months, you want the fan to blow air straight down. To do this, the fan must be running in a counter-clockwise direction. If your fan is running clockwise, shut it off and locate the direction switch on the main body of the fan. Slide the switch the opposite way, and turn the fan back on. It should now be running in the proper direction.
For maximum cooling, set your fan on the highest speed that it can safely run. If the fan starts to rattle or wobble from side to side, that means the blades are off-balance. Turn the fan off and dust the blades again. If the fan is still wonky, you will need to talk to a maintenance worker about having your fan realigned.
Most design magazines will say summer is the time to swap out heavy winter draperies for light sheers. Do not listen to their lies. Airy sheers are for people with central air conditioning. What you want are dark, thick curtains that will block sunlight from entering and cool air from escaping.
This is my son’s room (hence the wicked cool Star Wars mobile). His homemade curtains are just made from navy twin sheets from Walmart. This is what the room looks like with them open during the day.
And closed during the day! These are not even light blocking or thermal curtains, but the dark color helps to keep the hot sun out of his room, making it much cooler all day long. It’s a little depressing to keep your home so dark during the daylight hours, but drawing curtains on South and West facing windows will make a real difference in the temperature of your room.
If you don’t have the budget for darker curtains, just throw a blanket over the curtain rod. It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing option, but who cares about aesthetics when it is 90 degrees in your home.
If you have no air conditioning unit, you can rig up a fairly easy AC unit with items you might already have in your rental. Technically known as “swamp coolers,” these rigs operate by blowing air across water. The water evaporates and draws some of the heat out of the air.
To make your own swamp cooler, set a shallow dish of water directly in front of a fan. Aim the fan so the air blows right over the surface of the water.
If your swamp cooler is working properly, you will notice the temperature going down fairly quickly. The downside to these handy set-ups is that they only work in dry environments. So, if you are dealing with heat AND humidity, this is not going to work for you.
-Stay hydrated. You will feel cooler if you have had enough to drink. Try adding lemon, cucumber, mint, and, of course, ice to add to the refreshment.
-Keep the back of your neck cool. Either keep it shaded with a collar or handkerchief or spritz it with water and sit in front of a fan.
-Eat something spicy. The spicy food will make you sweat without raising your body temp. The evaporating moisture will help to cool you down.
-Keep the oven off. Hot nights call for salads, grilling, or takeout, anything that does not require you to fire up any heat sources in your home.
-Freeze your pillow. Place your pillow in plastic bag (so no ice forms on the fabric) and place it in the freezer for an hour before bed.
-Close your closet doors. By closing your closet (and any other unused rooms) you are minimizing the square footage that you need to cool during daylight hours.