Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Summer challenge: keeping cool

It's mid-June, and summer is officially and undoubtedly here, accompanied by heat and humidity. It's a bit better up here than near the coast line - actually pretty dry, and the nights are deliciously cool - I'm so grateful for that, it's difficult to fall asleep while you're all sticky and sweaty - but we're still in Israel. Our little house accumulates heat during the day, and because not all our mosquito nets are fixed yet, we can't open all the windows as wide as we'd like.

It's very tempting to just push a little button and turn on the air conditioner, but if we do that, I know our electricity bill is soon going to double. After Shira was born, we used the air conditioner heavily to keep our house warm (I know, I know, we could have found more frugal ways, but we were too overwhelmed back then to think about it) and got our biggest electricity bill ever.

Last summer, we lived in a house without air conditioning, and somehow managed. This summer, I'm challenging myself to live as though we don't have an air conditioner - at least most of the time. My husband might turn it on for an hour or so after he gets back from work, but otherwise, I'm designing alternative methods to battle the heat:

~ I keep several bottles of cold water in the refrigerator, and make sure ice trays are full so we can always enjoy a cold drink. I also made a pitcher of lemonade yesterday - very refreshing.

~ Cool showers. Several times during the day, if necessary. Very refreshing as well, especially if your hair is wet.

~ I dress lightly at home - meaning that I wear a skirt made from light fabric, a short-sleeved shirt, and no hair covering. I know it's not always possible for those who have visitors coming and going frequently during the day, but we don't have that many.

~ Baking has been put on hold. Instead of cakes and cookies, I make fruit salad for dessert. I just throw in some chopped pears, bananas, pineapple and dried fruit and berries. Can be served with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.

~ I try to do all my cooking, as well as outside chores such as hanging laundry, working in the garden and grocery shopping during hours when heat is not at its high - early morning or late afternoon/evening.

What are your favorite frugal ways to combat the summer heat?


Sue said...

I am with you! Adjusting to no central air conditioning was one of the hardest things for me when I moved to Japan from the US almost 15 years ago. The heat and humidity can really make me sick. We do have a unit I turn on during the worst days, but I have gotten better at keeping it off longer and using lots of fans (which use electricity, of course, but are much cheaper). I don't have much to add to your list, other than keeping little Shira in mind. If her skin is anything like my babies she may get heat rash. Wiping her with a cool cloth, sponge baths, or even a little baby pool (or just a big bucket) might help. I also always made sure to have a nice soft absorbant hand towel to put between the baby's head and my skin while nursing to absorb the sweat and help prevent heat rash. That's my two yen ;o).

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,

I'm a long time reader of your column, but have not commented til now. But this post I really relate to at the moment! :-) I'm heavily pregnant with my first baby so I'm fighting a daily battle against the heat in the UK (which, compared to Israel, must probably seem quite mild!).

I find keeping a cold, damp flannel or cloth near at hand is really helpful, especially for hot feet. My lovely hubby wraps one around my feet at night to help keep me a treat!

Good luck in your quest to stay cool! And many thanks for a fab blog. It's a source of inspiration for me many a time. :-)

Martha xxx

Persuaded said...

i live in a hundred year old house with an old wiring system- it just cannot take the strain that air conditioning units place on it. so we have no ac either. and i am one who has the hardest time ever with heat! my face turns beet red sometime in june and stays that way till september, lol. here are some things that we do:

- open up all of the windows at night when the air is coolest, and close them during the day when it is hot. we close curtains and blinds for the most part as well.

- we do use fans- placing a bowl of ice in front of the fan gives off an icy breeze that is just heavenly.

- i dress lightly around the house as you do. i even wear sleeveless tops, which i *never* wear at any other time. i keep a light sweater or linen blouse near the front door so that i can toss it on in the case of unexpected visitors.

- when the heat gets unbearable we make an event out of going somewhere that has air conditioning. for example we'll bring books and handwork to a fast food restaurant and order drinks. i know this might sound a bit odd, but the most common reaction i've gotten is people coming up and telling me what a good idea they think it is, lol. no one has ever had a problem with us sitting there for even a couple of hours. when the kids were toddlers i'd always aim for one that had an inside play area so the kids could really get some exercise.

- make sure everybody stays very well hydrated. give everybody their own water bottle and make sure they're filled often. i will occasionally slip something extra like lemon slices in for a treat.

i'm looking forward to what everybody else has to contribute!

