Ask the Readers: Cheap Ways to Stay Cool? (Chance to Win $20!)

By Will Chen on 1 June 2010 77 comments
Photo: Denise

**Congrats to our winners!**

@ekmurphy (Twitter Winner): when it gets hot, I rely on popsicles, cold seltzer, and friends who have A/C to keep cool!

AprilFire (Comment Winner): I take the tallest person in my house (which, sadly, is me) and have them stand in the tub. Then I fill the tub to just above their ankles with cold water and let it sit all day. Anytime I feel 'hot', I place my feet in the tub for about 20 minutes or until my feet feel like they are cold. The cooler water runs over the pulse points, which 'cools' the blood a bit, making me feel a lot better.

Air conditioning is a huge expense during the summer. We've provided some great tips in the past about how to live without air conditioning. Linsey, for example, has lived without air conditioning for at least two years.

Personally, I like to soak my shirts in water, throw them in the freezer, and wear these shirt-sicles during the hottest parts of the day. I do get lots of strange looks from the UPS lady (imagine delivering a package to a dude wearing a soaking wet t-shirt), but this trick really works!

How do you stay cool without breaking the bank?

What are some good alternatives to air conditioning? If you do use air conditioning, do you have any special tricks for keeping the cost down? If you think saving money on air conditioning is not worth the trouble, we would love to hear your reasoning as well.

Feel free to link to a blog post, if you're written on this topic! We'll include it in our post upon the conclusion of our giveaway!

Win one of two $20 Amazon gift cards:

We're doing two giveaways — one for random comments, and another one for random tweets.

How to Enter:

  1. Post your answer in the comments below, or
  2. Tweet your answer. Include both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" in your tweet so we'll see it and count it.

If you're inspired to write a whole blog post OR you have a photo on flickr to share, please link to it in the comments or tweet it.

Giveaway Rules:

  • Contest ends Monday, June 7th at 11:59 pm CST. Winners will be announced after June 7th on the original post and via Twitter. Winners will also be contacted via email and Twitter Direct Message.
  • You can enter both drawings — once by leaving a comment and once by tweeting.
  • Only tweets that contain both "@wisebread" and "#WBAsk" will be entered. (Otherwise, we won't see it.)

Good luck and stay cool!

Editor's note: Linsey is on vacation for two weeks, so I'll be taking over the next few Ask the Readers. Thanks for being patient with me. Hope you guys have fun!

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Guest's picture
Guest Kathy

Other than fans in the windows and on the floors. Here in SE Alaska we just head to the beach, swim when the tide is on the way in and really chill off when the tide goes out. Townies just go to the Docks and Bridge and jump in for a really fast cool off.

Will Chen's picture

Pft, what do you people from ALASKA know about keeping cool? =)

Guest's picture
Emily

I stock up on peppermint body lotion in the after-Christmas sales. Take a cool shower, dry off, slather lotion, ahhhhhh......

Though now, after reading more about phthalates, we may have to change our strategy. Maybe shirt-cicles?

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Jana

I work in the education field, so we have downtime during the hot summer months. Instead of staying home and either sweltering in a hot house or cranking up the a/c, I sign up for as many district-sponsored workshops as I can. I get to enjoy the cool air of the training center, bone up on my professional skills, and sometimes even earn a stipend for my time!

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Jessica

I got cool for cheap by moving in with my boyfriend! Not only saving money on rent this summer, but my apartment last summer was oppressively hot when his was breezy. Although, nearly froze my butt off in his place this winter, while my old apartment was warm and snug. Sweaters are cheaper than A/C though!

Guest's picture
lostAnnfound

If it's going to be really hot, I close up all the windows and blinds in the house, which helps to keep the warmer air and hot sunlight out. It's surprising how cool it says in here without the use of an air conditioner.

