Tips for living in an Easy-Bake oven
May 14, 2024 10:34 AM   Subscribe

It's peak summer here and the outside temperature is only dropping to around 81°F (27°C) at night. I live in a concrete house on a concrete slab and the kitchen floor is currently about 85°F (29°c). It'll only last a couple more weeks, but in the meantime I'd love to hear people's tips.
posted by Tell Me No Lies to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
When I've lived in unbearably hot places with no AC, I slept with icepacks and/or ice in ziplock bags resting lightly on my head and feet.
posted by rainy day girl at 10:40 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]

Keep the sun off that concrete. Shades on the windows, maybe some way to shade the south/west sides of the house with an awning ?

Keep the air moving through the house at night. A fan blowing directly on you will be cooler, but hard to sleep. When I lived in a cinderblock apartment with no A/C I had a fan in a different room pointed out the window, then closed every other window except the one in my bedroom to let outside air in.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:14 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]

Can you obtain something large to shade your house, or at least the room you sleep in? In the time I've lived here, trees have grown outside (western exposure) and the difference in temperature in the summer is marked.

Google [DIY swamp cooler]. Seriously.
posted by amtho at 11:23 AM on May 14 [2 favorites]

Swamp cooler at night may work, but those humidity levels mid-day (>80%)? No way.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:27 AM on May 14

Agreed on keeping the house as shaded as possible - if not from the outside then from the inside with blinds, curtains, etc. Maximize air flow, keeping in mind outside temperatures at different times of day and night. Drink cold drinks and eat cooled food. Keep cooking to a minimum.

A fan blowing directly on you will be cooler, but hard to sleep.

Try it regardless - it might not bother you, or you might get used to it. You can always change the angle. In the summer, having a fan directly on me makes a huge difference; indirect air flow doesn't cut it. If the noise bothers you, try earplugs or music.

In general, fans are amazing. Wet a shirt (if you want to get fancy, cool it in the fridge first) and wear it in front of a fan. Also look into cooling towels, cooling clothing - including clothing with ice packs or built-in fans - and portable fans that you can wear around your neck (I recommend this type over this type, though I haven't tried those specific models; the first type is lighter and the motors are farther away from your ears.) With respect to wearable ice packs, you can also just use them without the special clothing they're meant for - you can wrap them around you with some thin fabric or towels, for example. Cool your face, ears, neck, and so on often.

It'll only last a couple more weeks

Take heat seriously; it can be dangerous. Stay more hydrated than you think you need, stay out of the sun, cool yourself as much as possible even if you're not feeling too uncomfortable. If you're sweating a lot make sure you're getting enough electrolytes. Take it as easy as possible physically. I'm assuming from your question that you don't have AC, but if you do - use it.

If power outages are a thing where you live (and even if not; last summer the electric company where I live had multiple planned outages due to infrastructure work during the hottest months) then having usb-powered fans and portable batteries on hand is huge.
posted by trig at 11:55 AM on May 14 [7 favorites]

Also, ask your neighbors - they might have some strategies or suggestions especially suited to your location.
posted by trig at 11:57 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]

Get a portable AC, cooling a bedroom is sufficient.
posted by shock muppet at 12:04 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]

Sleep in a hammock, if you can. Mattresses are phenominal insulation. Mesh if possible, otherwise made of the most breathable material you can find.
posted by pullayup at 12:26 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]

Will you be in the house next year (and beyond)?
Are you able to plant to shade the sun-facing walls?
I use deciduous vines on wires (either wires attached to wall, or on posts out from the wall) such as grape (slow growing), and hops (single season to ~3metres+). Then wall can gain heat when you want it, but not in summer.
posted by unearthed at 12:43 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]

Sprinkling water on the concrete sides of the house (and maybe even inside on the floor, depending on whether that will damage anything!) should help during the day (when the humidity is relatively low).

Shading the sunniest side of the house from the outside (maybe with a big piece of light colored plywood?) will also reduce the amount of solar gain, aka how much sun is absorbed by the concrete and kept as heat.
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:10 PM on May 14 [2 favorites]

There is value in simply not being home. When I lived in a hot apartment without a/c, I hung out at the library and the movie theater and window shopped during the hottest parts of my off days. I also identified cheap neighborhood restaurants that didn't care if I lingered, as long as it wasn't the busy period.

