Some scorching days lie ahead for most parts of the country. That could easily lead you to set new records for spending on air conditioning. But it doesn’t have to get that way — here’s how to keep cool without overspending.
Keep Cool Without Overspending
Some of the more pragmatic ways to save money on cooling off include making sure your air conditioning system is cleaned and setting thermostat higher. But if you want to offset the effect of the latter, or you don’t have an AC, the following suggestions will help.
Replace all the sweat you’ll lose in the heat by drinking plenty of water as well as anything that contains electrolytes, like sports drinks.
In addition to chilling drinking water in a pitcher in the refrigerator, you can chill drinking glasses in the freezer. Or if you prefer bottled water, you could even flash chill it in the freezer and then take it with you.
Speaking of beverages, try to minimize your intake of anything with caffeine or alcohol, as they can dehydrate you.
Hot food will heat you up so stick to things that are cold. Instead of large meals, aim for smaller ones that are more frequent — or just snack and graze. Fruit and dairy products might keep you cooler than other types of foods.
Make a Fan Out of Paper
This one has pros and cons — one might argue that the exertion of waving the fan might offset the cooling effect of the actual fanning. However, it you don’t have any other option available, you can always make a fan out of paper until you find something cooler.
While battery-operated fans might be frustrating if they’re the only thing you have to cool off with, that’s not how they’re intended to be used.
Instead, keep one in your handbag, backpack and office desk in case of emergencies (for instance, a power failure at your workplace might take out the air conditioning for a while). Make sure you keep extra batteries on hand and you’re all set.
There are fans and then there are industrial fans — the kind that are powerful enough to cool work environments.
Made by companies like Vornado and Air King, they’re more expensive than other types of fans. However, they tend to come with generous warranties that ultimately make them a good value because they last much longer than other types of fans.
You can also find this type of fan in some rather huge sizes that can actually replace an air conditioner. Alternatively, you can use industrial fans to amplify the effect of air conditioning set at a modest level, which ultimately saves you money.
Put Ice in Front of a Fan
Even if your fan isn’t of the industrial variety, you can maximize its performance with another trick: Set ice in front of any type of fan and cool will blow your way.
Speaking of ice, sucking on ice cubes should cool you off. You could also rub the ice on your face — or, if you’re not worried about appearances, put the ice somewhere inside your clothing to cool off. Yes, it will look funny once it melts, but then again, damp clothing will also keep you cool.
Better than ice cubes: ice packs, which tend to stay cold longer and don’t turn into puddles no matter where you put them.
Hot tip (or make that a cool one): You can now find super-sized ice packs by signing up for at least a trial of just about any meal kit subscription service. To keep the food fresh, the packaging usually includes multiple ice-packs that are each a couple of times larger other types of ice packs. Most of the delivery companies don’t ask you to return these ice packs, even if you cancel your subscription.
Freeze Other Things
Speaking of frozen things, don’t limit the chilling to ice. For instance, you can put a handkerchief or bandana in the freezer and then when you take it out it will feel cool against your skin — especially the neck or forehead. Even better: a wet washcloth — or use your imagination to come up with other things to put in the icebox.
Just hearing the jingle of an ice cream truck is enough to cool some people off. Many of the chains serving this dessert — and frozen yogurt — tend to go heavy on the air conditioning too, making your wait more pleasant. Visit any coffee chain and you can order frozen blended drinks that are essentially milkshakes or malteds with caffeine in them. Or check out boutique shops for gourmet or unusual flavors — including bacon — and novel twists like rolled ice cream and finely shaved ice.
And now let’s move from the freezer to the refrigerator: Try putting lotion in the ‘fridge especially something containing aloe vera. Then put it on your feet and hands.
Fill a spray bottle with water and keep it in the refrigerator for a quick refreshing spray to your face after being outdoors. Even better: a spray mister attached to a fan.
If you have to go outside try to stay in the shade during the hottest part of the day. And if you’re walking, you probably want to steer clear of asphalt surfaces, which tend to heat up more than other types of paving or ground.
Theaters and Libraries
Most theaters pull out all the stops when it’s hot outside — they usually jack up the air conditioning to to turn up the air conditioning to maximum strength in case of maximum attendance (the extra bodies in room would otherwise make it feel really hot).
Or you can save money on this strategy by heading to the library, an indoor shopping mall — or what some cities are calling cooling centers, which are what they sound like: well-air-conditioned places open to the public during sweltering days and specifically intended to help people cool off who don’t have air conditioning.
Public Swimming Pools
If you don’t mind chlorine — or if you have the kind of soap that can clean it off your body later — a public swimming pool is a great way to cool off. Or if you have a gym membership, find out whether there’s a location with a pool and head there.
Cold Showers or Baths
This one might be better for renters than homeowners (if you rent your home, then you probably won’t take the hit of a higher water bill the same way that homeowners do).
Take more frequent showers or baths and use cooler water than normal. If you can discipline yourself to sit in a tub full of ice, knock yourself out.
You don’t even have to get into the tub or shower to cool yourself off: just wet your hair in the sink.
Slowing down will cool you off — but don’t let that be an excuse to talk yourself out of your workouts all summer.
Instead, simply adjust your routine. Either exercise indoors where there’s air conditioning or switch the time of any outdoor exercise to early morning or late evening.
If for some reason you can’t change the time of your workout and it has to be outside, just reduce the intensity if possible.
Dress More Comfortably
Although most employers have relaxed their dress codes in recent decades, many still frown upon shorts and tank tops. But you can still dress for the weather by wearing looser fitting garments, ideally in lighter colors. Also, opt for cotton over synthetics.
Here’s another tip — for when you’re outside and not at work: Douse your sun hat or baseball cap in cold water before putting it on your head.
Combine the Above
The above suggestions will certainly help you deal with summer heatwaves if you either don’t have air conditioning or want to reduce your electricity bill. And these measures become even more effective if you do more than one of them at the same time.
But Don’t Compromise Your Health
However, they become overkill if they interfere with your health. Remember that high temperatures can cause heat stroke, cramps, exhaustion and dehydration.
If you come down with any of these conditions, you might incur costs that could more offset any money you might have saved on air conditioning.
You’re better off budgeting funds to make yourself feel more comfortable than having to pay any out-of-pocket health care costs.
The added expense becomes even more important if your household includes any seniors, infants or people with pre-existing medical conditions — all of whom have an elevated risk of heat stroke and the like. And don’t forget your pets, whose fur makes the heat especially challenging to endure.
Readers, how do you plan to keep cool this summer? Have you budgeted extra money for it at all?
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