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It’s hot – but AC isn’t the answer

by Jonathan Starling

It’s hot.

It’s very hot.

And not just here in Bermuda; at a global level, June was the warmest every June on record, and this July is on track to not simply be the hottest July ever, but the hottest month ever recorded to date. And this isn’t exactly an aberration – of the ten hottest years on record, nine of them have occurred since the year 2000 – and based on the data from the first six months of 2019, this year is on course to join not just that top ten, but the top five (the current probability of this is 99.9% in case you were wondering…). 

What’s causing this uptick in hot years? Well, climate change. In general climate change is causing global warming, however it needs to be stressed that part of it also means uneven warming as well as increases in seasonal extremes – so global warming doesn’t mean you won’t have extremely cold winters (in fact, some models indicate that some areas will have more and more extreme cold winters), it just means that at the global average temperature is increasing. And it also means that heatwaves are more and more likely and more and more extreme.

So far this year we have already seen significant heatwaves in the USA, Europe, the Canadian Arctic, India and Pakistan. I don’t know if we in Bermuda are experiencing atypical heat for this time of the year, but it certainly does seem warmer this year.

It’s all very well knowing that the heatwaves and record temperatures of global warming are due to climate change. I’m sure the number one question on most people’s mind, however, is that of how best to deal with the heat. And, if climate change is the cause, and that’s largely due to our collective unsustainability, how can one best deal with the heat while also being environmentally minded? Or to put it another way, how can one be both as a cool and as ‘green’ as a cucumber in this heat?

1. The AC is not your friend…

The temptation, of course, is to turn on the AC. However, the AC not only drives up your electricity bill a lot, but it also increases the heat outside with its exhaust, but the fossil fuel that is most likely used to power it also contributes further to the problem of climate change. It becomes a bit of a vicious cycle. This is perhaps more acute in cities with large concentrations of ACs, however, it still applies here. If you want to be green (and keep your cash), the AC isn’t your friend.

Now, if you do need to use the AC, use it strategically. You don’t need it on when you’re not at home. When you get home, and you really need to use it, try to limit it to no more than an hour. That will cool your home in the short term and last long enough while you use other tricks. And, of course, once your current AC has died its death of age, replace it with a more energy-efficient AC.

2. The fan is your friend…

Ceiling fans are cost-effective and efficient. And the smaller standing fans are also cost-effective and cooling. Certainly, the better option compared to the AC – environmentally friendly and friendly to your bank account too. And if you want a cost-effective AC alternative, putting some ice in front of the standing fan, so that it is blowing icy air at you, really does work. And you can keep recycling this ice back to the freezer and the fan as needed. 

And remember, you can use fans to both create a breeze for you AND to push hot air out by pointing them towards open windows. And cross-breezes from more than one fan is even cooler.

3. Shade is your friend…

It is probably not much of a surprise that the sun is hot. It’s cooler in the shade. So, use your blinds, curtains and shutters to keep your indoors cool and shady. And you can even extend this to the garden too. A good idea is to try growing some container friendly potted trees – ideally fruit trees. These will provide moveable shade that you can move to windows as needed and provide you with some fruit! I’d recommend a citrus, like limes, or a pomegranate – in general, they do well in our climate and in pots (of course, the bigger the pot, the bigger and happier the tree).

And this applies to personal shade too. Wear a hat. Wear long-sleeved but light cotton clothing. Wear light-coloured, loose-fitting clothing – a dress or a kilt even! This personal shade, keeping the sun off your skin will help keep you cool as well as reducing the risk of sunburns and skin cancer.

4. Chill out while you sleep!

There are a few things you can do that will help you sleep in comfort. The first one is to sleep in your birthday suit. It’s simple, less clothing, more cooling. The second is to use your hot water bottle – it’s not just for cold winter nights! Except this time, fill it up and freeze it during the day, and then use it when you go to bed. Just don’t fill it up as water expands when it freezes, and you don’t want a burst frozen hot water bottle leaking as you sleep… And finally, while it takes a bit more work, freeze your bedsheets and put them on your bed just as you’re going to bed. You’ll be amazed at how chilled out you’ll be as you fall asleep! Even a few minutes before bed will make a huge difference.

5. Keep hydrated!

And by hydrated, I mean water, nice cold water. When it’s hot, you sweat. Which means you’re losing water. So, keep hydrated, and the best thing for that is simply water. And the cooler the water is, the cooler it will make you feel. Even when you’re out and about, keep a reusable bottle with you, which you can fill up with cold water and drink to keep you cool and hydrated.

6. Make a splash!

It’s summer. We live on an island with some of the best beaches in the world. Go to the beach. Swim. Rejoice in the beauty of our island waters. Enjoy life. The water is going to be cooler, and you’re going to be cooler in it, so go enjoy it. Of course, wear sunscreen protection – sunburns are not going to make you feel cool. 

And if you have enough water in the tank, a very quick cold shower will cool you down quickly. And a cold-water foot bath is effective at cooling one down quickly (and less water than a shower!).

So, this summer, it’s hot. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be as green and as cool as a cucumber!

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