Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Hot Town Part II

Looking at this picture makes me feel cooler.

It's a week-long heatwave here ~ again. It is over 105 degrees with two more days of it expected. At night, it doesn't really cool off substantially enough to give us much relief.

So of course we use the air conditioner.

There was a time when we didn't have air conditioners in homes the way we do now. So what should someone do who doesn't have air conditioning?

I began thinking about this. When I was a kid, hot summers were hot summers and we had to find a way to live with it. Since I'm from Southern California, we spent most of our time at the beach or in the pool.

Still, there was a method to keeping the house cool and I wanted to post about it because there are some people who don't have the luxury of an indoor cooler.

You can create an ersatz swamp cooler with a tray of ice and a fan. It works quite well. We used to do that especially when we would visit my grandparents in New York. Their house was large with a staircase that split half way up to the second floor. They would place a large dishwashing tub full of ice on a table and place a standing fan behind it. The cool air would blow upstairs and down. They would also put one in the living room which is where we spent our time. Sometimes they would buy bags of ice at the liquor store and other times it would be an actual block of ice.

The fans ran all night, with or without ice. It helped to have the air moving.

We used to drink cold lemonade and spend time running through the sprinklers. (There's no reason adults can't do the same thing. :)

We would eat simple light foods that required no cooking. Fresh vegetables or perhaps a peanut butter sandwich.

We would wear cool, loose clothing that would help keep us cool, too. It was the only time I ever saw my grandfather in his underwear. It's not a memory I hang on to for dear life, by the way. When it's hot though, who cares? He certainly didn't!

It would be interesting to hear your ideas. What do you do to stay cool when you can't use the air conditioner?


MsLittlePea said...

Oh it's so hot here too. And humid. Bless whoever invented air conditioning. Once when I was a kid our air conditioner broke in JULY and we had to wait a couple weeks to get it fixed. My mom kept the curtains closed tight to keep out the sun and we didn't open our windows until the sun went down. That was all we could do really. Too bad I didn't know about your swamp cooler trick.

flutter said...

go to a place with A/C


sorry, no in AZ there are no places without A/C

Anonymous said...

Wear less clothing. For heaven's sake -- the people here in LA, where there are OCEAN BREEZES, all use A/C because it is too much to ask them to wear shorts. And, you know, don't run around so much or use the drier. If it is so hot out (and here it is also dry), hang the clothes outside. It saves energy on the drier and it doesn't heat the house up.

jen said...

i sit and whine about it like i am doing tonight. it's freaking hot.

Defiantmuse said...

ah. lol. the thing about Humboldt? It almost never goes about 75. And the funny thing is, our "heat waves" means it get in the high 70s. But our house gets hot. Hot! We don't have a/c and w/ all of the southern facing side of our house is basically windows even with covering the heat seaps in. And the way our house is built there's no way to get cross breezes b/c all of our windows that are able to open are basically on one side of our house. It gets up to 87 in our house. We have a fan. Usually we just get fairly naked and try to deal. I'd never heard of the ice thing, that's a great idea! I'll have to try it.

SUEB0B said...

I have come to realize that your feed is one I am always so happy to see when you have updated. I rush to read it. Thanks for your constant thoughtfulness and commitment to your path. It is delightful.

I am lucky to live where it is rarely hot, but I used to live further inland. Short, frequent cool showers help. Gazpacho, too.

Melissa said...

I have a home in eastern NC. Because it's an old house (220 years) - it's very energy inefficient. As a result I never put the air on in the summer - and we have long spells of high temp/high humidity there. I find that open windows and fans work fine. And I've lived in hotter places without AC (or even electricity for fans).

The trick is having your body adjust to the climate. The less you are exposed to unnatural temperatures (ie. air con) the more quickly you find the outside temperature to be relatively comfortable.

And like others have said, less clothing can help (I'm not advocating naturalism though! hehe) Even what you eat and drink can play a part. It is actually refreshing to have a hot black tea on a hot day! It causes your body to sweat and cool down.

Change your work hours if you can - wake up earlier, rest at mid-day, and work later in the evenings.

All these things help.

After living in many poor countries with very few "mod cons", I've realized we can be very comfortable with far less. I'm not against creature comforts by any means, but I definitely appreciate more simple living.

By the way, I loved your last post. I think one of the best feelings in the world is feeling "embraced". Wouldn't it be great if we made it our daily goal to have others feel that way? I think I might try it!

