Ask LH: How Can I Beat The Heat?

Ask LH: How Can I Beat The Heat?

Dear Lifehacker, Since it is scorching hot here in Melbourne, I need some tips on how we can keep ourselves cool — particularly if you are currently renting and you are not allowed to install any air conditioning! Thanks, IHate40Degrees

Picture by Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Dear IHate40Degrees,

It’s not just Melbourne which is frequently suffering from stupid levels of heat at the moment: most of the country can now stop complaining that summer hasn’t arrived yet and start complaining about the temperature.

Not being able to install air conditioning is one of the hassles of renting property, since renovations generally need landlord approval. But while air conditioning can be gloriously effective, it can also send your electricity bill rocketing upwards rapidly, so having some simpler alternatives in place can be helpful. Here are a few of our favourites.

Put a bowl of ice in front of your fan. If you’re using a basic fan, this can greatly increase its effectiveness.

Keep a spray bottle of water in the fridge. Spritzing yourself then provides a fast way to cool down. For maximum effectiveness, learn where your body’s quick-cooling points are. For a portable variant, check out how to make a cooling scarf.

Keep the curtains drawn. The effectiveness of this will vary depending on your kind of property, size of windows and orientation of the building. However, in many cases, keeping the sunlight out is more effective than opening the windows, especially on still days. You could also experiment with a green curtain of plants for even more cooling impact.

Take advantage of public air conditioning. You don’t have to stay at home: head to a shopping centre or a public library to take advantage of cooler temperatures. (One of the reasons I was happy to work through most of the Christmas break was that I could head into the office and take advantage of the aircon.)

Drink plenty of cooling liquids. Obvious, but worth reinforcing. While the eight glasses of water rule is an oversimplified myth, taking in extra liquid in hot weather makes sense. Water is your most effective choice here, and it’s easy to cultivate a taste for it.

Don’t obsessively keep track of the temperature. With everyone seemingly lugging smartphones, an update on the current temperature is only a glance away. However, knowing that it’s 43 degrees won’t help you, and could hinder you. Studies suggest that if we believe the temperature is lower than it actually is, we don’t suffer from heat-related effects to the same extent.

Make sure your computer isn’t running hot. This won’t massively change the temperature around the house (unless you have a very small office), but it’s worth making sure your computer isn’t running at excessive temperatures.

Those are some starter suggestions, but we’d love to hear more ideas from readers in the comments.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • While typically less efficient (and unfortunately effective) portable air conditioners have come a long way from the “as-strong-as-a-slight-cough” devices they were 10-15 years ago; however they are generally harder on the pocket to purchase and run than a properly installed split system.

    As Gus point out, drawing the curtains helps – but does tend to have the effect of your home being lit like an empty morgue; and unfortunately, the radiant heat is already inside the room by the time it hits the curtains.

    • I’m sorry I couldn’t help myself.
      I have made a cheap evaporative air con for really hot days.
      1. get normal pedestal fan
      2. get 4 litre ice cream container
      3. put water in ice cream container
      4. get a chux (or 2 if required)
      5. stick one end of chux in water and secure other end of chux to something to keep it upright and in front of the fan.
      6. cut some slits about an inch apart in the chux (allows the air to flow through)
      7. sit back and enjoy the colder air. I recommend you have the windows open though as it tends to get a bit wet in the house if they are closed.

      you can also add ice to the water which makes the air light a more damp air-conditioner

  • “Make sure your computer isn’t running hot. This won’t massively change the temperature around the house (unless you have a very small office), but it’s worth”

    On top of this, turn every non-essential major appliance off. Surround sound system, LCD/Plasma/LED tv’s.. those sorts of things generate a lot of ambient heat.

    Take a quick 2 minute shower every 2 to 3 hours when it is really hot. If you don’t have a pool and live in an apartment like me, this can really make you feel a lot better. Don’t have a freezing cold shower because then it will just feel like you’ve stepped out of the freezer into an oven. Instead have a warm shower; cool enough to enjoy and feel refreshed. It should at least keep you sane..

    • Bugger that, on a hot day the cold tap is all you need, then pad yourself dry so you don’t drip everywhere and allow the remaining water to evaporate and cool you.

      • Honestly, I always feel worse after a straight cold shower when the heat is 35+ degrees… so I always add a little hot water to the mix so it’s not so brutal a transition.

