Have you been suffering through the recent heat wave on the East Coast? I know I have. Yes, the Texans are calling us all wimps, but I’m sorry, I just am not comfortable when sweat is dripping into my eyes! Temperatures here have broken records going back decades. In New York City, the mercury hit 103° on July 6th. Triple-digit temps were recorded in Boston, Philadelphia and Providence, RI.
When temperatures soar, most people crank up their air conditioners, collectively placing a very heavy demand on electric utilities. Not only are power failures a risk, but greenhouse gas emissions soar along with rising electricity generation. Air pollutants increase, too, because utilities are forced to bring older, dirtier plants on line when peak demand is high. Extra pollutants increase the risk of smog formation, acid rain, and poor outdoor air quality that impacts children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems.
Tips for staying cool while minimizing your environmental impact:
In the house or office:
If you own a central air conditioner that is over 12 years old, the EPA recommends that you replace it with a more efficient Energy Star model that can cut your home cooling costs by up to 30%.
Use room A/C units. If you spend most of the day in one room of the house, install a window air conditioner there and turn off the central air. A medium-sized room unit draws about 900 watts, compared to over 3000 watts for a typical central air system. (Check out Mr. Electricity’s cool site!) Don’t forget to keep the door closed!
- Use a fan instead of an air conditioner, especially at night in the bedroom. Fans use much less electricity than air conditioners, don’t run the risk of getting mildewy, and are portable and inexpensive. Green Depot carries a few neat models: the lightweight and colorful Vornado Flippi 6 fan is one of the coolest green products you’ll find: literally! It uses only 14 watts on High, and can move air up to 20 feet: perfect for bedroom or office.
- Finally, the Sycamore Ceiling Fan combines futuristic styling with awesome aerodynamics: moves 5,000 cubic feet per minute using under 50 watts. Cool indeed.
- Pull down shades or blinds on the south side of the house, and on the western side of the house after 1 or 2 pm. Consider buying insulating shades: they benefit you in summer and winter.
- Look into buying awnings for south-facing windows. They’ll not only cool the house during the summer, but will let you keep those windows open when it rains, further refreshing the air in your house.
Personal care tips:
- Sleep with a sheet instead of a blanket. Your body heat will escape instead of getting trapped.
- Hot flash relief! If you’re menopausal and going insane at night, you’ll love this low-profile Bedfan that circulates cool air under the sheets on your side of the bed (your partner will never know!). One of the few green products that’s made to keep your body cool.
- Drink ice water, and take tepid or cool showers. Both will cool your core body temperature, with effects that can last for a few hours.
- Don’t eat big meals before bed. Your body will work overtime trying to digest the excess calories, generating extra heat that may make sleeping difficult.
- Exercise early in the morning while it’s still relatively cool.
- When outside: wear a hat and stay hydrated—even if you’re not the water-glugging type. Check out this Klean Kanteen all-stainless, insulated water bottle that will keep your iced drinks cold while you’re in the car, walking down the street, or at your desk.