According to a survey by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), air conditioning accounts for about 12% of U.S. energy costs. It’s a huge number, and a big problem for anyone worried about global warming. This massive consumption is compounded by the fact that air conditioning units use hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) to provide their cooling power. Among the various greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, HFCs have a concerning high global warming potential. In fact, in 2016, 197 countries signed an agreement to reduce HFC emissions because of their contribution to climate change.
However, it’s important to stay cool since high heat can also threaten health. So what is the answer? Here are a few tips from ChooseTexasPower that you can easily use to beat the heat and tame the dog days of summer while laying off the air conditioning.
These cool hacks deliver strategies for keeping body temperatures down even when it’s blisteringly hot outside. This will not only make you feel better and help lower energy costs, but it might keep you from getting sick, too.
These are active ways you can remain cool using your own biology to your advantage.
Eat Light and Spicy
Some hacks for your body include tricks like eating small and light meals. Most of the heat you generate comes from the act of digestion. The chemical reactions necessary to break down food can raise your internal temperature by 2 degrees F. Foods that help you replenish electrolytes — like watermelon, avocados, and leafy greens— allow you to cool off more easily, while fried and overly salted foods will dry you out.
And while it seems counterintuitive, spicy food will actually cool you off, raising your internal body temperature and making you sweat (the evaporation of which is the biological version of air conditioning). That’s why so many hot climate cultures produce spicy cuisine.
Your internal cooling system runs on water and electrolytes, and these are lost when you sweat. Make sure you are drinking plenty of cool beverages. Coconut water, for example, is excellent because of its high electrolyte content. But avoid coffee and alcohol because these can dry you out (though there are some beers that claim to keep you hydrated, too).
Wear Light Clothing
Obviously, wearing loose, light-colored, and lightweight clothing is a good plan, but some fabrics can help you keep cool by wicking sweat off your body. Natural fibers like linen, hemp, and light cotton have properties that make you feel cooler and transfer heat and moisture from the body.
There’s a science to keeping your body cool that includes icing pulse points and applying pressure to points on the neck and shoulder that have been shown to lower blood pressure. Some also swear by acupuncture when looking for ways to cool their body.
You can make some small changes around the house to help create a cool environment.
Having a fan is an obvious step when not using air conditioning. But there are ways to manipulate your setup to get the most out of your fans. For example, you can put one in a window blowing hot air out as another blows cool air in. Or go old-school and fill a pan with ice and have the fan blow air across it.
Making sure your windows have no leaks is important for both summer and winter to save on energy. And if you lower your blinds and close the drapes, you keep direct sunlight to a minimum, making any room cooler.
Lights and Electrics
Anything plugged in gives off an amount of heat that can build up. Take the time to unplug anything you can. Also, switching to LED bulbs is good for your energy costs (and the environment) and it also reduces heat by 75%.
These simple tricks allow you to stay cool while lowering your reliance on air conditioning. Ultimately, that’s going to be better for the planet and your wallet.
Originally published on July 31, 2017, this article was updated in July 2022.