How To Stay Cool When It's Too Hot

Jul 5, 2013

Jamie Burton of Spokane lives in an old apartment building that doesn't have AC. At night she takes the fan out of the window and makes "homemade AC" using a bowl of ice.
Credit By Jessica Robinson

The heat wave that's hit the Northwest is expected to linger on through the weekend keeping temperatures above 100 in Boise; in the 80's in Seattle; close to 90 in the Tri Cities. In this normally temperate region, a lot of people don’t have air conditioning. Jessica Robinson went in search of alternative cooling techniques – and the answer to that age-old question: is it better to point the fan out the window or into the room?

There's that old saying that necessity is the mother of invention. That's pretty much how Jamie Burton of Spokane, Wash., came up with what she calls “homemade AC.”

Jamie Burton: “Okay, so, I get a bowl out ...”

Next, she adds ice cubes.  Put the bowl behind an electric fan, drape a dish towel over both … and voila! – her own personal respite from the triple digit heat.

Jamie Burton: “It's not super cold but it's better than … better than nothing!”

It's not exactly the technique David Hales would recommend. Hales is a building systems specialist with the Washington State University Extension's energy program. Hales argues the better plan is to try to keep the hot air out in the first place.

David Hales: “You need to close the windows during the day, shade the windows, keep the house buttoned up as tight as possible.”

And then throw open the windows when it cools down at night.

Hales also has this list of daytime don'ts: don't do laundry, don't run the dishwasher, and definitely don't bake pies. But, in the end ...

David Hales: “If your expectation is constant comfort, plus or minus two or three degrees, it's going to take mechanical cooling -- air conditioner -- to do that.”

And as for whether you should turn the fan out the window to blow warm air out of the house or into the room to blow cold air into the house, Hales says ... it doesn't actually make a difference. But he adds, with an inward-pointing-fan, you at least get to feel the air moving.

Copyright 2013 Northwest Public Radio