We all know sleeping in an air-conditioned home on a sweltering night can feel heavenly. We also know that pleasure comes at a steep cost to the planet.
It takes a considerable amount of energy to run an air conditioner. Unfortunately, for the most part, this means burning a lot of fossil fuels, which directly contributes to global warming. And this is only one of the negative effects.
The multitudes of air conditioning units that run in urban areas actually contribute to heat zones in the sky that can disturb naturally-occurring weather patterns.
Of course, no one wants to volunteer to spend his or her evenings trying to sleep in miserable heat, so the air conditioners will continue to run until people have decent alternatives.
Well, here’s some good news: There are serviceable alternatives to staying cool at night that don’t involve turning on the AC.
1. Keep the house as cool as possible during the day.
One of the best ways to avoid a sweltering night is to take steps to keep the temperature from rising throughout the day.
After all, it is quite rare for the temperature to rise in the evenings, so if the house begins as cool as possible, it will stay cool.
Here are a few tips for preventing midday heat spikes:
- Keep windows that receive direct sunlight covered up.
- Turn off lights in rooms that are not in use.
- Avoid heating up the house by using the oven. Go for meals that can be cooked on the stove top or in a slow cooker. Better yet, enjoy a cold soup, sandwich or salad.
- Only wash full loads of laundry and dishes, and avoid doing them during peak heat hours. (Get up early and get these heat-producing activities done.)
2. Invest in sheets that will keep you cool.
The sheets you sleep on and under make a big difference in how hot or cool you feel at night.
Light-colored sheets made of natural fibers provide for more air circulation. Percale, linen and cotton blends, such as jersey, are much better than sheets comprised solely of man-made materials.
3. Enjoy the relative coolness of the great outdoors.
If you’ve ever wondered how people survived the dog days of summer in houses without air conditioning, here’s your answer: In many cases, they didn’t; they slept outside.
If you have access to a safe area, pads, sleeping bags and bug netting, camping out can be a cooler alternative to staying indoors.
4. Build your own environmentally-friendly AC unit.
Yes, this is possible, and yes, it works. You can build a portable air conditioning unit that will cool off a small bedroom.
You’ll need a fan, hack saw, PVC pipe and a few other materials.
Once you have built your homemade air conditioning unit, you’ll only need to fuel it with ice.
You will be able to run a few of these without burning the energy you would need to run window units or a central air conditioning system.
As a bonus, it’s a really great project, especially if you have kids.
5. Sleep together, but also apart.
Sharing a bed and covers with another person is a surefire way to spend a night feeling uncomfortably hot.
On the other hand, sharing a room is a great way to maximize the effectiveness of oscillating fans and the DIY air conditioning units mentioned in the previous tip.
If you have kids, pick out a fun movie and have a family slumber party.
6. Take a shower in tepid water.
A shower in cool, but not frigid, water will slightly decrease your body temperature.
If you do this right before bedtime, the cool feeling may last long enough for you to drift off to sleep.
Combine this with one or more of these other recommendations, and you may just get to sleep before you realize how hot it is.
7. Sleep on the ground floor.
We all know from science class that hot air rises. This explains why, in the hottest days of summer, the most miserable floor in your house is the attic.
It also explains why people with finished basements tend to spend their time there in the summer months.
Unfortunately, many houses are designed so the bedrooms are on the upper floors.
If sleeping in a basement is an option, give that a try. If not, try putting your mattress on the floor away from the largest concentration of hot air.
8. Take advantage of advanced pillow technology.
Scientists and manufacturers have invested a lot of money in developing cooling gel pillows.
Since your head and face are especially sensitive to hot temperatures, using one of these pillows can help you sleep through the night without constantly waking up and flipping your pillow.
9. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.
This is great advice if you do choose to run your air conditioner, but even more so if you do not.
Your body needs liquid to regulate its internal temperature, along with performing many other life-preserving functions.
So, drink water, tea and juice throughout the day, and encourage your family members to do the same.
After all, you will need to replace what you sweat out in the heat.
10. Create a makeshift swamp cooler.
Does the idea of building the DIY air conditioning unit seem a bit daunting? That’s okay.
You can get a similar, but less intense effect by simply draping a wet towel over a box or window fan.
You’ll notice the best cooling effect if you use a window fan because it will suck in the already-cooler nighttime air.
If you do not believe you can make it through the night without air conditioning, I encourage you to try a few of these tips.
You might be pleasantly surprised by the results.
What’s your payback? You’ll help the environment; you’ll save a few bucks, and you’ll save energy for those who really do need air conditioning.