TL;DR: enjoy the a/c in public places.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:29 PM on May 14 [3 favorites]

Air circulators (like one of these squat Vornado jobbies) operate more efficiently than fans, so produce more air movement with less noise.
posted by SPrintF at 1:30 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]

Agree that if the humidity is low, sprinkling water (or misting) waterproof materials is very effective. I used to do this with tile floors and quartz countertops that would store heat - I’d lay down ice packs from the freezer until they melted and cooled those surfaces. I’d also cover the spots that got sun via windows with towels to defray heat gain.
posted by samthemander at 1:57 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]

With a dew point of 69F, it'd be better to get rid of humidity, so spraying the exterior walls is a good idea (if affordable), shade coverings of the outside another great idea, and finding some material to put inside to soak up humidity like an actual dehumidifier, increase the amount of wood, carpet & rugs to insulate the floor and such would all be good ideas.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:06 PM on May 14

If the dew point is 60F or below, then you can skip the spraying the walls, turn off the dehumidifier, and do what you can to increase airflow, like open windows, etc.
posted by The_Vegetables at 2:07 PM on May 14

Nobody mentioned hair. When it's really hot, I wet my hair in regular intervals. A wet hat works as well. Really helps cool you down.

Apart from that, yes, shading your windows is key. Only let air in in the early morning hours, before sunrise.
posted by toucan at 4:15 PM on May 14 [1 favorite]

It rarely gets that hot where I live, so I don't have AC or awnings. Then when it does get hot, cross ventilation over water on the stone floor will bring the temperature down. During the day, I pull down the blinds in the south facing rooms. It doesn't do a lot, but everything counts.
posted by mumimor at 1:25 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Wet cotton is especially good for cooling you down. (For the same reason, it's bad to wear cotton if you might get wet or sweaty and need to stay warm! That's why hikers and other outdoorsy types will usually tell you to avoid it.) A cold wet cotton shirt can really do a lot to help cool you off enough to fall asleep. Similarly, try wetting a cotton cloth in cold water (or putting it into the refrigerator) and draping it around your neck. When it gets warm enough or dry enough that it's not helping anymore, repeat! Bandanas are good for this, you can have two that you swap out for one another.

If the water that comes out of your tap is cool or cold at all, run it over your wrists; it cools your whole body.
posted by redfoxtail at 3:44 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

Do you have a bath tub? Fill it with tepid water and let it come to ambient temperature; it will feel cool. Periodically lay down in it for a few minutes to “reset” your body. Stand in front of a fan to dry off.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:25 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]

During the day, close the window and cover them to keep the sun out as much as possible; it feels counterintuitive but makes a big difference. If you're in this house for the long term, you might even look to see if you can get external thermal roller blinds installed in your area (google "persianas térmicas" or "persianas europeas" and you'll see what I mean). They may not be the prettiest but they are ubiquitous in Spain for a reason.
posted by nanny's striped stocking at 5:31 AM on May 15 [1 favorite]

If everything fails, make a big towel wet and use it as a blanket. The water will evaporate and the blanket will cool you.
posted by kay24 at 6:47 AM on May 15

(a) For window shading, I have used butcher paper directly on the window glass (indoor side) with painter's tape. With my window design, this allows me to open the windows at night without removing the paper, but doesn't require me to buy shades or install curtain rods. I also only shaded the windows on the sides of the house that got direct sunlight. This was really effective.

Because (b) you want to cool down the house at night by opening all the windows during the cooler hours, if the air outside is cooler than the air inside.

(c) I like to set up a regular room fan and have a squirt bottle set to the mist setting and filled with water. Stand, sit, or lie in front of the fan and squirt towards the fan. It's short-term but it feels amazing.

(d) Run cool water over the inside of your wrists several times throughout the day. Also short-term but it really helps.
posted by happy_cat at 6:51 AM on May 15 [2 favorites]

Lots of good tips in the thread already. One I don't already see here: last time I was stuck in that kind of heat/high humidity, I got myself a spray bottle full of vodka and used it to spray my clothes and skin. Alcohol evaporates much more readily than water and will cool you faster. It's not a great long-term solution and it's not good to inhale a lot of alcohol vapor -- so keep the space ventilated -- but it's very effective for quick cooling.

One more: it's very effective to take some ice, wrap it up in a bandanna, and tie the bandanna around your head. Both the ice and the dripping melt-water help cool you down quickly.
posted by ourobouros at 2:34 PM on May 15 [1 favorite]

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