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Erika

We are lucky to have ceiling fans all over the house. I was surprised we were able to keep it pretty comfortable that way over the weekend when it got in upper 80s. And I find that if you go without air conditioning, after a few days you get used to it.

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Therese

I drink lots of water to keep hydrated and spritz some on my face to cool off.

Guest's picture

Save money and stay cool by drinking water. These tips will help you even if you already drink only tap water. Stay Cool by Drinking Water this Summer

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Micah

I wear as little clothes as possible, as often as possible. Somewhat unsurprisingly, I'm a single male. :) Seriously though, I only run the A/C at night (roommate from Ohio dies in the heat), but rare will be the day you'll catch me in my apartment with a shirt on longer than it takes to get to the clothes hamper.

Fans and the insulation of an upstairs neighbor does the rest.

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AronSora

Rubbing Rubbing alcohol on your bear chest and back really cooled me off in my overheated dorm room. Just don't smoke while doing it...

I also learned from the Keith and the Girl podcast that you can soak a towel, put it in the freeze over night, then wear that tower on your head, that works epically.

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Ernest S.

I bought a couple of window fans and oscillating floor fans this year, and have yet to turn on the A/C once this season. We are using the floor fans to push the cool air from the basement level up the stairwell to the living room, and the window fans to exhaust the hot air on the upper level.

I am considering purchasing a dehumidifier as well to reduce the humidity. But so far, this set-up has worked out great!

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Steven P

A cold rag or bottle of frozen water to the back of your neck will cool you down.

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mara

ok, you know those gel wine bottle coolers that have a velour material that fit around a bottle of wine? if you put them on your wrists, it totally cools you down! feels even better with a glass of riesling!

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Guest Joel

Go to the library and take advantage of thier air conditioning as well as their free resources.

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melyssa marigold

since air conditioning is only needed about twice a year where I live, i don't get the practice it much, but when i do, i pull out a fan.

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Paul

A cool shower with just a light towel down and then fans while I read or surf the net.

And a Fla-vor-ice to top things off.

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Guest

I take advantage of public air conditioning at the library, malls, etc.

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Guest

Do any laundry or cooking in the morning so the house (or little apartment!) can cool down while the temps outside are still relatively low. Keep blinds closed. Take cooler showers. Wear lose clothing.

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AprilFire

I take the tallest person in my house (which, sadly, is me) and have them stand in the tub. Then I fill the tub to just above their ankles with cold water and let it sit all day. Anytime I feel 'hot', I place my feet in the tub for about 20 minutes or until my feet feel like they are cold. The cooler water runs over the pulse points, which 'cools' the blood a bit, making me feel a lot better.

Guest's picture
ryan

not a short term fix, but lose weight and be healthy.
it lowers your internal temperature, plus you dont have so much padding.
you can maintain a lower heartbeat rate as well.
try not to focus on being hot, a lot of it is mental.

Guest's picture
Sweta

Keep all the curtains closed.

Don't use the oven

Eat cold foods like popsicles

Guest's picture
bh357

We don't have central air, and haven't put in our window A/C in a couple years now. In the evening, we open the windows, and close them again in the morning.
At the end of my shower, I turn the water down as cold as I can stand for a couple minutes.

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Mae

I do this shower trick too! it's important to start the shower out at a reasonable (not uncomfortable) temperature though so as not to shock you when you first get in!

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Meghan

I live in Florida so I am all too familiar with sweltering heat! It really helps to close the blinds and turn on the ceiling fans. It's also helpful to put things like lotion, water spritzers, or even in damp paper towels in the fridge. Very refreshing! -Meghan

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crazypants

I make homeade popsicles and use lots of fans.

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Melissa D

When we had our own place, my husband and I would only run the air when the temp inside & out was 80 or above, and then just to get it down to the high 70s. We used fans along with air conditioning, and kept blinds drawn during the day. We would open the windows and air the house in the morning or night whenever it was cooler outside than inside. Despite keeping it a bit cooler inside the apartment, I always had to take a cold shower right before bed or I wouldn't get cool enough to fall asleep. At the moment, we're living with family who would run the air either way, but consider themselves to now be getting better value for their money (more people are benefiting from cooling the house).