Anonymous said...

Wrapping a few ice cubes in a light weight cotton fabric and placing around he back of your neck works great. Also, try rubbing a single cube on the inside of your wrist. The veins are near the surface there and will carry cooled blood to your entire body.

christine said...

Persuaded has the right idea to open the windows on the cool shady side of the house and close them as soon as the air begins to be heated by the sun. This will be our third year of an a/c by choice. are making yourself hotter by drinking ice cold water. It feels refreshing when you drink things that are ice cold, but your body will heat up in trying to warm those liquids to pass through your digestive system.

My husband volunteered for a mountain rescue team and was trained to only administer room temperature liquids to victims of heat distress so as not to warm their bodies any pass on the ice and chilled drinks and drink water from a counter pitcher.

The other remedy we use is a misting bottle to spray on our face, arms and it evaporates the heat will rise away from your sink also.

Rebecca Grider said...

I'm actually doing the same thing: trying to survive without air conditioning to save money. I live in the US, in the South where it gets really humid and hot. Luckily, I have a lot of trees that shade my house so that helpls. Otherwise, I keep a box fan going and when I feel a little icky and hot, I sit in front of it for a bit. Mostly, I just remind myself of the money I'm saving and that helps me through. Plus, I keep a lot of lemonade on hand to cool off with.

Gothelittle Rose said...

We splurged this year. We had been keeping the entire house cool during the worst days with a window A/C unit. This year we bought a portable quiet unit with an electronic thermostat.

That thermostat is a real energy-saver. When it isn't hot enough, the unit just turns off.

Of course, my husband has it set to 75 and I can tolerate temperatures up to 85, so I usually leave it off during the day and turn it back on shortly before he comes home to make the house nice... when I have to. It hasn't been all that warm lately.

The biggie that it does for us, though, is dehumidification. It's worth the trouble to save up a little more money and buy one with a dehumidify-only option, it really is! An A/C, and I didn't understand this when I was younger, is an investment like a car, not a whatever-works like a television.

Of course I do the shut-the-house-down tricks, and the light-clothing tricks, and the water tricks. That keeps the usage down. But a genuinely good higher-end unit is invaluable for keeping your costs down when it's one of those days when babies and the elderly historically used to get sick and/or die.

Note: We can get away with a portable unit rather than Central mostly because we live in a house in which the living room, dining room, and kitchen are all basically the same space. (It's a raised ranch.) So one "room" contains most of the living space in the house.

missylou said...

I live in south Mississippi and it gets very hot and humid here...with lots of mosquito as well. Tempertatures are for this week will be in the mid to upper 90s. We do run the air, but we keep in around 80 - 82; unless we have company. My kitchen is on the east side of the house, so I do most of my cooking in the late afternoon. I unplug my freezer during the day so it doesn't generate any heat in the kitchen; as well as hang clothes to dry. We also keep all the curtains/blinds closed to block the heat.

Missylou's Blog:

Tracy said...

We have no shade and it's been extremely humid this season. We also are forgoing the air conditioner to keep the electric bill lower. We do use fans, and serve popsicles. Rest when you are tired, and apply cold compresses to your neck, wrists, and the back of your knees.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna!

Showers work well but are also quite expensive here (water and gas for heating it). But I shower my legs from the knee down until the skin is really cold. If you let the water dry off on its own instead of toweling this helps staying cool for about an hour (cool legs=cool body). But be careful with vry cold water if you have a weak heart.

I have a hot(?)waterbottle filled with cold water (you can add some ice-cubes, too) wrapped in a towel at night.

I also use baby powder for myself in sweaty areas like the armpits, elbows, bcksides of my knees etc. It really helps to stay dry, prevents heat rash and isn't harmful to the skin like some freshness sprays.

We also often have a cold dinner on the hottest days, like pasta and vergetable salads, and eat lots of cooled fruit like water melon.

Stay cool! :-)


Ways of Zion said...

Oh I feel so guilty as we have already used the AC and I KNOW that it is cooler here then where you are! Our trouble is that our oldest suffers from Ashmah and therefore we have to watch that it doesn't get humid in the house as that trigers an attack.

We use ours mostly to cut the humidity and so it is set pretty high, as in it keeps the house at 24 C instead of 21C which I would love ;-)

Another good way to cool the house is to put bowls of cold water over the air vents, it evaporates into the room and cools it as the fan is on.

