Help staying cool without AC in Wisconsin in July
May 28, 2014 3:24 PM   Subscribe

We stay in a cabin for a week each July. The cabin has no air conditioning. This is not usually a big deal, but last year we had 3-4 beastly days in a row and I was crabby and had trouble sleeping. I'd like some tips on dealing with the heat and humidity.

Note that it is very humid there, so I don't think swamp coolers will be effective. We don't have a lot of room for giant buckets of ice or miles of tubing, either.

We bring fans of course, but they only do so much. The bedroom window is high without much of a sill and I am planning to get one of those window-mounted exhaust-type fans to suck in the cooler air at night. We have to close up the doors and any window without a screen at night or we'll be under siege from bugs. We keep the curtains closed during day. Since it is only for a week, simple and cheap options would be preferable.
posted by soelo to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Fatigue and drinking help with sleeping in sticky weather. Fans are wonderfully effective, spend the money on a good quiet one with a rotating head.

Also, good sheets - if you have cheap cotton or flannel sheets, they will stick to you and make you miserable.

But if you think those are ineffective and are willing to spend a few bucks, a small window AC unit is like 100 bucks. You can take it up with you and sell it on craigslist when you get back. Alternatively, you can button up the bedroom, run a fan, and a de-humidifier - it won't be any cooler (in fact, warmer) but it will be drier and less sticky.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:40 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I spend a lot of time at a family cottage in MI during the summer with no a/c. While the first week is torture (as well as that one week that seems to appear each summer where it's over 90 all night - no help for that!), acclimatization makes it more bearable over time. So since you only have a week, try to limit your exposure to a/c in the week before your trip including the drive there if you can. The less your body expects it, the easier it is to withstand the heat.
posted by cecic at 3:41 PM on May 28, 2014

Would it be worth it to you to buy a small dehumidifier (the kind where you dump out a small tank of water every few hours) and bring it along? Definitely not the cheapest option, but I've had to use the fans + dehumidifier combo through a few Wisconsin summers, and it helps a lot with the awful sticking-to-the-sheets feeling.
posted by augustimagination at 3:46 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are the curtains insulated, and do they cover the window entirely? Blocking out any direct sunlight you possibly can will help some.

How about adjustable window screens fir the unscreened windows?
posted by EvaDestruction at 3:49 PM on May 28, 2014

Check out this portable, low-cost DIY AC unit. Definitely the most awesome thing I saw on the internet today!
posted by El_Marto at 4:04 PM on May 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

Can you situate the fan to point directly at you while you're sleeping? I know that helps me feel cooler.
posted by radioamy at 4:08 PM on May 28, 2014

A window-mounted fan won't help much, unless it can pivot down toward your bed. No fan, regardless of the velocity of the air it throws, will reduce humidity. I know this from years of beastly humid heat in NYC. If you can swing it, a small, room-sized portable AC might be your best bet. I haven't tried them, but a friend with lupus (night sweats) uses wicking sheets on her bed--these might help draw off some of the moisture from your body.
posted by mr_suboptimal at 4:09 PM on May 28, 2014

One trick I learned from some Australians a few years back, that is not a very good general long-term solution but works in a pinch, is to sleep under a wet/moist/damp towel when you have a fan pointed at you. You'll have to experiment with towel thickness/dampness and it probably won't last all night but it WILL cool you off while it lasts.
posted by ropeladder at 4:25 PM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yep, this!

Run a few hand towels under the tap, drape them over yourselves, and aim an oscillating fan at the bed. Keep spare damp towels in the refrigerator so if you wake up in the middle of the night sweating bullets, you can just stagger over to the fridge for a quick swap out.

(Source: Lived in Wisconsin my whole life, spent my first ~20 years living in spaces without air conditioning.)
posted by divined by radio at 5:01 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

When I and my two sons were sharing a single bedroom while living with relatives during my divorce, we had a lot of trouble at first with the room being too hot. The room had a thermometer in the window and we were able to track temperatures. One day, for reasons I don't recall, we decided to remove all the cardboard boxes from all the snacks and sodas we were storing in the room. The temperature dropped by 5 degrees Fahrenheit. This experiment was repeated a few times and had the same result each time. After verifying it, we made it a policy to remove all cardboard boxes.

Compost heaps are known to give off heat, so I guess this should not a shocking idea but it was to us. When we later moved out to an apartment of our own, my son noticed that trash filled with the remains of our dinner was also giving off heat and we could not sleep. He ran it down to the dumpster. This helped with the temperature and with us getting to sleep. Taking the trash out before we slept became a new policy as well.

