Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Swamp Coolers

We're having one of the hottest summers in several years here in Arkansas, and in many places in the country. It's been in the 90's since back in June, and this week they are prediciting low 100's. It means that outside activities just aren't too much fun and that's my favorite place to be in the summer. Our heat pumps are getting a workout, I hear them running a great deal of the time. The electric bill is going to be higher this time for sure, the alternative is not an option though... I can't imagine no ac.

When I was a kid, we had fans and in the main part of the house there was a swamp cooler that kept us clammy cold during heat waves. Evaporative coolers look like a central air conditioning unit on steriods, I remember it being huge 3x the size of the heat pumps we have now. The monster ran continously feeding water into the house. They work best in dry climates, the desert Southwest, not so great in humid areas like Southwest Missouri!

We have high efficiency units that pinch pennies and coupled with my penny pinching I'm hoping the bill won't be too bad. We leave our thermostat on 78 during the day and then lower the upstairs one to 76 at night. We sleep better on the cool side summer and winter.

I was reading some ideas how to stay cool at the Mother Nature Network, simple things like keep your air conditioner filters clean, keeping the drapes closed during the heat of the day and not using the oven or range if possible. I'm good with the first two, not so good with the last one. If we are in the mood for meatloaf, I just go right ahead and make one then set down to dinner in a pool of sweat complaining about being hot. Dumb huh?

But there are other ways to keep your cool through the summer. They gave five great tried-and-true methods from the days before central air. Give them a shot and see how they work for you!

1) Go tropical
When we lived in south Texas the "Guyabera" or mexican wedding shirt was sold everywhere. It was loose and boxy, it was worn untucked to keep air circulation on the body. You saw men of all ages wearing them. Madras is another good summertime choice for both men's and women's clothing. In the deep south seersucker is still a favorite, the little ridges cool the body.
2) Cool that pulse point
Remember when Mom used to run a cold washcloth over your face. Mom called it a "spitbath"...not a very endearing term, but we often got spitbaths at bedtime when we had played out til dark and it was already past the time we should have been in bed. She would draw cold water into the bathroom sink, drop the bar of Ivory in and quickly give us the once over and send us to bed. I can remember laying on those cool cotton sheets and dropping off to Never-Neverland in seconds!
3) Don't eat: Graze
Big meals just don't sound good once it gets hot. There are some foods that I just don't fix in the summer. Beef Stew, Potato Soup, Chicken and Dumplings, even Beans and Cornbread are not on my list of favorites for the hot months of the year. As good as they taste when the snow flies, they just don't appeal to us when summertime arrives. That's not to say we quit eating southern favorites, Fried Chicken is on the menu... we just have potato salad and baked beans with it! Add some sliced fresh tomatoes and cucumbers and no one complains!
4) Eat to sweat
In Latin America, India, Thailand where it's hot enough to cook your brain, they serve some of the spiciest dishes. Scientists say spicy foods make you sweat without raising body temperature. Capsacin is the reason and  once our skin is damp, we feel cooler by evaporation.
5) Stay cool under the covers
These ideas are a little far out, but if your ac is on the blink you might just consider them!
Want to cool the bed down? Fill a standard hot water bottle with ice water. Use it to cool your ankles and the back of your knees — it works. You can also try bagging your sheets and tossing them in the freezer for an hour or two before bed.
Cooling your head cools your entire body. Opt for a cool and absorbent pillow of organic cotton it at all possible. Put aside down and latex pillows until the weather cools down this autumn.
*I'm thinking if the frozen sheets feel good~
what about a frozen pillow???


  1. I remember those spitbaths well! My daughter now calls them birdbaths.

  2. The heat this summer is really something! Back when we first got married we didn't have ac and I worked nights. Sometimes I'd take in a movie during the day and then I'd go into work early just to sit in the coolness. Now I'm constantly turning my pillow to the "cool" side during the night.

  3. If you want to feel wonderfully cool at night follow these instructions. I assure it works great.
    Take a bath towel and get it all wet, wring it out.
    Grit your teeth and try not to scream and cover yourself with the wet towel in bed. It will only make you want to scream for a second or two then it will feel great.
    This will cool you down as good as an air conditioned room and you will sleep well.

  4. It would do me no good to put the sheets in the freezer...both the sheets and I would be burning up by the time I got them on the bed:)

  5. We only have a swamp cooler for air conditioning. It is a huge unit that sits atop our roof. Most summers here in the high desert it works beautifully, but this summer we have received an inordinate amount of rain (thought we were living in a desert) and swamps and humidity don't go together very well. Thanks for the tips on keeping cool -- I would love to dress in madras ;). Joni

  6. I have never heard of a swamp cooler. Interesting. Stay cool. We're even cookin' here in Northern WI.

  7. GUESS WHAT? We do not have AC...well, not central air, anyway. We have window units in the bedrooms. I said something about this at work and they thought I was a FREAK! What if they find out I hang my laundry out on the line? YIKES! Sometimes I have to clean our bedroom a lot (a.k.a. an excuse to be in the AC) when it is this hot!
    xo, Cheryl

  8. My Dad was so tight he squeaked when he walked! We used an attic fan, with the windows open. I don't miss that, one bit! AC is a must have. I hate to sweat!

  9. When a hot flash hits I like to run cold water over the inside of my wrists. It seems to help. Just another idea to help "cool down".

  10. Thanks for those great tips! I liked you post so much i tweeted it! hehe!

    Hopped over from FarmChick and i hope you come and see me sometime soon....?


  11. We had one of those contraptions someone gave us early in our marriage. Didn't work too well in the Ozarks.

    We keep the AC on 24/7 and, like you, I continue to cook whatever I want...I am the one in the hot kitchen;my choice!

  12. Farmchick~Love the "Birdbath"... so much better than "Spitbath!!!"


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