Hope that helps some. Oh and our babies were always in just a diaper (maybe with a diaoer cover to look nicer) on or just a oneses!

Hugs & Blessings to you and your family!

Ways of Zion said...

oh and something else I just thought of is to put frozen juice cans, or ice cubes, or anything from the freezer on the indside of your arm where it bends (elbow) because of the veins come close to the skin surface there it is a great way to cool down FAST we use this when someone gets heat stroke and it works great. Used it last week on myself!

Rebekka said...

I like to wear cotton and linen when it's really hot, I've found that especially linen really helps keep the heat away and doesn't stick to your skin.

At home I am a huge fan of closing blinds and windows on the sunny side of the building and opening them on the shady side. Extra points if you can get a slight draft moving through the house.

Anna, I wanted to let you know that I recently saw an article in the Danish nursing journal (Sygeplejersken) about stopping breastfeeding after four months instead of the previously recommended 6-12). The man interviewed is a researcher from this organisation: (in English) who studies the accumulation of chemicals in humans. He claims that after 4 months the infant has the same blood levels of hard to remove chemicals such as DDT, PCBs, dioxins, flame retardants, and other unstudied chemical agents as the mother has. If breastfeeding continues after this point then the infant actually gets more chemicals than the mother does, and since these chemicals are deposited in fatty tissue they are extremely difficult for the body to remove again. He claims in the interview that breastfeeding is absolutely valuable but at around the four-month point the balance between breastfeeding benefits and pollution problems begins to become unstable. Also, these are chemicals that infant girls will go on to give to their own children in their breastmilk later, plus whatever they accumulate up to that point.

I can't tell you more about his research but I just thought I would let you know. From what I can see the institute he works at is a non-profit so at the very least he isn't in the pocket of the infant formula companies!

Mrs. Anna T said...

Rebekka, if the article is in Danish naturally I can't review it and tell you what I think of it. However, I can say this: we don't live in a perfect world, and not all mothers can avoid dangerous chemicals (though we can try our best of course). However, does it mean formula is pollutant-free? I don't believe it.

If everything works out, nursing is the most natural, simple, straightforward, nutritionally balanced and immunologically perfect choice to feed a baby. I personally wouldn't be swayed by a single article that points to the contrary, when it's obvious God gave us breasts for nursing babies.

jAne said...

Where I live it can get upwards of 110 with some humidity during summer. Being a menopausal woman I often "live" in my own little hot house and it isn't in the least. This adds to the effects of the summer heat. sigh.

A few years back my husband installed a *whole house fan* so early mornings I open windows and turn it on, bringing in the cool outside air (esp if the Delta Breeze is kicked up) and sucking the warm house air out through the attic. Sometimes that brings the house temp down to even 60 degrees depending on the early morning outside temp. Heavenly. By 8am I turn off the fan and close up the house. The a/c (set at 75) won't come on til early afternoon that way. Very nice.

I hang clothes out on the line early mornings.

Plenty of chilled water and iced tea, fresh fruits, cold pasta salads, green salads for meals.

We grill a load of chicken or beef then freeze it in quart size freezer bags, taking out what we need. This eliminates heating up the house using the oven.

I wear loose linen clothing..mostly dresses or skirts/tops.

Body powder is a must. Under the arms, backs of knees, even under the breast area to prevent heat rash.

jAne at

Anonymous said...

We have a summer kitchen, so all our cooking, even bread baking, is done outside in a netted room. It works really well and keeps the house cool. Summer kitches are pretty easy to set up, maybe one might work for you.


VRM said...

I like to plan ahead and store up a supply of small sweets in the freezer for the summer time. Pulling a nice cold, frozen cookie out of the freezer and eating it on a hot day is a great treat!

I live in the states in Michigan, so the weather is very humid because of the Great Lakes. Though we do not run an air conditioner, we do keep a dehumidifier in the basement to help absorb some of the moisture in the air. This helps a great deal. The added benefit of doing this is that the water it collects can then be used to water the vegetable garden!

Front Porch Society said...

I am used to the hot sun from the South and now that I live in the Midwest, it is not that hot so I don't use the air conditioner. However, now that I have a Siberian Husky dog, I have no choice but to run the air conditioner for her. Otherwise, she gets too hot with all that fur and pukes all over my place! Poor girl! So....I just adjust my budget accordingly and know that summer months will have a slightly higher electric bill.

