It's summertime, and the livin' is, err, hot. With temperatures soaring across the country, if you don't have central air, you may be ready for summer to be over. These ways to stay cool this summer without air conditioning are of particular interest to me because, in Los Angeles, where I live, we've already had temps over 100 degrees, and more oppressive heat is on the way. During the chilly months when the sun sets at 4 p.m. summer seems like a far off and distant dream. However, if you don't have central air, the reality of the summer swelter dispels the fantasy of summer fun pretty quickly.
In January another writer and I moved in together in North Hollywood to save money. NoHo is technically in the San Fernando Valley, but we're saving so much money we adopted a "how hot can it really be" attitude when we moved here this winter. Well, let me tell you, the answer is very, very hot. Basically it's hell's mouth.
Even though we only moved five miles into the valley, the temps in the summer are 10-15 degrees hotter than in other parts of the city. This can mean the difference between an enjoyable 85 degrees and an unbearable 100 degrees, especially because we don't have central air, and our only shade tree was dead and had to be cut down.
So, just how can you stay cool when the heat is on? Here are some smart and inventive ways to survive summer on the cheap, without air conditioning.
1. Blackout Curtains
OK, I know what you're going to say. You don't want to turn you pad into a dark cave, but trust me, these can mean the difference between baking in an oven or resting comfortably. Blackout curtains trap heat inside during the winter, and prevent heat from getting in during the summer. It's kind of like a beach umbrella for your house or apartment.
If you work during the day, close the curtains before you leave in the morning, open the windows, and turn on the fans. Instead of your place getting warmed by the sun all day, the curtains will keep the heat at bay. When you get home you can open the curtains to let fresh air in while you sleep. If you shop around, you can get these really cheap. I found some great ones for $10 at Pier One Imports a few years back.
2. Freeze Your Sheets
Speaking of sleeping, nighttime can be particularly awful during a heatwave. Luckily, in California, nighttime temps can drop by up to 30 degrees due to low humidity, so sleeping hasn't been a huge issue for us. But, I am from the Midwest, so I understand how a 90-degree night with 90 percent humidity can be horrible.
Can't take it anymore? Consider freezing your sheets. Fold your sheets and pillowcases, put them in a resealable plastic bag, and pop them in the freezer. Make your bed right before you're ready to go to sleep. While they sheets won't stay ice cold all night, they should stay cool long enough for you to fall asleep. You can also stuff a reusable ice pack inside your pillow.
3. Get Creative
As I mentioned, our only shade tree was cut down so the sun beats on the back of the house — basically a giant wall of floor-to-ceiling windows — all afternoon. Even with blackout curtains it can get pretty hot. When temps soared into the 100s recently I was desperate. I took an old bed sheet (pictured above) and made a barrier for one of the windows, and I set up an umbrella in front of the other one.
Keeping the heat off the house has helped immensely, and it's made the temps inside the house bearable. If you're broke, get creative. Check out Pinterest for some other ways to safeguard your home against the sun, MacGyver style.
4. Blow Hot Air Out
While you definitely want a fan blowing on you, it's important to use another one to blow the hot air out of your living space. "When your fan is facing out the window, it blows hot air out of the room, which is replaced by cold air from outside," Patrick Allan advised on Lifehacker. "As the cold air comes in, the temperature will drop. It's best if you have another window to open elsewhere so you can get a cross draft going too."
5. Make An Ice Fan
If you're feeling hot AF, and not in a good way, here's how to make a homemade ice fan to cool off. All you need for this is a fan, a large mixing bowl, and ice.
"While not the sleekest or most efficient, setting a large bowl of ice in front of a fan caused our AC to run roughly half as much in the oppressive heat," Campbell Faulkner noted on Apartment Therapy. "I arranged my fan and bowl of ice in what I found to work most effectively. By tilting the bowl and allowing the breeze from the fan to blow onto the ice cubes copious cool air was blow out into my kitchen and breakfast nook."
6. Pay Attention To Your Body Temp
Keeping your body cool is key to surviving summer without air conditioning. Make sure you're drinking plenty of cold water, taking cool showers, and wearing lightweight clothing. I even take a bunch of fresh fruit, mash it with a spoon, and freeze it in a jar to make a homemade frozen treat. It's totally acceptable to lounge around the apartment in your underwear, too.
You can also place an ice pack on your body's cool down pulse points. "Spread out across your body are pulse points: around your neck, inner wrists, the inside bend of elbows, back of your knees and ankles," Kelowna Now explained. "Place an ice pack or a cold mineral water bottle on these spots for at least 30 seconds and your body starts to cool down. The cold chills your blood vessels effectively and lowers your overall body temperature."
7. Find A Cool Place To Hang
If all else fails, find a cool place to hang during the hottest hours of the day. If you work from home head to an air-conditioned coffee shop. Or, if it's the weekend, the movies, a restaurant or bar, the library, or a coffee shop can provide some relief.
You can also head to a local pool, or the beach. Once, when I was in New York City, I went on the Circle Line boat tour just because it was 10 degrees cooler on the water. In Los Angeles it's usually up to 20 degrees cooler at the beach, so if I really can't take it I know that's an option.
8. Invest In Sweat Wipes
While these other suggestions might help you keep your pad chill, obviously you have to leave home at some point. If you take public transportation, heat and humidity can be pretty brutal. Personally, I carry baby wipes in my purse to clean off if I get too sweaty.
Additionally, thanks to Bustle's own Amber Petty, I discovered these SweatBlock Antiperspirant Towelettes. You can wipe these under your pits, and on the back of your legs, and they can actually keep you from sweating, which can be a pretty big deal if you're taking the subway to work when it's 90 degrees. While you might still feel hot, you won't be sticking to the seats, and an eight-week supply is only $20.
It's going to be a long sweaty summer, but we can all get through it with a little ingenuity, and a lot of water. And, come winter, we'll be dreaming of summer again, so try to have some fun, even if you're sweating bullets.