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Beat summer heat on a budget

By on July 9, 2009

photo by toastyken

As temperatures rise, staying cool can be a challenge. Some people simply blast the air conditioning. If you can’t give up the air, you can use fans in addition to it and program the thermostat higher to save. But if you don’t have air or you want to save money, there are cheaper options to avoid the sweltering heat. And you don’t have to rely on short haircuts and folded paper fans. How do you stay cool during the summer?
Here are a few suggestions.

CROSS BREEZE: Open windows (especially on opposite ends of the house) at night or during early morning to take advantage of cooler outdoor air, and turn on ceiling and oscillating fans to keep the air moving. Once it starts to get warmer, close windows and blinds to keep the cool air inside and the sun’s scorching rays out. One reader, Lisa C. in Texas, suggests: “We heard a tip for keeping cooler not long after we got refrigerated air in our house. Freeze a milk jug of water or use a bowl of ice, and sit it in a cake pan or bowl in front of fan blowing in your direction.”

WATER: Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Avoid alcohol, which will dehydrate you. You can soak your feet in a tub or a kiddie-pool setup in the shade, take a shower or bath, apply a washcloth filled with ice on your wrists or dampen it and place it on your neck. Splash cool water on your face or use a mister to refresh your skin, too. Swim at a public pool or head to a lake.

CLOTHING: Wear light-colored clothing that is loose fitting. Wear natural fabrics, such as cotton or linen, that breathe, and dampen the fabric to stay cool.

HEAT SOURCES: Cook outside. Set up a slow cooker on the porch or in the basement, if you have one, or make more no-cook meals rather than using the oven. Avoid using devices that give off heat, such as the dishwasher or dryer, during the heat of the day. And when not in use, shut off television, computers and lights.

WORKS YEAR-ROUND: Many of the same methods for keeping your home warm during the winter work for keeping it cooler during hot months. Keep family members from going inside and outside repetitively. You want to have proper insulation and roof ventilation, too. Weatherize your home, and look into attic or whole-house fans. Window coverings, such as space blankets, solar screens, awnings or cut-to-fit Mylar auto shades, can help keep heat out. Plan your landscaping to provide shade. Visit Virginia Cooperative Extension ( for tips on conserving energy with landscaping.

TO SLEEP: If possible, sleep in lower levels in your home. Basements stay cooler. One reader, Meghan in Indiana, shares: “On hot days, I put my sheet and pillowcases in the deep freezer. I take them out before bedtime, and they are perfectly cool to sleep on. Try it. On days I forget to put them in the freezer, I spray my top sheet with water to dampen it, and blow a fan on it. I don’t spray it a lot because too much extra humidity makes it feel hotter. I want to try a Chillow, too. It’s a cool gel-pack pillow that keeps your head cool when you sleep.”


  1. Darlene

    7/4/2010 at 5:15 pm

    On really warm days I have windows open at night and when I get up the house is nice and cool. As the temps start rising outdoors I walk around my home closing the windows most of the way and pulling shades down. Sure my house is like a cave indoors but it’s a nice cool cave that’s usually at least 10Âș cooler than outside. Ceiling fans keep the air moving. 😉

  2. Carla

    8/4/2010 at 11:23 am

    I stay cool by living in an area with incessant fog 😉 On our three days of summer we sleep with the windows open and the fans on, and hang out in the basement during the hottest part of the day.

    When I lived in a stuffy apartment we used to put the fan in the window facing out instead of in – for some reason it felt cooler sucking the air out of the room than blowing on us.

  3. robert

    9/13/2012 at 5:12 pm

    I never use air conditioning even on the hottest days…. simple make a draft in the house…. go to the opposite side of the house and put a fan blowing out and make sure you enclose the side so it doesn’t leak air back in. then go to your bed room and crack the window. The small opening will cause the air to move a a greatly accelerated fashion keeping the room cooler…. I also have ceiling fans to blow the cool air down.

  4. Rhonda

    1/2/2019 at 5:43 pm

    Would love to read about: Beat winter cold on a budget.
    This will be helpful especially now that I am unemployed with no one to help.
    P.S. I did not understand your comment,: “Your comment is awaiting moderation”, so I googled it
    I do hope you will send information about the topic I inquired about

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