Anonymous said...

a kiddie pool, one that I could mostly lay down in. When I cooled off my "core temp" I was very comfortable. If you have a bath you could fill it with cold water.

Everly Pleasant said...

Well, seeing as babies need refreshments too...
I don't know where they sell these, but I've seen these nifty little products for babies that may come in handy. It is a little plast ring that the baby can hold in her hand, with a little mesh pouch on the end, in which you can put a cool strawberry or a piece of ice. Children suck on whatever is in the pouch, through the mesh, as to not choke. Pretty clever!

Mandi said...

I run cool tap water over my hands and wrists and over my ankles and feet. About five minutes worth makes me feel cooler all over.

lizzykristine @ Uplifted Eyes said...

I loved reading everyone's tips. We run the A/C because unfortunately our apartment is unshaded and has big windows facing the summer sun. (Can you say, greenhouse!) But I utilize every cooling tip I can find, too.

We've just come to accept that our electric bill triples in summer -- we cut the budget in other areas to accommodate. Arkansas (USA) summers are very humid as well as warm (106F/41C is not abnormal).

By dressing lightly, keeping the fans on, running the dehumidifier, not baking, and keeping the thermostat at about 80 degrees (27 C) -- we thankfully keep it from going higher than triple!

However, if my husband loses his job, we decided we will live without air conditioning. :)

Wenonah4th said...

One thing you can do, Anna, (and any other ladies who wear head coverings) is to soak it down, wring it out, and put it back on damp. That is incredibly comfortable!

Audrey said...

A bloggy friend of mine and I just started a blog carnival, posting ways to keep cool (summer treats!) in the heat. We're both pregnant, with no air conditioning, so we've gotta survive somehow!

Here is a link to mine if you're interested! I link to other participants, too, and they have great ideas!

Lori said...

I've heard wonderful things about soaking a straw hat and wearing that outside on a hot day - maybe it would still work over another head covering... I've also read about hanging a damp sheet in the house and turing a fan on it - the evaporating water cools the surrounding air. Also, frozen grapes are delicious and refreshing (if your teeth aren't cold-sensative), and boiled sweet corn is wonderful right from the refridgerator - and sweeter, really!

His Wife and Their Mommy said...

Well we live in a all bills paid apartment.. so we can have the AC as cold as we want.. but trust me.. we are very thankful for it. we have no ac in our car and the first 2 years of our marriage we had no ac period..
we used to run fan in the windows and would have a spray bottle of water to spray ourselves with on occasion. we would also spray the water into the fan and it cooled us down as well. ditto to the several showers a day.. been there done that.. and dress as light as possible while at home. We used the crock pot as often as possible and it kept down the heat a lot. Also being awake earlier in the day while it wasn't so hot then napping during the heat of the day was a plus for us..also put a wet bandanna in the freezer and put it around ur neck once u got too hot..

Anonymous said...

Living in the UK we rarely get heat that I find too much, also living in an old house with thick walls helps despite our large main windows facing south. However I was wondering about keeping cool when I was in Italy recently. I have observed that even in the South of Italy very few people have a/c in their homes. Most people get by with the tips mentioned such as opening the windows during the night when it is cooler and closing during the day, they also use shutters or outside blinds in front of the windows to keep out the heat, although this makes it darker during the day it certainly keeps it cooler. I also noticed that my mother in-law does the majority of her cooking before 6.30am - she doesn't even have a fan in the house so I guess every little helps.

Anonymous said...

I have spent my childhood in Central Asia, and just recently came back from an extended stay in India, which can get very hot and sticky. You actually want to sweat through hot weather. It helps your body to breath and tolerate the heat. I think intuitively it seems logical to drink cold water to cool down, but hot drink is the way to go. The body must stay at a homeostatic or steady-state of temperature, therefore it must find a way to cool itself. We balance our core temperature by sweating. Sweating essentially balances our body temperature by evaporative cooling.

Also wearing clothes that are “breathable” helps big time. You can find those at outdoors stores. At the same time I personally always preferred a feel of plain cotton on my skin, than non-cotton fabrics, even though cotton feels heavy during heat.

Rose said...

