Paycheck Chronicles

Keeping Cool When It's Hot Out

For most of my readers, it is summer. And summer often means hot.

At my house, it has been in the 80s and 90s for several weeks. Not record-breaking heat, but enough to warm my house up to toaster level.

We have two air conditioning units, in two of the bedrooms, but electricity is expensive here in Europe and we're reluctant to use them unless absolutely necessary.

Anyone who is living off base (or who has a utility allowance through their privatized housing) has a financial incentive to find the least expensive ways to keep cool, and we can't really add insulation or plant trees to block the sun.

  • Keep window coverings closed on windows that get sunlight. If you have exterior awnings or shutters, use them. You can even rig up a no-so-fancy awning by hanging a blanket outside your window.
  • Use fans, whether they are ceiling fans, regular fans, or whole house fans. We had a whole house fan when I was growing up and it did a great job of cooling the house. It sounded like an airplane, but that was a small price to pay for moving so much air through the house. I've heard they aren't so loud now, so you can probably even have cool air and sleep at the same time..
  • Minimize the use of anything that generates heat. This includes lighting, televisions (unplug when not in use), and computers. Use heat generating appliances such as dishwashers and clothes dryers early in the morning.
  • Don't cook with the stove or oven. Grills, slow-cookers, and microwaves all generate much less heat.
  • Cover your fuzzy furniture and rugs with smooth, cool fabrics. It might not be fashionable, but a white sheet draped over the couch will help you feel much more comfortable.
  • Drink lots of fluids - it really works. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which contribute to dehydration and overheating.
  • Eat cool foods, including lots of fruit (more water! Popsicles, cucumbers, and melons are all good cooling foods. Alternately, try out a spicy dish. It is crazy how much hot food makes you feel cooler, but it does succeed.
  • Hang out in the cool part of your house. We're spending more time than ever in the basement because it is much, much cooler there.
  • Dampen your clothes with a spray bottle to take advantage of the cooling effects of the fabric drying. Some people even sleep under a damp sheet - even cooler if it has been stored in the fridge or freezer.
  • Take advantage of public places with air conditioning. My family's favorite is the library, though some people prefer to go to the movies or the shopping center.
Air conditioning can add a lot to your electric bill, so try to minimize its use by trying these tricks instead.

If you know more good cooling idea, share them for all of us. I am always happy to learn new tricks!

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