23 Ways to Beat the Heat
Put Up Sun Blockers
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.
Don't Blow Hot Air
Give your A/C some TLC. Clean or replace the filter in room and central air conditioners about once a month during the summer. If you have central air-conditioning, have the ducts checked for leaks, which can reduce a system's efficiency by as much as 15 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Seal any cracks between a window unit and the frame with peelable caulking or a sealant strip. These steps help ensure good airflow and keep the coils cleaner, which means more efficient and more effective cooling.
Close It Down
Close everything else, too. Whether the air conditioner is on or off, keep windows and doors shut if the temperature outside is more than 77 degrees Fahrenheit (most people start to sweat at 78). Whenever the outside air is hotter than the inside air, opening a window invites heat to creep in.
Give a Squirt
Fan strategically. If the day's heat is trapped inside your home, try a little ventilation at night or when the temperature drops below 77. A window fan can help; the trick is to face the blades outside to suck warm air out of the house and pull cooler air in. "Kind of surprising," says Bill Nye, the Science Guy, a scientist, engineer, comedian, author, and inventor. "Having a fan blowing in is a good idea―but it's not as effective as one that's blowing out."
Vent a Lot
Turn on the vent in the bathroom. When taking a shower, be sure to use the vent fan: It helps sticky moisture escape.
Observe Key Notes
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.
Try Air Drying
Dress right. Wear one of the widely available synthetic fabrics designed to wick away sweat and that sticky feeling (examples include Coolmax and Nano-Tex); they're not just for athletes anymore. If you prefer cotton, make it thin, light colored, and, most of all, loose. "The best thing is to have sweat evaporate directly from skin to air," says Larry Kenney, a professor of physiology and kinesiology at Pennsylvania State University, in University Park. "The next best thing is for the sweat to move quickly from your skin to clothing and then evaporate. Loose, billowy clothes allow air movement next to the skin and help with evaporation."
Lose (or Choose) the Hot Stuff
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.
Eat light. There's a reason we reach for salads in the summer. They're easier to digest than, say, a fatty hamburger, which leaves you feeling sluggish in the high heat. Instead, go for fruits and vegetables, which are watery and help keep you hydrated (and cooler), says Robert Kenefick, a physiologist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, in Natick, Massachusetts, which studies the effects of extreme climates on soldiers' bodies.
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.
Take Some Dry Measures
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.