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Tips to Keep Cool When Your A/C Goes Kaput

Without the luxury of air conditioning a century ago, people made a point of building their homes in a way that would help keep them cooler—especially in southern climates.

Homes had higher ceilings to draw warm air upward. Eaves were wider to keep the sun from beaming inside. Builders placed windows on opposite sides of homes to promote cross-ventilation, and people spent more time on shady covered porches, telling stories and sipping lemonade.

All of that changed as A/C became widely available to the average consumer in the years after World War II. While cool air at the touch of a button freed architects up to be more experimental with home design, it also meant the average homeowner began to depend on A/C to keep cool—a major inconvenience when cooling systems go awry.

This week, in the interest of being prepared for the unexpected, let’s look at a few ways to stay cool when your A/C is on the fritz.

Fair-weather fans. Fans are one of the best ways to cool your home when your A/C is down. And you can start with the ones on your ceiling—if you’ve got them. Make sure they’re blowing air downward with the blades spinning counterclockwise. Ceiling fans usually have a small switch on the motor housing that lets you change spin direction. This will force cool air downward, making the living space more comfortable.

Another great fan option is using a whole house fan—if you don’t have one, consider installing one. These fans pull air from outside through open windows and vent it out through the attic or roof. Depending on climate and the layout of your home, these fans can handle 30 to 60 complete air changes per hour—that’s  a lot of wind! Smaller, less-powerful versions that exhaust air out through windows are also available.

You can also try placing small fans in front of open windows to draw air in from outside. To make it even cooler, try placing a bucket of ice or 2-liter bottles of frozen water in the fan’s wind stream.

A place in the sun. During the hottest parts of the day, you’ll need to keep the sun and its blazing rays out of your house. This means you’ll want to keep your curtains drawn, especially in windows that face south and west. Heavy curtains with white or reflective backing on the side facing out work best. And if you don’t have them already, consider planting shrubs and trees in these areas next to your home to help keep the sun at bay.

If you can’t handle the heat. Get out of the kitchen as much as possible. Or, more specifically, try to limit cooking that’s going to produce a lot heat inside your home. Instead of your oven or stove, you might just want to use the microwave or, better yet, get outside and fire up the barbeque. If you have to cook inside, try to do it in the cooler hours at night. And this goes for any appliances that use heat, such as a dishwasher or dryer.

Hot under the collar. Consider your body, too, when trying to keep cool, rather than just the spaces around it. You’ll want to drink plenty of cool liquids, and take cold showers and baths. Sometimes, just soaking your feet in a bucket of ice water for a few minutes is enough to keep you cool. And dress accordingly. Wear loose fitting clothing made out of fabrics such as cotton, linen and silk.

We hope these Infinite Energy tips help keep you cooler this summer—even if your A/C isn’t broken.

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