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Stay cool: Low-energy ways to beat the heat

EarthTalk: Smart thinking, water, ice, and fans can help you cope with summer in an ecofriendly way.

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Q: Summer’s going to be a scorcher this year, and I’d like to know how I can keep cool indoors without just running my energy-hogging air conditioners all the time. Any tips?

A: According to Harvey Sachs of the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, the movement of air over the skin is what’s key to keeping the body cool. So instead of turning on that A/C, see which direction the breeze is blowing outside (no matter how minimal it may be), and then open a few windows strategically to try to get it flowing through the house from end-to-end or side-to-side.

If the breeze alone isn’t enough, apply some fan power. Even small tabletop fans can whip the air around. Put one facing in by a window where air is coming in, and one at an opposite window to blow warm air out to create a nice “wind tunnel” effect and pull air through the house.

This strategy can be especially effective at night when it is cooler. But then it’s important to shut the windows when you leave for the day in the morning to keep the cooler air in and the warmth of the new day out. Keep blinds shut and curtains drawn, too, as sunlight pouring into the house creates more heat. And remember that lights left on are not only wasting electricity – they’re creating heat as well.

Ceiling fans do a nice job of circulating air in the rooms you occupy most, and though they do require some up-front costs for installation, they use only about 1/30th the electricity of a room air conditioner.

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