We talk a fair amount about keeping warm in the world of prepping, but we really don’t talk about keeping cool. Yet, there are places in the southern part of the country where the oppressive heat is as dangerous as the cold that the people who live in the north are concerned about. Both can be dangerous; so for some, knowing how to keep cool in hot weather is as important as keeping warm in cold weather is for others.
In some parts of the south, 100 degree temperatures are the norm for as much as nine months of the year. With such heat, it’s easy to become dehydrated and suffer heat stroke. Water intake must be increased for people living in these parts of the country, which means that water storage and water purification are even more important for them, than for others.
Sadly, much of the hottest part of the country is also the driest. The southwest, where summer temperatures can soar, is mostly very arid land. Population centers tend to be around rivers and lakes, because of the great need for water. If a disaster were to happen in a year of drought, these people would be struggling to have enough water to live.
Rule 1 – Stay in the Shade
The first rule of staying cool in hot weather is to stay out of the sun. People who live in these areas tend to spend a lot of time indoors, hiding out from the heat in their air conditioned homes. However, without electrical power, those homes will become hot as well; they may even become hotter than it is outdoors.
Nevertheless, those homes do offer one important thing, shade from the sun. Keeping yourself out of the sun can make an apparent ten degree difference in the ambient temperature. Coupled with other strategies, this will go a long way towards helping keep you cooler.
Shade Your Home
Your home needs shade as well, not just you. Planting trees on the southern and western sides of the house can keep the sun from hitting the home, reducing the overall temperature indoors. If your home doesn’t already have trees planted, get some in the ground. They will take time to grow, so the sooner you can plant them, the better.
Another way of shading your home is to plant vines. The sun striking the vines will dissipate as heat, rather than warming the siding of your home. That will help keep your home from warming up too much. One great way to do this is to make a trellis that is a foot away from the wall of the home and plant the vines to cover that trellis. This will keep the trellis from damaging the home’s fascia, while still providing shade.
Watch Your Colors
We all learned in elementary school that darker colors absorb more sunlight. Therefore, wearing darker colors will make you hotter. Likewise, darker colors on your home will make it hotter as well. When you paint your home, be sure to use lighter colors if you live in a hot climate. Likewise, if you have to have your roof replaced, have light colored shingles installed. The lighter the shingles the better.
Use Evaporative Cooling
The human body sweats as part of our natural means of cooling. That sweat evaporates, absorbing huge amounts of heat from our bodies in the process. The end result is that our body is that the body’s temperature is lowered.
That same evaporative process can be used to create a cooler environment as well. A “swamp cooler” works in that way. Water is pumped into a filter element that air is blown through. The moving air causes the water to evaporate, pulling heat out of the air in the process. Of course, that cooler requires electrical power for the blower and pump, but the same can be done manually.
Windows and Doors
In hot weather, you’ll probably be leaving the windows and doors of your home open, so that any breeze can pass through. If you hang wet cloth in the opening, the air will have to pass by the cloth, evaporating the water and absorbing the heat in the air. If you use burlap, the process will be even more effective as the air will be able to pass through the holes in the burlap. The only problem is that you’ll have to wet the burlap down more often.
Spray Evaporative Cooling
Spraying water into the air in a fine mist can accomplish the same thing, as the fine spray will evaporate quickly, absorbing heat out of the air. If you have some electrical power available, perhaps from solar panels, you could use a small pump, pushing the air through some sort of atomizer nozzle. A small pump for a fish tank or fountain would be enough.
On Your Body
Wetting down your clothes accomplishes the same thing, without having to use up your body’s water supply in evaporation. Soak your clothes with water, allowing them to dry through evaporation.
There is a type of vest that road construction crews can use, which holds water in a gel, allowing it to evaporate through the day, while they are working. The gel is the same material used in gardening, to retain water in potted plants. If you don’t have one of these vests, you can make a “cool collar” easily, using this same gel.
The cool collar is nothing more than a tube of fabric, about 1 1/2″ in diameter and as long as your neck circumference. The ends of the collar extend beyond that point, but are closed off from the central part. One tablespoon of the gel crystals are put in the center portion and the cool collar is placed in water for long enough to become fully saturated. When saturated, the one tablespoon of gel crystals will fill the entire tube, puffing it up. It can then be tied around the neck, using the ends of the fabric as ties.
Don’t Forget the Wind
I’ve mentioned a couple of times that air moving through helps with evaporation. If you live in an area which is breezy or windy, take advantage of it. Build yourself a shaded work area outside where the wind can get to you. That way, you will be able to combine shade, evaporative cooling and the added effect of the wind to help keep you cool.
You can also use the wind to help cool your home. Build panels that will help channel the wind into your home, through the doors and windows. These panels can be frameworks with tarps attached to them, they don’t need to be anything fancy or especially strong. But they do need to be mounted at an angle, forming a funnel to channel the wind. Wind won’t make 90 degree turns, to a good funnel action is important. This will accelerate the speed of the wind through your home, increasing the cooling it provides.
Fans work too, if you have some electrical power to operate them. Any moving air will improve evaporation, helping to cool. Just try to get the most mileage out of any electrical power you use, so that you can have it for other purposes as well.