It would be an understatement to say that summer 2021 was uncomfortably hot. Last year was the hottest on record in the contiguous United States, slightly surpassing the Dust Bowl heatwave in 1936. And if the latest weather predictions hold steady, certain parts of the U.S. could be in for another scorcher of a year.
If you’re dreading the heat — and more specifically, what it could mean for your utility bill — we have good news: you don’t need to blast the AC all summer long to stay cool. You can give your poor AC unit a break by starting with easy methods, like applying an ice cube to your neck or swapping out your thick winter bedding for a more breathable option.
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Looking for ways to make this summer a little more bearable? Try these eight easy tips for staying cool and comfortable — all without touching the thermostat.
- Opt for Breathable Bedding
Getting a good night’s sleep in the summer can be tricky, especially when your bedding isn’t optimized for warm weather. Before temperatures begin to soar, consider giving your bedroom a summer-friendly makeover. Swap out your cozy flannel sheets with ones that are breathable and moisture-wicking (like bamboo or Tencel). Replace your heavy comforter with a lightweight option made from linen or cotton. If you prefer to sleep with a weighted blanket at night, choose a cooling weighted blanket made from breathable fabrics to avoid overheating.
- Cover Your Windows
During the warmer months, about 76 percent of sunlight enters double-pane windows in the form of heat, according to the Department of Energy. Thankfully, there’s an easy fix: install blackout curtains. Blackout curtains help keep your living spaces nice and cool by blocking UV rays, thereby reducing unwanted solar heat from getting inside your home.
The only downside to blackout curtains is that your house may look dark and gloomy. If that bothers you, consider installing solar screens instead. These mesh-like window screens come in a range of options and can be customized to allow some sunlight to enter your home while keeping the heat out.
- Stay Hydrated
Keeping hydrated should be a year-round goal for everyone, but it’s especially important during the warmer months. When temperatures rise, your body sweats more to cool itself down, which means you’re constantly losing fluids. To stay cool and prevent dehydration, sip ice-cold water throughout the day and consume water-packed fruits and vegetables, such as celery and watermelon. Try to avoid alcohol, which only dehydrates you more.
- Position Your Fans for Maximum Airflow
While fans may not actually lower your home’s temperature, they can create a powerful windchill effect that keeps you cool and comfortable without AC. However, this windchill effect only works if your fans are blowing the right air in the right direction.
First, make sure that your ceiling fan is blowing air downward. If you can’t feel the air coming from your ceiling fan, the switch is likely set to the “reverse” setting. Flip it back to “forward” and you should feel the air once more.
When temperatures start to cool at night, place a box fan in the window. This will bring the cooler air into your space and create a nice cross-breeze.
One more tip: If you have two fans, consider using them to cross-ventilate your home. Crack open a window and place a box fan in it, facing outwards. Then, go to the opposite side of the room and place a box fan in the window facing inwards. One fan will bring cool air inside, while the other pushes warm air out.
- Target Your Body’s Quick-Cooling Spots
Another hack for staying cool in hot temperatures is to target your body’s pulse points with cooling products, such as cooling eye masks and neck wraps. These products effectively lower your core body temperature because they target pulse points, or areas of the body where you can feel your pulse. Blood flows closer to the surface in these areas, making them more sensitive to temperature changes. So by targeting these areas, you can send a signal to your brain to lower your core body temperature. As a bonus, cooling eye masks and neck wraps are also a great way to beat heat-induced headaches and migraines.
- Choose Your Clothing Wisely
Make sure you’re appropriately dressed for the heat. If you’re pale or sensitive to sunlight, skip the age-old advice about wearing short sleeves in the summer and rock loose-fitting clothes that cover your entire body (bonus points if they’re UPF clothes). If you’re shopping for a new summer wardrobe, stick to lighter colors that won’t absorb heat. And don’t forget to pay attention to fabrics! You can’t go wrong with breathable options like cotton, linen and rayon.
- Make a Splash
Water sports and activities are a great way to cool off and make your summer unforgettable. Swimming, scuba diving and paddleboarding are all fun ways to experience the water and have benefits for your mental and physical health, too. For a family-friendly water activity, consider going to a water park or taking a trip to the beach. Looking for a water sport that will get your adrenaline going? Try your hand at surfing, wakeboarding and kitesurfing.
- Wear Sunscreen
Believe it or not, sunscreen can help keep you cool. That’s because sunscreen helps prevent sun damage, which can impact your body’s natural cooling process and make you dehydrated. Make sure you apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 15 or more) every two hours. You can also protect yourself from the sun by wearing UPF clothing, including sun hats and swimsuits.
Finally, use common sense. Spending time outside is good for you, but if the heat feels intolerable, stay indoors until temperatures cool down. If you can’t beat the heat in your home, call your local health department to find a heat-relief shelter near you.