I’m not a fan of air-conditioning – it gives me allergies, it’s expensive, and it’s as bad for the environment as idling in a Hummer and revving the engine continually for hours at a time – but when it gets to be above, say, 95 degrees, my cats start spending most of the day in the bathtub (the coolest part of the house) and angrily meowing at me whenever I pass by in the hallway. This makes me feel guilty, but I know from past years that if I put in my window unit, they’ll avoid the cool part of the house and complain anyway. So I started to look into ways to cool my house that didn’t involve a roaring 60-pound motor precariously balanced in one of my windows. What I found was surprising, and in some cases, surprisingly effective.
INVEST IN SOME HEAT DRAPES
I thought the only people who had thick black drapes in their homes were Trent Reznor and men who talk to you about “Area 51” at the bus stop. But it turns out that thick drapes have a practical purpose, too. Up to 75% of the heat in your home comes from sunlight – especially if you have a lot of southern exposure – so blocking that light will keep your home surprisingly cool. This struck me as somewhat counterintuitive – it’s July and you want me to hang swatches of puffy fabric in front of my windows?! – but it probably lowered the average afternoon temperature in my place by ten degrees. That’s a huge improvement. As a bonus, the purple velvet drapes I bought at the thrift store give my apartment the distinct feeling of a New Orleans vampire brothel. The advanced version of this is to use reflective drapes, or even tinfoil in your windows, but just keep in mind that doing that will ensure that when the neighborhood kids walk down the black, they will sprint when they get to your house.
REVERSE YOUR CEILING FANS
Ceiling fans can be weirdly useless in the heat; often times it feels like they’re just smashing all the hot air down in the bottom half of the room. That’s because that’s exactly what they’re doing. But did you know you can reverse the direction of your ceiling fans? Apparently you’re supposed to do this seasonally, but since literally not one single person in human history has ever read the instruction manual that comes with their ceiling fan, this fact remains largely unknown. But yeah, if you flip the settings on your fans so they rotate counterclockwise, they’ll suck all the hot air up to the top of the room, leaving the bottom half nice and cool; this also works nicely to draw a breeze in through the nearest windows. Just don’t forget to switch the fan settings back in November. (Yes, ceiling fans are useful in the winter, too, since hot air naturally rises, and the clockwise-rotating fan will keep it pressed down where you are.)
This is the best tip on the list, since we all know that deep down, no matter how much we claim to enjoy the wondrous alchemic craft of cooking, all we really want is a styrofoam takeout container of junk food from the Chinese place on the corner. Because yes, cooking even briefly in your kitchen will immediately make your house go from “sort of hot” to “this is literally what hell feels like, isn’t it?” Yes, I just gave you permission to eat Chipotle every day from July through September.
THE ICE FAN
This sounds and looks like something you would see Wile E. Coyote do in a cartoon, but I swear it works: if you put a bunch of ice in a shallow pan in front of a fan, you basically get two to three hours of a cold breeze going through your house. It’s science or something. For what it’s worth, this was the only cooling method that my cats approved of, and in fact they fought so bitterly over who got to sit directly in front of the ice fan, I went back to the store for another bag of ice and set up a second ice fan so they could each have their own. This method is tangentially related to the “Egyptian method” of cooling in which you sleep under a damp sheet, which definitely cools you off, but also gives you a vague sensation that you had an unfortunate nocturnal accident.