When summer starts to scorch, we'll do anything to cool down. And while we'd like to be able to fling ourselves into the ocean at every 30-degree-plus opportunity, that's not always an option. That's when we usually turn to air conditioning. But while it might be a convenient way to cool down, it has its drawbacks — from its dehydrating effects and potential to spread bacteria to its massive energy consumption (which is both a drain on your wallet and the planet). So, now that summer's here, we thought we'd bring you a few simple air con-avoiding hacks. You'll need ice, water and — if you're really keen — some trees. Go nuts.
HACK YOUR FAN
On scorching days, fans can be ineffective. All they seem to do is blow more hot air into your face. But a quick hack can work some magic. Find a big bowl, fill it with ice and place it between your fan and you. The propellers will work on the now-cooled air, sending it straight your way, transforming your fan into what feels like an air conditioner. Another option is to hang a bag of ice (or bottles of frozen water) directly in front of the fan.
MAKE CLEVER COLD DRINKS
Just carried the beer in from the car? Wrap each bottle in a wet paper towel and pop it in the freezer. Within 15 minutes, you'll be sipping in on an ice cold brew. Swap your hot caffeine hit for an iced one by turning just-made coffee into ice cubes. For something different, make it Vietnamese-style by adding a dash of condensed milk. Or, if you're kicking all the habits this summer, then add frozen berries to a glass of water, thereby cooling it down while upping the taste factor.
APPLY COLD THINGS TO YOUR PULSE POINTS
Anyone who's spent term four in an Aussie primary school should know this trick, but just in cased you missed out... The easiest way to cool down quickly is by applying a source of cold to your pulse points. Start by holding your wrists under running water for at least three minutes. Afterwards, apply an ice pack (or equivalent) to your wrists, neck, back of knees and/or ankles. These strategies cool the blood running through your veins, and decrease your body temperature.
Got an empty spray bottle lying around? Give it a good, thorough clean and fill it with cold — or icy — water. Then, whenever you feel your temperature start to rise, spray yourself and everyone else in your vicinity. It's a basic trick, but an easy one. If possible, keep the bottle in the refrigerator or freezer (for short periods only – don't let the water turn into ice). Otherwise, re-fill as often as you can.
PUT PLANTS IN FRONT OF YOUR WINDOWS
Got pot plants? Got windows that let in lots of light? Well, there's an energy-saving match, right there. Use said plants to block said windows. The taller and leafier the better. In fact, if you're serious about keeping cool, then it's worth investing in some dense trees or even vines — as long as you have a way to hang them from the windows. Not only will plants reduce the light and heat entering your home, they'll also provide you with cleaner air. Go for lemon trees you'll get some fruit too.
FREEZE YOUR PILLOWS AND SHEETS
One of the biggest challenges of summer is getting to sleep. To produce the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin, your body needs to reduce its core temperature. But once the thermometer hits 25 degrees, this becomes tough. To make it easier, stick your pillows and sheets in a plastic bag and shove them in the freezer for 30 minutes before making your bed. As the night wears on and you start to warm up, you might find yourself waking up — if possible, keep a spare set of bed clothes in the freezer, so you can do a quick switch. Like the effect? Freeze your PJs, too, and slip on a pair of wet socks.
CLOSE ALL THE WINDOWS
Up to a third of heat in a house comes in through open windows and doors. So, go on a closing rampage — and tell your family/housemates all about it. While you're there, cover windows as effectively as possible by drawing blinds and curtains, and shutting shutters. If nighttime brings relief, then go about opening them again. And, to increase the effect of cooler air, hang wet sheets in front of the windows. As the evening breeze blows through, the moisture will make it even cooler. Just don't forget to close everything again in the morning as it heats up.
GIVE YOUR FEET A COLD BATH
When you need to sit in one spot for a while — maybe you're getting some work done or watching a film — then fill a container with cold water (and ice if you can hack it) and stick your feet in. Immerse your ankles if you can — they're pulse points, so when they're cool, your body temperature tends to drop. Should this work for you, go further with a bath or shower. Or, to avoid hanging around in the bathroom all day, invest in a kiddy's pool and carry it from room to room.
TURN OFF YOUR APPLIANCES
You'll be surprised how much heat is generated by your appliances. The obvious one is your oven. Even a seemingly harmless spurt of baking can give the thermometer a major surge. If you've got people coming over for dinner, an outdoor barbie is the best solution. Beyond the oven, there are loads of other heat-creating suspects, including your microwave, electric jug, television, bedside lamp, dishwasher, washing machine and computer. Whenever possible, switch them all off and unplug them — it'll help you stay cool and save energy.
SPICE IT UP
There's a good reason why spicy food is so popular in steamy parts of the world, like India and Bangladesh. When you ingest all that chilli, your body starts to sweat and, as you know, sweating cools you down. Make your meal hot enough and you'll be in so much pain, you won't know what season it is. What's more, spicy food comes with heaps of potential health benefits, from increasing life expectancy to preventing cancer.