Susanne said...

We don't have air conditioning. Granted, it doesn't get that hot here, rarely more than 30 degrees Celsius. When it's hot we stay indoors a lot. We open the windows very early in the morning, and then we close everything and pull the drapes shut. When the sun doesn't shine into the house it stays cooler.

Last year when we had a really hot summer we used fans in the annex. Otherwise we just stay put and move as little as possible.

Molly said...

Less clothing, food that doesn't require the oven [and less of it!]Cross breezes by opening windows early in the morning, then closing them up to trap that cool air! The best defense though is as Melissa said---acclimatise!

Suki said...

I live in India, and - ahem - it's HOT! And we don't have an air conditioner.
Honestly, when it's above 90 Farenheit I just go crazy. I can handle temperatures below body temperature very nicely, but when water is warm to drink or bathe in... I lose it. Thankfully, in Kolkata temperatures seldom cross 100. And are usually below 90, even in summer.

In the dry 110 degree heat of Delhi, water works wonderfully. We have desert coolers, mats of khus hung on the windows and watered, curtains soaked, ceiling fans on full blast, shower ten times a day(except when the water shortage is crippling... when it's TORTURE). Anything to get in some humidity and cool air.

Kolkata's 95% humidity turns us into sweltering pigs, though. Absolutely nothing to do except lie naked under a ceiling fan and let it dry the copious sweat off you. If you live on the top floor, douse the roof in water - if it's your own house, get a haet-protective roof treatment and make it WHITE, not black as our place has(Grrr...)! Body powders with menthol are good instant relief, and keep handy antiseptics to beat the heat rash and mosquito bites. On the worst days, I can't sleep until I've sprayed water on my bedsheet and let it dry, cooling the bed to a comfortable temperature.

In fact, my uni is an amazing place to be in the heat. Old architecture - high ceilings, thick walls, excellent ventilation - keeps the place very perceptibly cooler than the surroundings. The trees and lakes on campus help too. Planting a tree in any open space nearby also has a good cooling effect, gives a sunshade as well as cool air.

Light food is a GREAT thing to do, I live off curd-rice, salads and stuff like that. Raw onion protects from sunstroke, I've heard. So does garlic. Watery fruits in copious quantities replenish the salts, minerals and water we lose through sweat.

Whew, I think I'm done with heat-killing tips for the time being!

we_be_toys said...

When I was in college, we lived in a house that had no AC. We installed a tiny window unit, but it could only cool a couple of rooms. The kitchen had a gas stove that put out a lot of heat, so in the summer, we would turn it off, and cook in a toaster oven. we also put up a cardboard door to block the heat from the kitchen and cardboard in the windows to insulate, as well. Bea was always afraid we would be perceived as trashy, but it sure made it easier to cool that hovel of a house!

Oh, and when it got too hot, we would go to the grocery store and stand in the frozen food section!

Uck! I hate to be hot!
Sending you a vision of standing in an icy waterfall.

niobe said...

I like hot weather. But it almost never gets over 95 F or so here.

Amy Y said...

I hate to be hot... but we try not to run the a/c if at all possible (to conserve energy and keep our electic bill down). It's in the low 90's here and climbing this week.
I like to take a cool shower at night and let my hair air dry ~ it feels like natural air conditioning.
I also like to frequent air conditioned places like the library or even Target.
Riding a bike around the block and feeling the wind blow through my hair makes me feel cooler, too.

I hope the heat wave is over for you soon!

Ian Lidster said...

In my former house we had a furnace in the downstairs crawlspace where the air was cooler. I'd turn on the blower on the furnance and the cool air would come up through the vents. It worked quite effectively. Another trick was to run a hose onto the roof and soak down the roof tiles. That also cooled the house more than you might expect.

velvet said...

I've become a fan of ceiling fans over the years.

We didn't have AC when I was growing up in upstate NY and I actually miss the heat. We usually kept cool with window fans and my mother and I used to suck on ice cubes to keep cool. Luckily, our house had some tall evergreens around it to keep it cooler. I miss seeing the breezes blow the sheers in the open windows.

From there we moved to the Middle East and living without AC would have been downright uncomfortable with 125 degrees and 90% humidity. We did go to the beach and the pool to cool down, though, and the desert wind helped.

