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Wear frozen clothes -- and 9 other cheap chills

You can save energy -- and money -- even during the hottest days of summer. Here are some ideas for keeping cool that you might not have considered.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 9, 2013 10:35AM
This post comes from Amy Lu at partner site WiseBread.

WiseBread logoWith heat waves sweeping across the U.S. and other countries, you’re probably feeling hot right about now. So am I. But before you reach for the air conditioner switch, resist the call for instant gratification and try out these energy-saving methods for cooling off.

Girl Drinking from a Hose © Vicky Kasala/Photodisc/Getty Images1. Put your clothes in the freezer
Weird, right? Placing your clothes in the freezer won’t clean them, but it should cool off your threads and, by extension, you. Drop your clothes in a large reclosable bag to keep from mixing with the food. I haven't actually tried this myself, but it seems workable in theory; surely it's more cost-effective than standing in front of the fridge with the freezer door open.

2. Wear loose clothing

Sweat evaporation cools you off. What helps sweat evaporation? Air circulation. What increases air circulation against your skin? Loose clothing. It’s especially important to wear light and loose clothing if you live in a humid area, where your sweat can evaporate very slowly. Go with a breathable fabric, like cotton.

3. Cool your pulse points
You can target your body's pulse points to cool off because your blood vessels are close to the surface of your skin in those areas. A cold, wet towel against your neck should do quite nicely!

You can also cool all your pulse points at once by taking a cold shower. Granted, the initial shock of ice cold water can be quite, well, shocking. I usually start at slightly cooler than lukewarm, then slowly turn the knob over to as cold as I can stand before my teeth start to chatter. The resulting cold shower is simply divine.

4. Use a programmable thermostat
A programmable thermostat will help you control your impulses — no turning on the A/C willy-nilly as soon as you feel a tad warm — and it will automatically turn off the cooling even if you forget to. The goal is to have a good stretch of time each day when the air conditioner doesn't kick on at all. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, "You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7 to 10 degrees F for eight hours a day from its normal setting."

One high-tech option is the Nest Learning Thermostat. Once it’s connected to your home Wi-Fi, you can change the temperature, adjust your settings and schedules, check how much energy you’re saving -- all from your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. With its activity sensors, it knows to go into energy-saving mode when no one is home. About a week after installation, the Nest will develop a personalized schedule to reflect your preferences and habits. Plus, it will continue to adapt as the season changes. Pretty neat, huh?

5. Open and close windows wisely
For a low-tech approach to cooling, be judicious about your window-opening. Keep them closed during the day, especially during the peak heat hours of 10 a.m. to whenever it doesn't feel like you'll melt if you walk to the mailbox. While you're at it, draw close the curtains, too, to keep the sunlight at bay. Only open your windows a crack if there's a breeze to help with airflow, and make sure to close them when the breeze drops.

Once the sun begins to set, though, and it starts to get cooler outside -- go wild. Open your windows with abandon. Let out the trapped warmth and enjoy the (hopefully) relatively cooler night air while you can . . . because come the next morning, the cycle begins anew.

6. Avoid hot things
Sounds like a no-brainer, right? But you'd be surprised how much heat our everyday machines give off. Be aware of what machines and appliances give off significant amounts of heat, and try not to power them for so long that they warm up the room. Even if you're not wrapped around a laptop, some computers and game consoles can get pretty warm if they're on long enough. And don't get me started about the oven! Mostly because I don't want to go there — I love baking! But I try not to do any baking when it’s super hot out; we definitely don’t need the extra heat inside.

7. Eat cold things
This is one of my favorite anti-hot options. From iced drinks to ice cream and frozen yogurt to frozen fruit, I love the way the chill follows the food down my throat to my belly. I like my cold drinks thick, like slushies or milkshakes, or with something chewable for my mouth to work on, such as boba (tapioca balls, commonly found in milk teas); the semi-solids keep me from downing the entire thing in under a minute. To stay hydrated, though, a cold glass of water is the best way to go.
8. Use ceiling fans

Use ceiling fans to increase the air circulation of a room -- but make sure the blades are turning counterclockwise when you look up. You want the air to come down at you from above. While a spinning fan doesn’t actually decrease the temperature of room, the airflow creates a wind-chill effect that makes you feel cooler as the sweat on your skin evaporates and your body sheds the heat. But don’t leave it on when there’s no one in the room; it's effective as a cooling method only if someone is there to feel it.
No ceiling fan? No problem. Grab a stand-alone fan, plop it in front of you, and enjoy. For some serious cooling, spritz yourself with some water as the fan runs.

9. Play in the water

You don't have to be a kid to play in the water. No one will judge you, not in this heat! (And who cares if they do? Water is fun!) Look for parks with sprinklers or water play areas. For some wet and wild fun at home, blow up an inflatable pool or run across the glorious path of a hose when your lawn needs watering. I guess you could just jump into the nearest available swimming pool, too.

10. Borrow air-conditioning
Whether you don't have air-conditioning or just want to save electricity at home, you can always share someone else's. Coffee shops and discount theaters are great places to linger a few hours without needing to spend a lot -- even an indoor shopping mall will work if you're careful with your wallet. However, my favorite by far is the library, where it's always free, and there's always something to do. In fact, many libraries are also cooling centers, where people can go for some air-conditioning, water, and sometimes even medical attention. Check with your city or community center to find one near you.

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3Comments
Aug 10, 2013 6:11PM
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My ac is set on 78 during the day and 75 for sleeping.Works just fine this way.
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Any HVAC tech will tell you that you can adjust the heat in 7-10 degree amounts but not the A/C for several reasons. 1. Let the temp rise and the humidity rises along with it risking mold and proliferation of dust mites and other insects. 2. A/C overload, letting your home get very hot and then trying to cool it 7-10 degrees while it is extremely hot out will run the unit constantly under in the most unfavorable conditions. Best is to just set a reasonable temp and leave there or vary it only be a few degrees at most making it cooler only when it is cooler outside such as at night as onerwp123 mentioned. A tip for saving money can be to cool the home overnight to a very cool temp if you have a time of use electricity rate schedule. If you can delay the unit coming on in the morning mid peak rate time by having really cool during the off peak rate in the evening and let the temp rise a few degrees in the afternoon to keep it off for the tail end of the peak period until the off peak rate in the evening starts then you could save a few $$. I personally have the 3 tier rate as mentioned but leave the temp at one setting and use the windows or the HRV unit to bring in fresh filtered air at night if it is cool enough

Aug 10, 2013 11:16PM
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On really sweltering nights, I've been known to soak a t-shirt in water and wear it to bed. Lying on top of the covers lets the water evaporate around me, and I get a nice cool little pocket of air to sleep in. Plus, when it's 100 degrees at midnight, sleeping in a wet shirt feels divine.
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