Cheap Ways to Chill Out

It's hot hot hot, with record temperatures expected in the Portland-area this weekend. (And, from what I can tell, around much of the rest of the United States — even Alaska!) We live in a hundred-year-old house with no air conditioner and inadequate insulation. Faced with the sweltering heat, I've been thinking about my favorite ways to keep cool.

  • Drink ice water. Water regulates your body temperature. It also keeps the body hydrated, allowing it to sweat efficiently. (Sweat is a good thing: it's your body's cooling system.) Avoid alcohol and caffeine when it's hot.
  • Get wet. A hose and a sprinkler were all we needed to keep cool as kids. Those games aren't as fun for me anymore, but I'm a fan of the children's wading pool. I bought one cheap last summer, and spent hot afternoons lounging in it with a book. A cool bath is a good alternative.
  • Spray yourself. When it's hot, my wife carries around a spray bottle filled with water. She sprays the back of her neck, her shirt, and — at night — the bed sheets. This is especially effective when combined with a fan.
  • Ice off. Some people keep cool with ice packs. I find the cold from these to be too concentrated, but I'll bet they work like a charm.
  • Turn off the lights. Light bulbs emit heat. So do most other electrical appliances. Turn off the ones you don't need. (Even the computer!)
  • Stay low. Heat rises. If you live in a two-story house, keep on the lower floor. In any room, you'll probably be cooler lounging on the floor than sitting in a chair.
  • Use the windows. Each house is different, and you'll need to learn the airflow in yours, but generally if you open the windows and blinds early in the morning, and then close them midday, you can keep your house cooler.
  • Turn on a fan. Air conditioners are expensive to run. While ceiling fans aren't nearly as effective, they do cool a room cheaply. A box fan in a window also helps to cool things down.
  • Popsicles! Popsicles are my favorite inexpensive cold food. You can even make your own. Focus on cool food. Here are some cool treats that won't chill your budget.
  • Go out on the town. You won't catch me giving this advice very often, but a hot day is the perfect time to head to a movie theater, or to eat out at your favorite cheap (air-conditioned) restaurant.

If you do use an air conditioner, make sure its effects don't go to waste. Keep doors and windows closed. Better yet, cool just one room. When we had A/C at our old house, we mostly just cooled the bedroom, which became a haven from the heat.

Some of you might want to try to make your own air conditioner. Me? I'll be cooling off in the shade of the walnut tree, a frosty gin fizz in my hand.

More about...Frugality

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Through a Glass Darkly
Through a Glass Darkly
14 years ago

Great tips–thanks. I’m loving the blog.

Waldo Jaquith
Waldo Jaquith
14 years ago

Presumably the “turn the lights out” advice applies only to those individuals insufficiently frugal to have switched to compact fluorescent bulbs. Those, of course, put out very little heat.

Tom Harpel
Tom Harpel
14 years ago