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Beth

I grew up without ac. We would open all the window in the late evening to let the cool air in overnight. During on fans helped speed up the air exchange. In the early am, we would close all the windows and draw the curtains. This kept the house generally quite comfortable until the late afternoon. If it was a particularly bad heat wave, we'd go to the library or the mall during the hottest part of the day or spend time in the basement.

Guest's picture

I buy a cheap plastic kiddie pool from the local hardware store. Fill it with water, set your low beach chair down in the water, grab a cool drink and a trashy novel -- and you're all set!

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AlsoEmily

I head someplace with air conditioning, or sit in my kid's little backyard plastic pool.

Guest's picture

I use a nice big Vornado fan along with a timer. I blast the fan before I go to sleep but have the timer set to turn off an hour or so after I go to bed.

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Carrie

no airconditioning here. on really hot days we pop out to a matinee movie (hottest time of the day) which is still much cheaper than installing and operating a/c

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Sally

My kids and I visit my mom in Hawaii every year in August and IT'S HOT! Instead of using the air conditioner, we take a meshed laundry bag (the kind you put delicates in), fill it with ice or a cold rag (more or less like a netted rag that I crocheted so the air can pass through) and stick it in front of the fan. Homemade air conditioner while eating shaved ice! Can't beat the island life!

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Emily

Fans are great, and my mother has always been a fan of "cross ventilation" if there's more than one window that you can open in the house.

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Rylie

I just do it the old fashioned way. Lots of drapes, fans, turning off electronics that I'm not using..

and if i get incredible hot, i'll stick my head in the freezer for 30 seconds once an hour lol

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Kristy

Here in Dallas, it's already thinking about breaking 100 degrees, and it's NOT a dry heat. We move the TV and computer into the bedroom (the coolest room in the house) during the summer, so that we can spend our evenings more comfortably. Course, turning off the TV and the computer would keep the house cooler too...

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Emily

We don't have A/C in our house, so that's not even an option for us :) We keep hydrated with water, wear as few clothes as possible, and close the windows and curtains before the hot sun finds its way in. We've switched to using netbooks to lower heat output and save electricity.

We live a mile from the public library, so we'd walk or bike there to take advantage of the air conditioning.

Back when I lived in Toronto where houses have basements (I now live in the SF Bay Area where few houses have basements), we'd hang out in the coolness of the basement.

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BRB

Most of our living space is in the basement which only has one exposed side and that is to the north, so it stays pretty cool in there. I leave the air at 80 or so during the day and then right before bed turn it down. That way everyone can sleep, but we aren't cooling the house all of the time.

Guest's picture
Susan

one thing I've done for years which isn't really using less AC, but planning ahead for the expense is that I keep a seperate checking account for my bills. In that account, I put a set amount per utility in the account each paycheck. So, in winter, I'm still putting $45 a month into my electricity category, but the bills are usually less than $20. Then, when summer comes around and the bills are much bigger, I've cushioned my account to cover the difference. (Essentially doing the budget billing for myself instead of having the utility company do it for me.)

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KelR1

I hate summer and am the warmest person alive so, even though I don't love the bills, I do love my AC and won't go without it! That said, there are a few ways to stay cool without spending quite as much on it. I've installed ceiling fans in the living room and master bedroom to help keep cool without turning the AC on as high. I also take much cooler showers in the summer rather than use hot water which will only make me sweat when I get out. I like drinking Dairy Queen Arctic Rush (in cherry!) drinks when it's really hot (while in the air conditioned car!). A great tip is to go somewhere else when it's hot and soak up someone else's AC (friend, family, movie theatre - though they don't seem to keep these as cool as they used to - supermarket, etc.).

