Beat the heat by adjusting your sleeping, eating, and dressing habits.
Much of Canada and the U.S. has been experiencing extreme heat over the past week. Temperatures in my southwestern Ontario town hit the low 40s Celsius (107-109 F) this past weekend, which is unheard of. There have been multiple deaths attributed to the heat in Montreal, and public health officials are intervening to ensure that people are safe, distributing water and hosting cool-down centers in urban areas.
At times like these air conditioning can seem like a true luxury, but not everyone has it, nor does everyone want to use it. The good news is, there are ways to strategize in order to make an AC-free house cooler than it would be if you did nothing. Some of the following tips are common sense; others I learned during my time living in Recife, Brazil, just south of the equator, where people cope with extreme heat on a daily basis. Feel free to share any additional tips in the comments below.
1. Manage your windows: Open windows at night to let in cool air, close them in the morning to keep it in. This works well especially if you live in a well-insulated home.
2. Rely on fans: Fans are wonderfully effective at cooling down a room and making it easier to sleep. Set up fans throughout your home to get the air moving.
3. Avoid cooking: Super-hot days are not the time to bake. Avoid turning on the oven, as it will heat up the kitchen significantly, and try to minimize time at the stove. If possible, use a barbecue to cook, or stick with no-cook meals for a few days.
4. Put linen sheets on your bed: Linen is a natural fabric that's highly breathable, absorptive, and light. It does not cling, dries rapidly, and is known for its ability to convey heat through fabric and away from the body. From Linen Me:
"As linen quickly allows the heat to escape, it further improves cooling. It is claimed, that heat conductivity of linen is five times higher than wool and eighteen times higher than silk."
5. Wear sun dresses: Loose, short dresses made of natural fabric such as linen or cotton make one feel much cooler than even shorts and a T-shirt.
6. Close the curtains or blinds. The darker a room, the cooler it will be. If you're like me and hate the idea of hanging out in shadows, then close curtains according to the direction in which the sun is shining, i.e. cover east-facing windows in the morning, before switching to west-facing in the evening.
7. Take cool showers: This technique is used obsessively by Brazilians, where it's not uncommon to take 5+ mini showers daily. They have quick cold rinses that do wonders for cooling and rejuvenating the body. In the interest of water conservation, keep any showers short; 30 seconds is really all you need.
8. Buy some plants: Houseplants are natural space-coolers. Many will "emit oxygen, lowering the ambient air temperature," according to an article on PopSugar. Aloe vera, snake and spider plants, ficus, rubber plants, areca palm trees (declared the best air purifying plant by NASA), Boston ferns, and pothos are considered the best options.
9. Change your sleeping location: Who says you have to stay in a sticky hot bedroom? Set up a futon downstairs, on a porch, or even in the basement if you need a cooler space.