I also tried removing papers and cardboard at the office when we were having trouble with the AC and I had less trouble coping with the heat than a lot of my teammates who had cubicles filled with paper and cardboard.

So I would suggest you take trash out before bedtime and keep cardboard boxes and similar to a minimum and see if that helps any.
posted by Michele in California at 5:04 PM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

This won't help at night, but last year when we spent a week at our friend's bungalow with no AC in 90+ humid weather, we discovered a trick. If you take a swim in the morning, and then keep your suit on indoors... the dampness keeps you much cooler than wearing regular clothes. You just have to keep any upholstered seating covered with towels!
posted by kimdog at 5:06 PM on May 28, 2014

Take a cool shower before going to bed. As cold as you can stand it. It washes off the sweat, bleeds heat from your body, and makes sleeping on hot nights ever so much easier.
posted by DrGail at 5:23 PM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Maybe some Chilly towels?

Also, get a linen sheet to throw over your own bed sheets or the couch when you're sitting on it.

Maybe some white screens to put in the windows to reflect the sunlight away?
posted by Blitz at 5:23 PM on May 28, 2014

I survived last summer with the help of cold beer, lots of ice cream, and Dr Bronner's peppermint soap in lukewarm showers. The menthol leaves you feeling cooled down for quite a while. (Just make sure to keep it away from your sexybits, its unpleasant)
posted by Fig at 5:29 PM on May 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Snake Brand Prickly Heat Cooling Powder (You're welcome!)

Also, at night are you aiming fans out of the house to create cross ventilation? Mr. 26.2 is a mechanical engineer and he taught me that. As soon as it cools down at night, aim the fans out of the house and force the hot air out. Cooler outside air will find it's way in.
posted by 26.2 at 6:05 PM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do your cooking outside as much as possible.
posted by box at 6:27 PM on May 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Cold shower before bed, sleep in your underwear, have a fan blowing across you while you sleep, drape some damp towels or something over you while you fall asleep (alternatively, go to sleep in a damp/wet t-shirt--the advantage of towels is that you can throw them off in the night). Wet washcloth on the back of the neck, too.

Also contemplate putting a towel down on the bed so that when you wake up sweaty, you can chuck it aside and have dry sheets underneath.

Minnesota has made me a believer in sitting around the apartment partially dressed and wet, pretty much. (The ridiculous thing is that I have window a/c, but only run it when it's dire to keep the electricty bill down.)
posted by hoyland at 7:37 PM on May 28, 2014

Nthing sleeping under a wet towel with a fan. Our a/c broke last summer when I was 8 months pregnant. We live in south Florida, so I was very, very worried, but in the end I was just fine. A++ would wet towel again.
posted by gatorae at 7:48 PM on May 28, 2014

If you have a bathtub, try (pepper)mint bath salts.
posted by brujita at 11:49 PM on May 28, 2014

When I tried to survive summer in NYC without ac (note: this did not last), I would sleep in a t shirt and soak the shirt in cold water and put it on before going to bed. Awaken and re-wet during the night as necessary. This, combined with a fan, really helped.
posted by queens86 at 4:10 AM on May 29, 2014

How exposed is the cabin? By that I mean Can any neighbors easily see you? If you're pretty secluded, my first suggestion, at least at night, is make it a clothing optional vacation.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:13 AM on May 29, 2014

Take a cool shower before going to bed. As cold as you can stand it. It washes off the sweat, bleeds heat from your body, and makes sleeping on hot nights ever so much easier.

I spent a hot, humid summer with no AC in my bedroom, and my technique was this:

-Cold shower with Dr Bronner's peppermint soap
-Get in bed above the covers and without drying off first
-Point a fan directly at my body

It was the only way I could fall asleep, and it really worked.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:45 AM on May 29, 2014

Yep, go to bed damp after a cool shower (or dip in the lake). Our bedroom in our Northern WI cabin is in the center of the house with the only windows across a narrow hallway. Go to bed damp, have a fan pointing at you (for me, it's best if it hits me in the face).

We also rigged up a box fan to pull cool air into the bedroom from the hallway windows after the sun went down - it was HOT during the day, but at least the night cooled down a little bit.

For the screenless window, you can buy small adjustable screens that telescope open and fit just in an open window like this.
posted by sarajane at 2:10 PM on May 29, 2014

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