Originally created 07/21/98

Keeping your cool



Summer has produced enough hot, muggy weather so far to remind us of why we hate it. If your dwelling doesn't have central air conditioning, you have particular reason for dreading the heat of July, August and -- in this part of the country, at least -- September.

However, even if you don't have central air, there are some things you can do to keep your house cooler and yourself more comfortable. Every year we at Home Work offer some suggestions for mitigating the heat. Here are a few of them:

--Keep heat from building up in the first place. Leave a window open at the highest point of the house -- or on the coolest side, if your dwelling is one level -- so hot air can escape. If your house has one of those ventilating skylights at the top of a stairwell, open it so hot air can escape.

--Keep shades closed and curtains drawn on the side of the house where the sun beats in, especially if you're not home during the hottest part of the day.

--Consider planting deciduous trees or a vine on a trellis to shelter windows most affected by the sun.

--Moving air is cooler air. Ceiling fans are terrific at moving air and a combination of ceiling fans and window fans can make a big difference in the perceived temperature of a room. Blow air in the windows on the cool side of the house and out the windows on the hot side.

--If you don't want or can't afford central air conditioning, a couple of window units may make a big difference. If you have one or two cool rooms to escape to, the heat will be more bearable.

--Wear cool clothing and drink plenty of cool (nonalcoholic) liquids. Perspiration is a natural cooling system, but if you don't take in enough liquid, you can get dehydrated and feel even worse.

The U.S. Department of Energy is also interested in your summer welfare -- with a reminder that you can save energy and money by reducing home-cooling costs. Here are some of their tips:

--Use a whole-house fan to exhaust warm air. They are especially efficient at night, when the air is naturally cooler.

--When the air is humid, set the fan speed on low. Slower air movement allows the equipment to extract more moisture. In less humid weather, set the fan speed on high.

--Use an interior fan to help spread cooled air from a window air-conditioner.

--Don't put lamps or TV sets near the air-conditioner thermostat; the heat from appliances can lead to the air conditioner running longer than needed.

--Plant trees or shrubs to shade an air-conditioning unit, but don't allow them to block the airflow.

--A thermostat is not an accelerator. Don't set it lower when you turn on the air conditioner. The house won't cool any faster and the ultimate excessive cooling will cost you money. Send tips or experiences about working on houses, to Home Work,

The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St. Baltimore, 21278.

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