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Ways to beat the summer heat

by Eric Ginsburg

READ A BOOK

Picking up a book, YES! Weekly or any other print material won’t inherently cool you down, but it beats sitting with a computer in your lap. By picking up a book (or just putting the computer on a different surface) you can stay a little cooler. Avoiding household appliances that give off heat helps too. Feeling heat engulf me while opening the oven is about the last thing I want to do today.

SUPER SOAKERS & WATER BALLOONS

Does it waste water? Yes. Is it the most efficient way to cool down? Certainly not. Nonetheless, this is one of the more exciting options on the list. The humidity here is so stifling that I rarely want to move, but if I could round up a few friends with squirt guns, that could change.

CHANGE THE LIGHTS, OR TURN THEM OFF

Lights give off heat, especially incandescent bulbs. It’s been said compact florescent bulbs give off 70 percent less heat. So turn the lights down low (or buy new bulbs). Usually I can get by without turning any on in the daytime. At night, I’d rather sit on my roof or a friend’s front porch relying on streetlight anyway.

GO SOMEWHERE COOL

Paying to cool your home can be prohibitively expensive, so try taking advantage of places where other people foot the bill. The library, coffee shops and community spaces are all likely safe bets where you could spend the hottest hours of the day if you are able to.

TURN ON A FAN

A well-placed fan can provide fast relief, especially with a bowl of cold water behind it. “This Old House” claims it only costs 2-5 cents per hour to operate a fan, so as long as it isn’t left on when nobody’s home, the price seems worth it. I’ve got an old one standing at the foot of my bed, and it might seem wasteful, but I leave it on all night and sleep quite comfortably.

GO SWIMMING

Even people without pools or country club memberships find places to go swimming. Friends of mine figured out how to sneak into an apartment complex and as a child, one used to waltz into a local hotel with her family and use the pool. If you aren’t feeling as gutsy there’s the Bur-Mil Aquatic Center, the Barber Park “sprayground” and a number of lakes and swimming holes in reasonable distance. Check www.swimmingholes.org/nc.html or try the Eno River Quarry in Durham.

A DAMP CLOTH IN THE WINDOW

I haven’t tried this yet, but I read that if the temperature inside is warmer than outside, you can hang a damp sheet or cloth in the window so that incoming breezes will be cooled as water evaporates.

CLOSE THE BLINDS

Blocking light from coming in the windows can keep out 20 percent of summer heat according to one online source. Close the blinds before leaving and hopefully return to a home that’s cooler than it would be otherwise.

FRUIT SMOOTHIES

As far as I’m concerned, summer doesn’t happen without smoothies. I thought I might get sick of them after working at the Juice Shop a few summers ago, but I think it only solidified their relationship to this heat. Alcohol, caffeine and lots of sugar can dehydrate you and you’ll feel hotter, but fruit can help (especially fruits that, duh, are high in water content). The cool drink can be cheap and refreshing, too.

OPEN THE WINDOWS AT NIGHT

If the temperature drops enough that it’s cooler outside than in, open the windows. Once it starts to heat up again — likely in the morning — make sure to close the windows to keep the heat out.

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