Keeping Cool When It’s Hot Out

For most of my readers, it is summer. And summer often means hot.

At my house, it has been in the 80s and 90s for several weeks. Not record-breaking heat, but enough to warm my house up to toaster level.

We have two air conditioning units, in two of the bedrooms, but electricity is expensive here in Europe and we’re reluctant to use them unless absolutely necessary.

Anyone who is living off base (or who has a utility allowance through their privatized housing) has a financial incentive to find the least expensive ways to keep cool, and we can’t really add insulation or plant trees to block the sun.

  • Keep window coverings closed on windows that get sunlight. If you have exterior awnings or shutters, use them. You can even rig up a no-so-fancy awning by hanging a blanket outside your window.
  • Use fans, whether they are ceiling fans, regular fans, or whole house fans. We had a whole house fan when I was growing up and it did a great job of cooling the house. It sounded like an airplane, but that was a small price to pay for moving so much air through the house. I’ve heard they aren’t so loud now, so you can probably even have cool air and sleep at the same time..
  • Minimize the use of anything that generates heat. This includes lighting, televisions (unplug when not in use), and computers. Use heat generating appliances such as dishwashers and clothes dryers early in the morning.
  • Don’t cook with the stove or oven. Grills, slow-cookers, and microwaves all generate much less heat.
  • Cover your fuzzy furniture and rugs with smooth, cool fabrics. It might not be fashionable, but a white sheet draped over the couch will help you feel much more comfortable.
  • Drink lots of fluids – it really works. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which contribute to dehydration and overheating.
  • Eat cool foods, including lots of fruit (more water! Popsicles, cucumbers, and melons are all good cooling foods. Alternately, try out a spicy dish. It is crazy how much hot food makes you feel cooler, but it does succeed.
  • Hang out in the cool part of your house. We’re spending more time than ever in the basement because it is much, much cooler there.
  • Dampen your clothes with a spray bottle to take advantage of the cooling effects of the fabric drying. Some people even sleep under a damp sheet – even cooler if it has been stored in the fridge or freezer.
  • Take advantage of public places with air conditioning. My family’s favorite is the library, though some people prefer to go to the movies or the shopping center.

Air conditioning can add a lot to your electric bill, so try to minimize its use by trying these tricks instead.

If you know more good cooling idea, share them for all of us. I am always happy to learn new tricks!

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.
  • rainman

    If you have a fan and a frozen milk carton of water, in front of it, it will serve as a swamp cooler and is more efficient then the A/C.

    • Hazy Red

      I will give that a try. The concept makes sense.

      • Julie

        Works best in low-humidity climates. I tried this when living in Hawaii and it did not work!

  • Guest

    Room darkening shades on every window


    that frozen mike jug is the best i have tried it woks. it works better if you get naked and just lie around and not do nothing to get hot or genarate no just joking around man the jug trick works. i would like to have done that in vietnam but we had no fans or any way to freeze water. alot of times we did’nt have water to drink in the bush, some folks never had to face thirst but me and my grunts know it hurts real bad. just a nother old grut strowing do memory lane that will never go away. love you all my brother and sisters. SEMPER FI USMC 68 – 69 1’ST MAR. DIV. MOS 0351 SPECIAL WEAPONS. UR RA.

  • L Jeffery

    J Hurst–You should have been with Air Wing of 1st Marines. I remember seeing ice cubes and cold beer! We didn’t have it too bad at Quang Tri RVN. Yep those were the days. Maybe that is why we don’t like to go without now? Semper Fi USMC 68-70.

  • bubble head

    Yes I remember being on a sub in scotland and living off base there it was very high for power they try to keep the power low by using 220 volt outlets more common. I lived in a old flat over there had nice big windows to catch the breeze .
    Try to stay hydrated and slow down .

  • Army Combat Vet

    Tip for Staying Cool: Use a spray bottle you can set the nozzle on a “mist spray.” When feeling flushed and hot, spray a light mist of vapor/water and sit in front/underneat your fan. Amazing how quickly you will feel much cooler. Also, trick the brain into thinking you are cooler than you are by placing a frozen gel pack or ice in pastic grocery bag/sandwich bag on the back of your neck… it helps to cool youi off. Suggestions from ArmyCombatVet