Hello Anna. We have very hot summers which, here on the coast, are very humid as well. At night the air doesn't cool much unless we get a "southerly buster" (change of wind).
I'd strongly urge you to get screens for all your windows so that you can control air flow. Electric fans are a worthwhile investment but only for where you actually are, they are a waste of electricity if no-one is in the room.
This year we purchased a small portable cooler for my elderly mother. Although she used it only in the hotttest hours of the day, it made a big difference for her and added little to the electricity bill.
Keep drinking low sugar beverages and eating lots of fruit and salad, internal cooling and well being helps so much!
Best wishes, Rose (who doesn't have air conditioning)

Joie said...

When we moved into our old farm house without AC I thought we would have huge bills from window units. Would you believe we have 5! window units spread throughout the house and our electric bills in the summer are very modest. Our units are Energy Star units. We run them most of the day or have terrible humidity issues (have never seen a unit with a dehumidifier on it). On cooler days, I alternate between fan only and off completely. Also, clean those filters to keep the machines efficient. Actual shutters, vs drapes, have helped on the hot side of our house. Grilling outside obviously helps. You might see about shutting off the room with the AC so all the cool stays in there and not out into other rooms or a hallway.

MarkyMark said...

What about employing what they call a 'swamp cooler' in the southwestern USA? Since you're in a relatively dry area, that might work for you too...

MarkyMark said...


Per my previous post, here's a link telling you more about evaporative coolers, aka swamp coolers. They use a fan, but they don't run a compressor; that equates to huge savings vs. an air conditioner. For more info, check out this article on swamp coolers. Hope this helps...


Shannon said...

Hi Anna,
Here, we have a well shaded home, so it helps block out the heat. Also, use of simple fans, and serving stove-top cooked foods helps.

Anonymous said...

We use the a/c already. don't want to think what the electric bill will be.
Water prices are going way up in Israel in the next few days, for those who exceed the household limit. We exceed by a lot, as we have a large family plus rent out a 'separate unit' we're going to be paying an exorbiant amount.
Showering often is refreshing but certainly no cheaper or greener than a/c.

Anonymous said...

Anna, do you have the option of regular electric fans? They don't use nearly as much energy as an air conditioner, but when they're aimed directly at you, my, they bring relief.

Mrs. R said...

Hi Anna,
One thing I do is to pull as much of the cool morning air into out home with fans. I call it 'stuffing the house with cool air'! I then make sure the sun does not shine in any window by keeping the blinds twisted so the sun is reflected. At night, after it has cooked off, I pull cooler air in and removed the hotter inside air with fans.

At night when it's really hot, I will rub water over my arms and legs and then get into bed with them still damp. Sounds weird but it does help.

Mrs. R

Buffy said...

Not a problem we get very often in the UK ha, ha.

I am sure you are quite right to keep the AC to a minimum. Apart from the financial cost they are not good for your health in excess anyway. AC often starts to affect my throat after a while. Also your body is not meant to go from one extreme temperature (indoors with air conditioning) to another (outdoors in the heat).

I had a friend who used to live in Spain, which as you know gets very hot. She said that they would keep the windows open and the curtains (or blinds) drawn and this created a cool (not as cold as AC) temperature.

Anonymous said...

Good suggestions from your visitors, Anna! We do much of the same here. I feel as though I become very conscious of which way the breeze is blowing throughout the day, & adjust windows (up or down) accordingly. Lots of cool beverages for everyone to enjoy, & we're set. :o)


CappuccinoLife said...

We are without a/c this year too. I also do the fan trick, keeping them running all morning until outside starts heating up, and keeping the windows shaded and the house fairly dark during the afternoon.

I don't like it, but I'm adjusting. I much prefer a/c, however, especially since my husband hates the sound of fans, and so when he's home they're often turned off. I think the noise reminds him that electricity is being used, and money spent, lol. With the a/c our electric bill was much higher but he didn't care because it wasn't obvious.

Nea said...

Oh dear, we are having the quite opposite "problem"... We live in a old stonehouse, which is very chilly even at the hot summer days (which have been very rare this summer in Finland). So we keep our windows open during the midday hours to get some warmth in :)

Michelle said...

Don't know if anyone mentioned these yet, but cornstarch or baby powder on the skin is very cooling. Also, for baking, if you have a portable roasting oven and a place to plug it in, you can put it outside and put your pans in there to bake.