Guest's picture
Jesse

Head over to the library and read/use the internet.

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Molly

We haven't turned off the AC completely this year, but we have cut down significantly from previous summers. We only turned it on about a week ago, when it was nearly 80 degrees in the house with the windows open. The thermostat is currently programmed to 76 during the day and 74 at night. It's not an extreme reduction in cooling, I know, but I've found that that's my upper limit. I have asthma, and it's extremely humid where I live, so for me the AC is for reduction of humidity more than reduction of temperature. I ran a little experiment and kept setting the thermostat higher and higher until I was having trouble breathing to find my threshold.

Other than that, we use lots of fans, keep the blinds and drapes closed during the midday, avoid cooking and baking when possible (we eat lots of salads and grill out frequently), and never wear socks. You'd be surprised how much a little pair of socks can heat up your entire body.

Guest's picture
Cindy

The way we do it out here in Los Angeles county high desert is with a window mounted swamp cooler and Arizona misters outdoors,, works like a charm for little more than the price of running a small fan.

Guest's picture
Cindy

I should have added we use those Sundowner shades on the west facing side of our home,, pull them down like a regular roller shade but they are made from sun filtering materials for outdoor se.

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Katrina

Visit a national park that has cave tours. It feels so great walking into the mouth of the cave during a hot day!

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April Taylor

Spend a lot of time in the pool!

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Adam

I try to plan my day so I am taking advantage of public AC (shopping at stores doing errands, at work, in class) during the heat of the day. Other than that, getting up early to do outside work and to run before it gets too hot keeps me cool, and is a great way to jump start the day.

Guest's picture
Guest

plant a tree,plant lots of trees, note the path of the sun, plant your tree to maximize the shade and your'll be all set.

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Guest

I work overtime at the air-conditioner office...ha. But seriously, why not take advantage of the (free) a/c at the local library or bookstore, and read and learn something while you're at it?

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Jennifer E

We keep the blinds closed when the sun is out in full force. Drinking lots of homemade peppermint iced tea helps us feel cooler too.

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Ms B

I sleep with a couple of ice packs and a ceiling fan!

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Guest Jacinda

Not only do I have ceiling fans, tower fans and oscillating fans everywhere, but I make sure all the blinds are shut and curtains closed to help keep out the heat as well. I still use the a/c (I do not have to keep it as low as I would without the fans though), but to save money I turn it way up at night when we are sleeping and keep it that way until late morning when it starts heating up outside.

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Theresa

Here in Texas, we either head to the nearest lake/pool, or we just stay inside in the A/C! The heat here is brutal. It's already going over 100 tomorrow and for the next week, and will stay that way until nearly October.

Guest's picture

The so-called "wife beater" t-shirts. I used to hate them until I realized how comfortable they are. Makes a huge difference on a hot summer's day!

Guest's picture

Thanks dear for your thoughts.

Guest's picture

I'm a big fan of drinking cold beverages during the summer, and eating the kids Popsicles too.

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Lisa

I find that it doesn't save money when I don't use my aircon because when I am hot, my productivity is down. All I want to do is sit on the couch and eat an ice pop. Plus, I cannot bake and end up ordering take out more often rather than cooking everything from scratch. I also find that my children bicker much more often when they are hot and it is hard to be a happy mommy with children who are fighting the entire day.

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Rebekah

We set up an exhaust fan at night on the upper floor and it pulls out the heat from upstairs.

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lynn

Use your furnace to cool you down! If your furnace is in your basement, simply turn the dial to 'fan only' it will bring blessedly cool basement air up into your living space! Keep all curtains and blinds closed, use a small fan wherever you are working, soak a bandana and put it on your neck, and at night, put one fan on the far side of your house blowing hot air out and have one in your bedroom blowing in. Just a few tips we like to use!

