Eleven sustainable tips for staying cool without air conditioning this summer
When summer starts to burn, we’ll do anything to cool off. And while we’d love to be able to jump into the ocean at every chance it got over 30 degrees – which, let’s face it, is quite often in Brisbane (and not just in summer) – that’s not always an option.
That’s when we usually turn to air conditioning. But while it can be a handy way to keep your cool, it has its drawbacks – from the dehydrating effects and potential for spreading bacteria to its massive energy consumption (which is both a drain on your wallet and on the planet). And of course, some of us live in stuffy apartment buildings where clicking that air conditioning remote isn’t even an option.
So now that summer is here with a vengeance, we thought we’d bring you some simple tips for avoiding air conditioning – or just surviving without it. You’ll need ice, water, and if you’re really keen, some trees. Become crazy.
HACK YOUR FAN
On hot days, fans can be grossly ineffective, seeming to do nothing more than blow more hot air into your face. But a quick hack can work magic.
Find a large bowl, fill it with ice, and place it between your fan and you. The fans will run on the now cooled air, sending it straight your way, turning your fan into what looks like an air conditioner. Another option is to hang an ice pack (or frozen water bottles) directly in front of the fan. You can also place a damp, cool towel over the fan itself, which should give you about an hour of extra cool air.
MAKE SMART COLD DRINKS
Did you just carry the beer from the car? Wrap each bottle in a soaked (but not dripping) paper towel and put it in the freezer. The moisture will evaporate and cool quickly, and within 15 minutes you’ll be sipping an ice-cold brew.
You can swap your hot caffeine hit for an ice cold one by turning freshly brewed coffee into ice cubes – for something different, do it the Vietnamese way by adding a sprinkle of condensed milk. Or, if you’re ditching all the habits this summer, add frozen berries to a glass of water, which refreshes your drink while upping the taste factor.
Do you have an empty vaporizer lying around? Clean it well and fill it with cold or ice water. Then, whenever you feel your temperature starting to rise, spray yourself and everyone around you.
It’s a basic trick, but easy. If possible, store the bottle in the refrigerator or freezer (only for short periods – do not let the water turn to ice). Otherwise, just refill this baby as often as you can.
APPLY COLD THINGS TO YOUR PULSE POINTS
Anyone who has ever spent a term or four in a primary school in Queensland should already know this tip, but just in case you missed it: the easiest way to cool down quickly is to apply a cold source to your pulse points.
Start by holding your wrists under running water for at least three minutes. Next, apply an ice pack (or equivalent, frozen peas will do) to your wrists, neck, back of your knees and/or ankles. These strategies cool the blood flowing through your veins and lower your body temperature.
PLACE PLANTS IN FRONT OF YOUR WINDOWS
Do you have potted plants? Do you have windows that let in a lot of light? Well, there’s an energy-saving match right there. Use said plants to block said windows. The taller and leafier they are, the better (consider you have permission to store even more plant babies).
In fact, if you really want to stay cool, it’s worth investing in dense trees or even vines, as long as you have a way to hang them in windows. Not only will plants reduce the light and heat entering your home, but they will also provide you with cleaner air.
GIVE YOUR FEET A COLD BATH
When you need to sit in one place for a while – maybe you’re working or watching a movie – fill a container with cold water (and ice, if you can hack it) and put your feet up inside. Dip your ankles in if you can – they’re pulse points, so when they’re cold your whole body temperature tends to drop.
If that works for you, take it a step further with a bath or shower. Or, if you’d rather avoid hanging around the bathroom all day, invest in a wading pool to use indoors or outdoors.
CLOSE ALL WINDOWS
Up to a third of the heat inside a home enters through open windows and doors. So go on a final rampage – and tell your family or housemates about it so they can get on board. While you’re there, cover the windows as efficiently as possible by drawing the blinds and curtains and closing the shutters.
If the night brings relief, reopen them. And, to increase the effect of any cooler air, hang damp sheets in front of the windows. As the evening breeze blows, the humidity will further lower the temperature. Don’t forget to close everything in the morning before it gets warm.
FREEZING YOUR PILLOWS AND SHEETS
One of the biggest challenges of a summer without air con is falling asleep. To produce melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, your body must lower its core temperature. But once the thermometer reaches 25 degrees, it becomes a difficult task.
To make it easier for you, put your pillows and sheets in a plastic bag and place them in the freezer for 30 minutes, before you make out and jump into bed. As the night wears on and you start to warm up, you might wake up – if you’re really committed, keep a spare set of pajamas in the freezer, so you can make a quick change.
TURN OFF YOUR DEVICES
You will be surprised at the amount of heat generated by your devices. The most obvious is your oven. Even a seemingly innocuous cooking spurt can give the thermometer a significant boost. If you have people coming over for dinner, an outdoor barbie is the best fit.
Beyond the oven, there are many other heat-generating suspects, including your microwave, electric kettle, television, bedside lamps, dishwasher, washing machine, and computers. If possible, turn them all off and unplug them – this will help keep you cool and save energy.
There’s a good reason why spicy food is so popular in hot parts of the world like India and Bangladesh. When you ingest all that chili, your body starts sweating, and as you know, sweating cools you down.
Make your meal hot enough and you’ll be so sweaty you won’t know what season it is. In addition, spicy foods have many potential health benefits, from increasing life expectancy to preventing cancer.
Of course, if it’s too hot in your home without air conditioning, your best bet might be a shaded body of water where you can cool off. For inspiration, check out our lists of rivers near Brisbane for swimming, nearby waterfalls you can swim under and local snorkeling spots. Our overview of day trips in the summer also includes many beaches, because this is of course the case.
Alternatively, scout out shady real estate at one of the city’s public pools and find a good rhythm between diving and lounging. We have a list for that too – plus another that also includes water-adjacent activities to enjoy the breeze.
Posted on February 01, 2022 by