Lots of people worry about keeping warm without electricity – but what about keeping cool? Last summer, the Washington DC area lost power for over a week due to a derecho storm system. Millions suffered through the record breaking heat wave, with temperatures consistently above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 22 people died and many more were hospitalized with heat-related illnesses.
An air conditioner is one of the most expensive appliances you can run. Staying comfortable with less demand on your electrical supply will also help your budget.
How can you keep your cool in temperatures like this? Take your cues from third world countries near the equator, where few people have electricity, let alone air conditioning.
Take a siesta. In Mexico, everything closes down during the hottest part of the day. People take a few hours to relax or nap mid-afternoon.
Dunk your head. If you wet your hair, the evaporation of the water will help to cool down your body. If you don’t have hair, sit a wet cloth on top of your head for a similar effect.
Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water. Do not rely on caffeinated beverages, as they actually dehydrate the body.
Wet t-shirt contest. No, not that kind. Wetting a shirt and then putting it on will have the same evaporative cooling effect as keeping your hair wet.
Go for a swim. Or at the very least, a soak in the tub. Immersing your body in tepid to cool water is a great way to cool down.
Wear natural fibers. Dress in cotton or linen instead of polyester or other synthetic fibers. Synthetic fibers trap heat next to your body, while natural fibers “breathe” and allow the heat to escape.
Wear light colors. Dark colors absorb heat and light colors reflect it.
Eat spicy food. Have you ever noticed that the regions with the spiciest cuisines tend to also have the hottest weather? Spicy food increases perspiration, which works as your body’s evaporative cooling system.
Go downstairs. Heat rises, so spend time in the lowest level of your home. If you have a basement, that will be the coolest place in your house. Not only is it the lowest level, but the earth insulating the basement will keep it cooler and more pleasant.
Close your curtains. During the hottest part of the day, keep your curtains and blinds tightly shut to reduce the solar effects of the sunlight in your house. Blackout curtains have the best insulating value and will keep your house cooler.
Make a refrigerator. Did you know that you can make a clay pot “refrigerator” to keep foods cool? Learn how HERE.
Speaking of refrigeration, another concern when the power goes out during hot weather is the status of your perishable food. Tess Pennington wrote during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, “So how long will your food last when the electricity goes out? Refrigerated food will stay cold for 4-6 hours assuming the door is left closed as much as possible. After that time, many of the items in your refrigerator should be discarded. This chart from the USDA offers guidelines. In a fully stocked freezer, frozen foods will remain safely frozen for approximately two day.” It’s important to follow these guidelines for food safety during and after a power outage.