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I’ve written about how to keep warm without power, but keeping cool is a greater challenge down here on the Gulf Coast. After hurricane Katrina the power was out for two weeks and we were miserable, constantly wiping sweat out of our eyes and fanning ourselves with magazines.
Almost every survival site has an article about generating heat when the power is out, but how do you generate cold when the power is out? It’s not like you can set the oven to cold. This issue is more important than you might think; people die of heat stroke every year, and that’s when they do have access to air conditioning.
During a widespread disaster you might have to gather supplies, fix roofs and windows, cook food, and do all sorts of things that will make you hot and sweaty. And if water is in short supply, you don’t want to end up drinking it all, so it’s important to stay as cool as possible.
To that end, here are 20 ways to stay cool without power.
How To Prepare
1. Make Some Heat-Blocking Curtains – Thermal insulated blackout curtains are great, but heat-blocking curtains are even better because they’re specifically designed to reflect heat. You can make your own for just a few dollars. Even if the power doesn’t go out, these are still worth making because they’ll significantly lower your electric bill.
2. Install Awnings Over Your Windows – You could do this instead of making heat-blocking curtains. But if you did both, it would make an incredible difference. Visit SunSetter Awnings for a free idea kit and a $200 savings certificate.
4. Plant Trees Around Your Home – Or if you don’t want to wait that long, move to a home with some large trees around it. As someone who has lived in houses with and without shade, I can assure you this makes a big difference. You’ll have to rake leaves, but it’s worth it.
5. Get Some Battery-Powered Fans – These O2Cool 10″ Fans are only $25 and work surprisingly well. They take 8 D batteries, but will last up to a week on the low setting. What you could do is get some rechargeable D batteries and a couple solar battery chargers and continuously rotate through the batteries. All this stuff can get pricey, but fans can make a huge difference in the sweltering heat.
6. Get Some Travel Fans – If you don’t want to spend money on the high-end fans, at least get some small travel fans. This one hangs around your neck and keeps you cool wherever you go, and it only takes 4 AA batteries. This one fits in your pocket and only takes 2 AA batteries. Get one for each member of the family.
7. Build a Solar-Powered Air Conditioner – Here’s a fun project. Survival Life published instructions on how to build a mini air conditioner that runs on solar power. A fan draws air into a five-gallon bucket, a wet pad cools the air, and cold air (40-60 degrees F) comes out the top. Here are the complete instructions.
What To Do
8. Wear Thin, Loose-Fitting Clothes – This should be obvious, but I don’t want to leave anything out. Wear short-sleeve shirts made of cotton, linen, or rayon. Better yet, wear a tank top. Of course you’ll want to wear shorts instead of jeans, but you could just wear a swim suit (just make sure to put on sun screen if you’re going to be outside). Whatever you wear, make sure your clothes are light colored as dark clothes tend to absorb more heat.
9. Cover Your Head When You’re Outside – Anything you can do to keep the sun off your face and neck will help. Probably the best solution is a wide-brimmed hat.
10. Wear A Wet Bandana – Not much to explain here, just soak a bandana in water and wrap it around your neck or head. It’s very refreshing and will keep you cool. Alternatively, you could just wet your hair.
11. Spray Yourself With Water – Fill a spray bottle with water and mist yourself every now and then. The water will evaporate and cool you off.
12. Open Your Windows At Night – Obviously you want to keep your windows closed during the day to keep the heat out (which is the whole point of the heat-blocking curtains). But if it cools off at night, be sure to open your windows to let that cool air in. Just don’t forget to close them before the sun comes up.
13. Close Off The Warmest Rooms – If there’s a room with two outside walls that gets warmer than the rest of the house, close the door and put a door sweep at the bottom seal it off.
14. Sleep Outside – As long as it’s safe, pitch a tent in the shadiest part of your backyard and camp out. Having a cool breeze will help you sleep.
15. Sleep in a Cross Breeze – If you don’t want to sleep outside, try sleeping between two open windows. Better yet, hang some damp sheets over one of the windows. As the water evaporates, it will have a cooling effect.
What NOT To Do
16. Don’t Cook Inside – If you’re using a camp stove or any other emergency cooking device, don’t use it inside. Doing so will quickly increase the temperature in your home be several degrees. Instead, take it outside and find a spot in the shade where you can cook your food.
17. Don’t Eat Hot Foods – Take a look at your emergency food and ask yourself how much of it has to be cooked, baked, or boiled. The last thing you want on a hot day is a hot meal. If you live in a warm area, stock up on more foods that don’t have to be cooked. Here are a few suggestions.
18. Don’t Eat During The Hottest Hours – Even if your food is cold, it takes energy to digest it which can still warm you up. Try to eat your largest meals in the morning and evening when it’s cooler out.
19. Don’t Work During The Hottest Hours – You should also try to take care of the most grueling chores and projects in the morning and evening. From about 1pm to 3pm might be a good time to take a nap.
20. Don’t Sleep Upstairs – If you have upstairs bedrooms, keep in mind that heat rises so it’s going to be a lot warmer up there. Instead, everyone should sleep at the lowest part of the house.
I’m sure there are many other ways to keep cool without electricity, but I think these are the most effective.
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