Summer's officially upon us, and along with all its usual accoutrements (Dog Days of, Boys of, (500) Days of), it's also brought along its rowdy, sticky friend: The Heat. You know the guy. He's the one who makes it harder to move, and harder to sleep, and harder even to get out of the car.
At least half of you are reading this on your phone in your car, waiting for autumn to arrive and release you from your ass prison.
And sure, the wealthy can afford to fight the heat, with their central air conditioning, and seaside villas, and chilled top hats, but for the rest of us, this is just something we have to put up with. Right?
"YES." -The Wealthy
Well, no longer! Thanks to the Internet and some barely remembered high school science, below I've compiled a list of six of the thriftiest ways that we, the poor but Internet enabled, can use to stay cool. And I'm not sending you alone! Everything below contains detailed notes on how well these techniques actually work, as I discovered this past sticky weekend.
6The Fortress of Solitude
The first and cheapest method of cooling your home requires little more than an understanding of the laws of thermodynamics. (Which I have little more than, so it works out great.)
The first step is to flush all the air out of your house (don't worry, we'll bring it back soon) and replace it with cooler air. This can be done with some open windows and well-positioned fans set up to push all the warm, armpity air out of your home as you sleep, replacing it with cool nighttime air. Then, around 4 a.m. or whenever it starts to heat up outside, you simply close all the windows, kicking your armpit air outside forever.
And possibly experience an odd sibling of empty nest syndrome.
Once the inside of your house is nice and cool, you can now turn to doing war with the sun itself. Anything you can do to stop sunlight from shining into your house, like closing drapes or blinds, will stop that radiation from getting inside and heating up your shit. Even better is to keep the sun from touching your house and heating up its shit. By planting big leafy trees on the southern exposure, installing external shades, or putting your house on wheels and driving around the country following the clouds, you'll prevent a tremendous amount of energy from ever reaching you in the first place.
Some of these tips are a bit less economical than others, I guess.
How Well This Actually Works: Pretty Crappily
I've tried this out a few times in the past and found that it kind of works, and it definitely made me feel smug in the way that only people who get up at 4 a.m. can feel. But it never seemed to work for that long; no matter what I tried, these passive techniques always seemed to run out of steam around mid-afternoon, by which point my place was sweltering again. For these tips to be really effective, I think you need a large house with a basement, which I don't have. Also, you can't open your doors for anybody, so I hope you're not popular.
"I'm sorry, you're contaminated with heat, and I can't let you in. No, I don't know who stole 12 trees from your property and planted them on mine. Oh yeah? Well that's very rude of you, hotty-mouth."
When water evaporates, it sucks up a tremendous amount of heat from its surroundings. This effect is called evaporative cooling, and it's the basic mechanism that allows sweat to keep us cool.
Digital Vision/Getty Images
It's also what makes public transit such great fun.
But the same effect can be recreated without all that smelliness by simply keeping some water in a little spray bottle, of the kind you might use to water delicate plants or discipline a cat.
You know. When he's getting notions above his station.
The fine droplets from a spray bottle will evaporate quite rapidly, and even if the water within is room temperature, a brief spray of this on your bare legs will be dramatically cooling. A more ramped-up version of this is to make a "swamp cooler," which is essentially just a bowl of ice and water placed in front of a fan, which rapidly cools the breeze coming off that fan.
How Well This Actually Works: It Depends
The evaporative cooling effect works best in dry climates, where water readily evaporates. When the relative humidity is higher, water tends to linger a bit longer in its liquid state, which is in part why humid climates are so uncomfortable: Your sweat doesn't evaporate, instead just sitting around, making you look unpleasant.
Unfortunately, the humidity in my place was on the higher side, as I discovered when I set up my "Turbo Swamp Cat Discipliner" -- essentially a garden hose arranged to drip on the blades of an electric fan. In retrospect, it may have been the Turbo Swamp Cat Discipliner itself that led to the increased humidity, as my apartment's humidity rapidly soared past the "waterfall/oasis" target I was aiming for before settling on "Turkish bath." Trying to fix the situation was its own adventure, as, due to some poor planning, my invention was on the other side of my now very slippery apartment. I'll spare you the details of the pratfalls that followed, only to point out that they were only marginally less embarrassing than those I suffered during my last visit to an actual Turkish bath.
"Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Whoopsy-daisy. Excuse me. No, I'm fine. No, nothing hurt but my honor."