Try a desert trick. When the air outside is dry and cooler than the air inside, hang a damp sheet in an open window. "That's what we do here in Death Valley," says Dale Housley, a ranger at Death Valley National Park. Incoming breezes are cooled by the evaporating water.
Block the sun. Closing curtains and blinds (ideally with sun-deflecting white on the window side) can reduce the amount of heat that passes into your home by as much as 45 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
2 of 12Monica Buck
Don't Blow Hot Air
3 of 12Monica Buck
Close It Down
4 of 12Monica Buck
Give a Squirt
5 of 12Andrew McCaul
Vent a Lot
Run a fan and an air conditioner simultaneously. You can use the air conditioner at lower power and still feel cool if the fan is blowing over you. That's because the air conditioner removes humidity from the air while the fan helps evaporate sweat and moves heat away from your body. (Note: Fans don't cool a room; they just make people feel cooler, so shut them off before you leave.)
Turn on the vent in the bathroom. When taking a shower, be sure to use the vent fan: It helps sticky moisture escape.
6 of 12Mark Lund
Observe Key Notes
Let your computer take a nap. Set it to go into low-power "sleep" mode if you are away from it for more than 10 minutes and it will give off less heat. When you're finished for the day, shut the machine down completely. Despite what some IT guy may have told you years ago, properly shutting down and restarting modern-day computers won't put undue strain on the hardware. And forget about working with a computer on your lap―it's too darn hot. "That's why they changed the name from laptop to notebook," says Justin M. Solomon, a 19-year-old undergraduate at Stanford University who took first place in computer science at the 2005 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair.
Wick while you work. To keep yourself cooler when computing, plug a Kensington FlyFan ($40, amazon.com) into a USB port on your machine. The fan's flexible neck lets you direct the breeze to your sweaty brow.
7 of 12Monica Buck
Try Air Drying
8 of 12Kate Powers
Lose (or Choose) the Hot Stuff
Shuck your shoes. As the sweat on your feet evaporates, it cools the skin and the blood in your feet. Blood vessels then whisk that blood to other parts of the body, so "you're getting a greater sensation of coolness," says Donald R. Bohay, M.D., a member of the American Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Society.
Spice it up. As people who live in scorching climates, such as those of Mexico and India, know well, eating hot stuff can cool you down. "Chili peppers contain capsaicin, a chemical compound that helps us to perspire more readily," says Rick Bayless, the James Beard Award-winning chef of Frontera Grill, in Chicago. When this sweat evaporates, you experience brief relief.
9 of 12David Prince
10 of 12Anna Williams
Opt for a Shutdown
Give your oven a summer vacation. If you cook, use the stovetop, the microwave, or a barbecue. "Grill some extra vegetables when you're making dinner," says Deborah Madison, author of Vegetable Soups From Deborah Madison's Kitchen (Broadway, $20, amazon.com). "The next day, mix them with a little Feta cheese and olive oil for a great, cool snack."
Shut the lights. Or change the bulbs: Long-lasting compact fluorescent bulbs produce about 70 percent less heat than standard incandescents.
11 of 12David Tsay
Take Some Dry Measures
Give the clothes dryer a break, too. Hang a clothesline and let your towels and sheets flap in the breeze. "They smell wonderful," says Paul Hooker, whose company, Sferra, sells sheets made in Italy, where, he adds, almost everyone hangs them out to dry.
Make a "cold compress." Fill a cotton sock with rice, tie the sock with twine, and freeze it for two hours before bedtime. Then slide it between the sheets. Rice retains cold for a long period because it's dense and starchy, says Jim Hill, Ph.D., an associate dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at the University of California at Davis.
12 of 12Thayer Allyson Gowdy
Escape. Relax with A Winter's Tale, The Call of the Wild, Doctor Zhivago, or Smilla's Sense of Snow. "Reading about cold can take your mind off the thermometer, evoking one's own experience of ice and snow," says Walter A. Brown, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the medical schools of Brown and Tufts Universities and an expert in the placebo effect. "It's also a bit of self-hypnosis. Sometimes when I shower and the water is cold, I tell myself it's hot and I can make myself believe it." You can save that last insight for another season entirely.