        • You need to stay in for longer then, or you have really cold, cold water… My cold water is already a bit on the warmer side through Summer I presume due to the exposed pipework after it comes out of the ground..

          Kinda makes sense that your pores will contract in the cold water and then prevent you from sweating for a while after you step out of the shower.

  • Have a cold shower in the morning/after work to reduce your core body temperature and allow yourself to air dry.

    Put up exterior blinds over any sun exposed windows, and for even better effect shade sun exposed walls.
    You can do this by pegging a tarpaulin to the gutter and then pegging the bottom of the tarp into the ground with tent pegs or just bricks or tape foil to the outside of the windows.
    Open up the house at night to vent out any hot air (assuming it cools overnight).

    Have a cold shower and then sit in front of a fan…

    Don’t use electronic equipment that produce a lot of heat for long periods (ie Digital Projector, LCD/Plasma TV’s, gaming PCs, or stove/oven). Despite what Lifehacker says, in my experience a high-end PC or Digital Projector will warm a room – even a decent sized room – significantly over the course of a few hours, especially if the room is already on the warmer side of comfortable.

    • Gotta agree with you there Stevo, my computer doubles as a room heater in winter, all i have to do is slow down the air flow through it to get more heat out of it

  • I put a fan outside my bedroom window, pointing into the bedroom. In the evening and night, when the temperature outside falls below the temperature inside the house I turn the fan on, blowing cooler outside air into the bedroom (and thence through the rest of the house – open a window in another room to allow air to escape the house). I also have a fan outside the dining room window doing the same thing.

    At night it helps cool the bedroom for sleeping more comfortably, and the two fans left on all night (fans are cheap to run) does cool the house a few degrees by the next morning, and (as an added bonus) with fresh air.

    • Doesn’t it also significantly increase your security risk? I would be concerned about my safety, as well as other less law-abiding neighbours stealing electricity while you sleep.

  • Nothing beats the old fashioned air conditioner. Who cares how much it costs to run, if it’s significantly improving your comfort level it is well worth it.

  • 1. Rent ‘Scott of the Antarctic’, ‘Smilla’s Feeling for Snow’ and ‘Fargo’ then think cool thoughts
    2. Close all the doors/windows in the house, turn every heating appliance you own (including the oven) to full-bore, then when you go outside it will seem quite cool
    3. Eat lots of hot curries washed down with ice-cold lager. Bonus – Burning ring of fire next day will make rest of body feel cool.
    4. Find a bottle-shop with a large selection of beer/wine and spend the whole day in the cold-room. When approached by the sales-drone, claim that you are ‘tortured by choice and will be out in a minute’ – this should work for about an hour ’till they kick you out or call the police. Bonus – police cars are air-conditioned.
    5. Buy a jumbo-sized can of 4711, shave off all body hair and spray oneself liberally whilst standing in front of a fan. Bonus – Ambulances and Hospitals are air-conditioned.
    6. Arrange for a major system crash/emergency at work that requires you to come inout of hours – bring all your mates and spend the whole night in a frag-fest. Bonus – Air Conditioned and double-time pay!
    7. Purchase immersible pond-pump ($50), 10 metres of clear plastic pond pipe ($20), 30 metre extension cord ($20). Cut small hole in esky, drop in pump, connect hose to pump through esky, fill up esky with Ice cubes and water; connect extension cord to power then drape hose around body under tight pair of tracky-daks. Voila, personal cooling system. Bonus – get to look like an astronaut with their personal AC unit as you walk around house. Mandatory – must say ‘negatory’, ‘that’s a-ffirmative’, ‘copy that CapCom’ or ‘Houston we have a problem’ at least once every five minutes.
    8. Take a latex glove, tie and cut off all latex fingers but two. Fill with water and freeze, drape over private parts to lower core temperature. Bonus – micro-penis, so can now wear that slinky black number without a ‘man-bump’ at the front. For women, a frozen condom is just as effective.

  • If there’s nobody in your house to judge you, then a paddle pool in the lounge room is pretty hard to beat. If you are a student, you can inflate the empty bladders from your cask wine to make comfy cushions for your pool. The more you drink the comfier your pool gets!

    If you have some dignity, then just a tub of cold water to bathe your feet in is a great way to cool down.

  • Purchase a portable evaporative cooler. I picked up 2 or three at Garage Sales for between $10 and $50. Just make sure you actually learn how to use it, because there’s no point on humid days.

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