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Carmen

We live in the upper Midwest, which can mean crazy temperature differences between 60 and 90+ in the summer months. We don't often get temps above 90, so what we like to do is sleep with the windows open when the temps drop to 50-70 - sometimes with fans in the windows to keep the air moving through. Then in the morning we'll close the windows and the curtains to keep the house from gathering heat. Last summer we only ran the air conditioner a total of 7 days. We ran it a couple of days already this year, but we had an early heat-wave.

Guest's picture
Sam

Vornado fans are the best! I am a fan aficionado...I literally have a fan in every room in the house (bathroom, kitchen--if I had a walk in closet, I'd have one in there too!) and I carry a hand fan in my purse plus a backup. I have several more hand fans in storage for when I wear them out in the summer. Vornado is by far the best fans I've ever owned.

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Nicholas

I have an A/C and use it if I am there and can't stand the heat any longer. Otherwise, I go to work and use their A/C during the week and spend lots of time with my younger cousins whose parents have a pool.

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Mariel

Take a container, put water on it, then just soak them as long as it takes.

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Gina

Keep the blinds shut during the day, and open the windows at night to cool down the house.

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gt0163c

I keep the curtains closed during daylight hours and open at night. That helps some. Fans help me keep the thermostat set at a higher temperature (79 when I'm there, 83 when I'm not).
I've also found that sleeping in workout shorts and a t-shirt, the polyester kind that wick the sweat away helps as well.
I live in Texas. I'm sure I could survive without air conditioning, but I'm glad that I don't have to.

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Night Runner

Take cold showers. :)

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hikikomorihime

I've always preferred using my ghetto ac method that I grew up using. It only works per each individual: Wear wet clothes. The evaporation cools you off. I can even work out in the heat when I do this. (I overheat easily because I take Topamax, and this still works beautifully.)

Drink more water, cut caffeine as well.

Guest's picture
KimC

We're in south Texas, where temps often stay above 100 for weeks or months during the summer, and we did away with the a/c last year.
To keep cool we drink lots of smoothies and ice water, and I love to keep my long hair wet throughout the day. Standing in front of a fan with damp hair is *instant* comfort, even in the hottest weather.
A quick cold shower does wonders too, during the heat of the day, and costs very little.

Guest's picture
Carolyn

First of all, we NEED a/c in 100 degree Texas humid weather. The temperature doesn't drop much at night.That being said;
1. Use a thermostat; raise it gradually when we get more used to the heat
2. Close blinds
3. Drink lots of cold water
4. Run major appliances at night
5. Don't use oven in summer, just microwave, stove top or outside grill
6. Ceiling fans in every room
7. Keep a wet cloth around my neck
8. Pray for an early winter!

Guest's picture
cwaltz

With 4 kids the pool can be expensive. I've invested in a sprinkler and water guns to keep the kids cool.

Christine
dazed1821@aol.com

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Veronica

I take a sock fill it with rice and put it in the freezer for a half hour, then once it is cold to my liking I wrap it around my neck. Normally i have at least two so i can tag team them if it is really hot.

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sushi

take hot showers- comparatively, the air feels cooler after you finish the shower

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Luisca

Try taking showers with hot water the most you can bear it. Otherwise you'll feel the hot weather almost inmediatly after the shower.

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Jacinda

A cheap way to stay cool when you are going to be outside for awhile, at a baseball game, a cookout or just hanging out: Pack a cooler not only with your cold drinks, but include frozen wet wash rags or bandanas. When you feel the sweat coming on, pull one out and drape across the back of your neck or anywhere you'd like. It will cool you off real quick!

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Guest

Witch hazel is what my Mom always used. Put a little on a tissue or cotton ball and spread it on pulse points. It catches any bit of breeze (even warm ones) and cools you right down. Never fails.

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AprilFire

Thanks for hosting this! I've replied back to your email confirming my email address. Just waiting for the code now ;D

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brett

Tinting your house windows keeps the sun out and makes your bill pretty enexpensive.