Now that we're in the northeast, we have central air. We have to keep the windows closed anyway through the spring and early summer because of the horrendous clouds of pollen that blanket everything, but I really miss experiencing summer. Once it hits high 80's and 90's, we hit the beach... the icy northern Atlantic usually does the trick.

Good luck keeping cool. :-)

PeterAtLarge said...

Keep the windows open and pray for a breeze...

womaninawindow said...

I lived with a family in the Carribean and they didn't have extra money for electricity, never mind an Air Conditioner. They had a concrete home which stayed fairly cool. There were two fans. Since I was a guest I got one. The other four family members slept together in the same bed so that they could share the other. I didn't realize they were doing this until I had been there a couple months. I think it was then I gave up my fan and resorted to sleeping in the buff. It's amazing what the body can get used to when given the chance. Now back in Canada I sleep with a fan every night, even in winter, but I'm addicted to the noise.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

We don't have air conditioning because it's rarely needed in San Francisco. We have fans for those times.

When I was a child on Long Island, I remember getting up several times a night to re-wet a washcloth which I alternately draped over my face and various body parts. When it heated up again, I took it back to the bathroom to run it under cold water again. (Yes, at least we had indoor plumbing.) My room had only dormer windows under the eaves, which were small and provided little circulation. I was always happy when Fall came around.

The New Mom on the Blog said...

Never had air-conditioned in my house before and never will. So staying cool is really about 'keeping a cool mind'....

I used to travel almost every month to Bangkok for 2-3 years to get wholesale stuff to sell back here....

I remember this period is truly one of the 'hottest' of all....

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Only one person I knew growing up had an air conditioner and that was a little boy who had severe asthma attacks.

We often ate cottage cheese mixed with sour cream for dinner and ate berries with that.

We drank a LOT of water.

We went outside and played on the sidewalk until the night grew dark. I think that was pretty much it.

Girl on the Run... said...

Would die with out AC and I am truly grateful for it's invention! I take lots of cold showers too... I swear... ice cold... swiming is always good and I dont dry my long hair I let it dry naturally keeping me cool because it's cool!


Anonymous said...

Swimming really helps keep me cool for the rest of the day, so i suppose a cool bath would be a good idea for people with no access to a swimming area.

going to the supermarket or other public place with a/c always chills me to the bone.

slouching mom said...

we shut the window blinds strategically, the front of the house in the morning, the back of the house in the afternoon, so that the full sun is never coming in relentlessly through the windows.

we also take cold -- or at least tepid -- showers.

Angela said...

They actually have fans you can buy now that have a place underneath for the ice and water. I bought one the first year I was in Montana thinking I could make it through without AC, but we had 104-degree days several times that year and I gave in to a window unit. Ah, well. Haven't had to use it this year until this week - that's pretty good. Nothing like the heat you're experiencing.

Anonymous said...

Fans and wide open windows. COol drinks. Shade. Swimming. Moving slowly.

Sienna said...

Heat (intense hot weather), has been a huge part of my life. I seem to have been born and then lived in various hot climates. As a baby I nearly died from heat exhaustion.

I am searching for the mild climate, I guess I tolerate a desert and dry heat far better than humidity.

It's the middle of winter here where I live right now, high 50's, low 60's f.

When the 47c (? f) kick in for weeks here over summer, we get a hell of a lot smarter, all early early morning, late evening work and chores. The house dam is our greatest friend, kids, adults and animals all head for the dam.

I am so grateful for the dam, words cannot describe! We have 2 old refrigerated airconditioners, one in the kitchen and one in the lounge...they are old but little rippers.

If the power goes off, when night falls, we drag light mattresses out on the lawn and sleep under the stars, don't forget the aeroguard! (mozzies).

I am so impressed and amazed with how some countries, some cultures adapt and live in even more extreme heat conditions, I am the wimp of heat. :)


ewe are here said...

Lots of ice tea, minimal clothes, and water.

I remember those California heatwaves...

Nicole said...

Oh, I HATE being hot! I'm not sure how I lived without air conditioning, but I did just fine until I was 24. Then, I got stationed in Okinawa, and we had A/C on base. It was SO hot there, too. When I came back, I couldn't live without it and that was that.

Carla said...

Luckily here there aren't too many days that one would want an air conditioner. But on days when it does get too hot, I have a lunch box ice pack in my freezer which I will place on the small of my back or tummy. It works quite well on a hot day.