Every year summer storms cause power outages throughout the United States. For those who are unprepared, these power outages, combined with summertime heat waves, can be a deadly combination. That’s why knowing how to cool yourself and your home without air conditioning is an important piece of knowledge you should possess.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, an average of 675 people die from heat-related illness each year in the United States, making it one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in the country. During a severe heat wave that hit Chicago in 1995, over 700 deaths were directly attributed to the heat. In 2006 in California, a deadly heat wave killed 655 people during a two-week period.
What makes Heat so Deadly?
Living in the desert, I can tell you that going without air conditioning can be quite a miserable experience. But during an extended power outage, heat can be more than just uncomfortable; it can be downright dangerous.
Continued exposure to excessive heat can lead to hyperthermia and heat exhaustion. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can quickly progress to heat stroke and death, so early treatment and proactive cooling measures are extremely important.
During a grid down disaster or power outage, the ability to cool down is going to be essential to your survival, especially if you live in an area that is prone to extremely warm weather.
How to Stay Cool when the Power goes out and you have No Air Conditioning
Up until about 60 years ago, in home air conditioning was virtually unheard of. But despite a lack of central air, there wasn’t an epidemic of people dropping dead in their homes because of the heat. So what changed?
Well, just like with most modern technologies there was a downside; people forgot how to take care of themselves when technology inevitably failed. The lessons from the past were largely forgotten, and here we find ourselves in a society that is increasingly dependent on technology, government and everyone but ourselves to solve our problems.
So how did previous generations stay cool?
They Dwelled in Caves
Even in some of the hottest areas on earth, ancient populations thrived in areas that most would consider inhospitable to life. In many of these areas, they did so by building their homes inside caves or partially into the ground.
While I’m not going to recommend you run out and find the nearest cave, our modern day equivalent is the Midwest basement. If you live in a home with a basement, your best bet for staying cool during a power outage is to set up a sanctuary in your own modern day cave. Since heat rises, and cool air naturally collects downstairs, your basement can be a life-saver during a heat related emergency.
They Hung Wet Sheets
For thousands of years Egyptians would hang damp sheets and linens in doorways and windows. These damp sheets would help cool their homes through evaporation and turn an arid desert breeze into an early mist machine.
Down south, people not only hang these wet sheets in doorways, they sleep with them. Before bed, try dipping your sheets in water and then ringing them out so they’re not dripping wet. Throughout the night the wet sheets will continue to evaporate, cooling the air around you.
They went Swimming.
The Great Bath, built over 5,000 years ago in Sindh, Pakistan is one of the earliest public pools in the ancient world. Throughout history people have used these public water tanks for bathing, and more importantly staying cool.
In the 1930’s, the construction of public pools skyrocketed in America; and between 1933 and 1938, almost 750 municipal swimming pools were built throughout the country.
Even if you don’t have a pool, sitting in a small plastic children’s paddling pool or soaking in a bathtub filled with cool water can help bring down your body temperature. For about $10 you can buy one of these pools and stash it away for a hot summer day.
Some other Ideas for staying cool Without AC.
Have a misting water bottle for everyone in your home.
Something as simple as having a couple spray bottles filled with water can go a long way to helping you stay cool during the summer. Simply misting yourself on a regular basis, especially if you can stand in front of a fan or out in a shady breeze, can do wonders for cooling down your body. It can also be a life saver during a situation where you might be getting close to heat exhaustion.
Invest in some cooling towels.
When I was younger, my air conditioning went out on a cross country trip right as I hit the scorching 110 degree heat of the desert southwest. To stay cool, I stopped at every rest stop along the highway and wet down my shirt and a couple of bandanas that I then wrapped around my head and neck. Doing that helped me make it through ten miserable hours of deadly heat, without any ill effects.
Today, manufacturers use special fabrics and materials to make long lasting CoolingTowels that can provide a lot of relief from the heat.
- Invest in some battery operated fans.
- Build your own Off-Grid Air Conditioner.
- During the day, keep your shades drawn and your windows closed; or, if it’s windy, hang lightweight linens that block solar rays, but still allow a light breeze to enter your home. Remember to wet them first!
- At night, open all your windows and let the cool evening air in.
- Wear loose-fitting, light-weight, light-colored clothing.
- STAY HYDRATED!!