Cool it!

SweatingAnother day in Canada’s capital, another soul-sucking, skin-wringing humidex. Summer is my least favourite season; sure I can garden and walk around barefoot, but the humidity both saps my energy and makes me so angry that I would smack the dewpoint on the nose if it had a nose.

Despite my seasonal antipathy, I still refuse to have air conditioning at home. Even in the hottest years—and those are still yet to come—an Ottawa summer still only throws maybe ten or so days of unbearable heat at us, so when you factor in the cost of buying a unit, the hassle of installing it, and the cost to run it—during peak hours much of the time, I might add—for so few days spread out over a summer, it’s not worth it.

Never fear! For those who eschew AC, or those who just want to use it less, there are plenty of ways to keep you and your home cool this summer. Your electricity bill will thank you.

Close windows, doors & drapes  It seems weird to close up the windows and shut the curtains just when we get to open them up again after winter, but it does work. Don’t just shut them to, close them, especially those that face south and west. By keeping the heat out in the first place, your house’ll be cooler. At night, if and when the temperature drops, open them up. Close them again in the morning before you leave for work.

Cooking  If you’re into barbecuing, you’re already keeping your house cool by cooking outdoors. If you don’t grill, cook food in larger batches when it is cooler (first thing in the morning or after the sun goes does) so that you have meals on hand.  I cook a lot in a slow cooker and a toaster oven so I move those appliances into my much cooler basement and let things cook down there.

Laundry  Using a dryer in summer adds heat to your house and, if you have AC, will make your system work harder. Clothes lines and clothes horses are the way to go, and not just in summer either.

Charging  All those devices of ours need charging. Invest in a solar powered charger, or get into the habit of charging them overnight when it’s cooler (charging produces heat) and electricity rates are lower.

Fans  Fans are a mixed blessing. They cool you down if you’re sitting in front of them, but they don’t cool down a room, so always remember to turn them off if you leave. Ceiling fans do a far superior job of pushing warm air down.

Lights  Incandescent bulbs were banned a couple of years ago, but there are still thousands, possibly millions of them still screwed into fixtures all over this country. Incandescents use more wattage and produce more heat, so if you still have incandescent light bulbs, now’s the time to switch to CFLs or LEDs.

Insulation  Adding insulation to your walls and attic will keep your house warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. It can be a pain adding insulation to walls, depending on the age of the house, but adding extra attic insulation is a relatively straightforward job that can be done in a few hours. Attic insulation can typically be done for less than $2,000, but there are several home renovation websites with payback calculators that can help you figure out how long it will take to recoup your investment.

Keeping your cool  Even if you do everything on this list, there will occasionally be those days, or that long stretch of heat wave, when all you can do is sit still in your living room and quietly drip sweat all over your nice new Chesterfield. Low-tech solutions to the rescue!

Wet a face cloth or bandanna and put it on your head, neck or your belly, or my favourite: stick your feet in a bucket of ice cold water. Cooling your extremities is the fastest way to cool your entire body down.

And for those mornings when you wake up with a headache from a 30C humidex at 6 a.m. because the temperature didn’t drop over night, well it’s frozen undies to the rescue! Pop a clean pair of underwear in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer over night. Nothing wakes you up and cools you down like a pair of frosty gotchies!

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