How can I reduce the amount of energy I use keeping cool?

(A companion post to the one last October – super tips for reducing energy usage/heating bills in the winter!)

After a few false starts, summer is definitely here in the UK now and it’s the warmest it’s been for a few years (although that’s not saying much really). We’re not really equipped for very hot or very cold weather – because until we started messing with the climate, we didn’t regularly get either – but air con is now de rigueur in new workplaces and play places – offices, shops, cinemas etc. People are also increasingly buying small air con units for their homes but generally more people just run fans to keep air circulating — both of which, of course, use electric juice.

How do you keep yourself and your home/office cool? What are your favourite super tips for keeping cool without using a lot of energy or water? I’m expecting that everyone knows to stay well-hydrated and not wear thick woolly jumpers/scarves in the midday heat – but what else do you do?

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12 Responses to “How can I reduce the amount of energy I use keeping cool?”

  1. Alice says:

    Draw curtains to shade rooms when the sun is hottest. Open windows at night to let cooler air in, then close them during the day to keep hot air out (seems counter-intuitive but should work if windows are kept shaded!).

    Check that heating is actually turned right off, not just turned down, especially in schools, offices and halls of residence where it’s often centrally controlled.

    Don’t use the cooker any more than you have to, and change all bulbs to energy efficient ones as the old inefficient ones give off a significant amount of heat while switched on.

  2. Bobbie says:

    Plant a deciduous tree to shade your house. You’d be amazed at how much cooler your house will be. Alice’s idea of the curtains is a good alternative to a tree and if you get the thermal ones it will save energy summer and winter.

  3. louisa says:

    My own not-terribly-original ideas:

    1) I keep my shoes off as much as possible. Taking them off immediately drops my body temperature when I’m hot.

    2) We have a cool room of the house and spend a lot of time in there when it’s hot or humid. Unfortunately the room is our office so it has the nasty side effect of making me work more. Boo.

    3) My mum always has a cup of tea when she’s hot – rather than cooling her core, she warms it further which makes her sweat and that cools her down more overall.

  4. Our house – big sturdy Victorian one – is fairly cool in summer but not so warm in winter. We have a cellar that is very cold so during the winter if I am feeling cold I just open the door and stand at the top for a few seconds – it makes the rest of the house seem lovely and warm! Sounds daft but it works and no need for extra heating etc! It would work in summer too if it got hot in the house as it’s cool down there

  5. Melinda says:

    – It can be good to plant vines for shade in front of windows or porches that get a lot of sun. I just planted cucumbers outside the chicken run to give them more shade. Perrenials are nice, but take a while. Even morning glories or climbing beans would work.
    – A ceiling fan is a great help.
    – do any baking in the evening, when it is cooler.
    – A tropical schedule for a tropical time of year: do high energy activities in the morning or evening. Siesta or quiet activities for the heat of the day.

  6. chicgeek says:

    Here’s some suggestions from Craftster, where someone didn’t have ac in extreme heat, and asked for advice.
    1. turn the fan so that it blows out the window (this will pull the inside air out and if you have another window in another room open it and the draft will pull the air in).
    2. take a bowl of ice (I set it inside of my laundry basket) and place in front of the box fan, wet a flat sheet or cut up a t-shirt so that only one layer of material is draped over the front of the laundry basket, so that the fan blows the cool icy air on through the wet material it will cool a small area.

    Several folks chimed in and said they’d done both of these things. I think fans may use less electricity than an ac? Worth checking. Us, we have the window units for the bedrooms, not the entire house.

    Another alternative-

    But, at night when it’s hot I do the opposite of the fan trick mentioned above. I put the fan in the window facing in to suck in the cool air, and open the second window in the room so that it stays circulating (doesn’t work very well at all if the second window is closed, or in rooms that only have one window!) In the morning I shut all the windows an keep the blinds closed and it stays cool for quite a while.

    I don’t know about this tip…
    Mist your bedlinen with water (dampish but not wet), and fold it into a bag and freeze it. If nothing else, you can sleep at the end of a day cooking your head!

    And, tiny spray water bottles to spritz yourself with are nice. English summer hopefully isn’t as torrid as the southern U.S.! Good luck.

  7. Kara says:

    A classic way to keep cool using less electricity here in the southern U.S. is an attic/whole house fan. We barely use our air conditioner at night or on days when the outside temperature is under 85 degrees F. That and lots of iced tea.

  8. Martyn says:

    Soak a small kitchen towel in ice water and place it around your neck after wringing it dry. I sometimes lay naked in from of the fan with ice soaked big towels on me as well.

  9. Cipollina says:

    If you got an outside area – anything from a balcony to a garden – cooking outside helps keeping the house cool. If you cook on a rocket stove or on a grill, you also save a lot of energy. I’m sure there are more ways – solar ovens come to mind.

    Some houses are placed such a way that they let a light breeze through the rooms if a window in each end is opened. You’ll need to keep doors open throughout the house and secured with doorstoppers, though, which might ruin any privacy for the day, especially if the bathroom is involved, but that’s a small price to pay for comfort.

    Walking barefoot, as mentioned above, really really helps, too. And, you have already ripped out that unhygienic wall-to-wall carpet and put in several smaller mats, haven’t you? Remove them all except the tiny one beside your bed for the summer. Also – and this sounds weird, I know, but, a clean floor *feels* cooler than a dusty one.

  10. Estelle says:

    In Italy… very hot and sticky! I sleep with a damp cloth either on my face or on other parts of the body. I move it around periodically, depending on what feels hottest. Then, if I get up in the night, I wet the cloth again and it’s cool and fresh all over again.

  11. caroline says:

    we once stayed in a great hostel in New York but it was very hot in our room as there was no air conditioning and when you opened the window the hot air from nextdoors ac unit would blow straight in.

    We found 3 things we could do.

    1. To stay out of our hot room for as long as possible – I’m sure this is why everyone in harlem sits on their “stoop” for hours and hours.

    2. To have a cold shower straight before coming to bed and not dry off

    3. We stuffed our pillows in the fridge. When it was full of food we just put the pillowcases in. The bliss of lying on a cold pillow in a hot room is indescribable.

  12. OmnivorousReader42 says:

    Like Kara mentioned, a whole-house fan is wonderful. We live in a neighborhood where it is not advisable to leave the house open at night, so this is a good solution for us. If you live anywhere that gets a temperature drop at night/early in the morning, this is worth the $150 investment. Any hardware store can order one for you and it will need installed in a ceiling in the central part of your house. We get up around 5 am (b/c of animals) and open all the windows, flip on the whole-house fan and within an hour, the house drops anywhere from 4-6 degrees. Then we shut the house up and are careful which curtains we open which parts of the day.

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