Managing the Cost of Air Conditioning
During intense heat waves, and in some parts of the country, air conditioning is a necessity. It can also be expensive! Know that for lower income households, you may qualify for a free air conditioner. Contact your local department of social services, United Way, or Community Action and ask about available energy assistance programs. Some programs can also pay for central air conditioning repair.
When you get a high electric bill in the mail-do not ignore it! If you do not have the funds to pay for it, reach out to your electric utility company to ask about affordable payment plans, energy assistance programs, and energy saving tips. The electric company often has a resource list of community based programs as well, and many companies also have their own funds. If you are medically vulnerable, stay in touch with your doctor who can assist with making sure electric service is not disconnected.
LiHEAP is a federally funded program that helps low income households with their winter heating or summer cooling needs.
Visit this website to click on your state’s LiHEAP programs as well as additional non profit and energy funds resources! : https://neuac.org/state-resource-directory/#info
Those who are at highest risk include people 65 and older, children younger than two, and people with chronic diseases or mental illness.
Closely monitor people who depend on you for their care and ask these questions:
- Are they drinking enough water?
- Do they have access to air conditioning?
- Do they need help keeping cool?
Don’t forget about your pets! Never leave your pet in a parked car. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting milk or just picking up a prescription. As with children, leaving an animal in the car is extremely dangerous and even fatal.
Stay Cool When There is No AC
So your air conditioner just broke down and needs replacement or repair. Or perhaps your region rarely suffers from extreme heat. Here are strategies for you to beat the heat on a temporary emergency basis.
- Freeze towels and washcloths. Put your towels in the freezer and use them to keep yourself cool during the day. Put them on your neck or wrists, anywhere that your veins are close to the surface so it can help make your whole body cool.
- Open the house at night and close it up during the day. Try to get as much cool air in your house as you can when it’s cool outside, and then keep everything closed with all the shades and curtains drawn when it’s hot outside.
- If there is a breeze, hang wet curtains in front of the window to make the air cooler.
- Open windows on opposite sides of the house to catch a cross-breeze if the air in your house gets too warm during the day. If you have a box fan, face it blowing outward to blow hot air out of the house.
- Use your fans. Invest in some fans and keep them on. Fans do not consume much electricity.
- Strap frozen water bottles to the back of your fan so that the air coming out is even cooler, or place a bowl with ice in it in front. It’ll be kind of a homemade air conditioner.
- Wear light, loose-fitting clothes. Wear as little as you feel comfortable with and wear thin, light-colored materials.
- Keep hydrated. Think you’re drinking enough water? Push yourself to drink a little more. Stick to water, tea or juice. Caffeine and alcohol are dehydrating.
- If you have to be physically active, see if you can time them for the early morning or after the sun has set. Try to use the hottest parts of the day to do the work that isn’t as physically demanding. There’s a reason why Mediterranean countries are known to have afternoon naps.
- Take short, cool showers. The water will cool you off and then air drying after will help you even more.
- Stay low. Heat rises, so if your house has more than one level, stay on the first floor or basement. If you have only one level, hang out on the floor.
- Do some errands and get out of the house. If you can, take some special trips to the library, mall, grocery store, or movie theater just to list a few options. Public areas are usually air conditioned and are often free.
- Cook in the morning or use appliances that won’t produce much heat. If you have to use your oven, use it when it’s coolest outside. To avoid using your oven, eat cold foods, or use your slow cooker or air fryer.
- Eat light meals. Heavy meals will make you feel warmer.
- Switch to LED lights in the areas where you spend your time. LED lights produce less heat than fluorescent lights. It isn’t a huge difference, but if it’s a light that is on you all the time, like a bedside lamp, you’ll notice a difference.
- Use a spray bottle. Fill up a spray bottle with cool water and spray yourself whenever you’re feeling hot. It’ll evaporate off your skin leaving you feeling extra cool.
- Keep electronics and lights off. If you don’t need the lights or the electronic device, turn it off.
- Buy a hot water bottle. Fill it up and freeze it and it becomes a cold pack.
- Change up your sleeping arrangement. If you can, sleep on a cot or set up a hammock. That way, you’ll have more air flow. Give everybody plenty of room to sleep; cuddling and bed-sharing is only going to make everyone warmer.
- For a long term solution, grow deciduous shade trees that will eventually provide shade during the summer and allow sun during winter months. Work with a local landscaper and check with utility companies to ensure the roots will not go under your home or into any utility lines.
- If you can get a window air conditioner, put them on the top floor as cool air sinks.
It can be hard to keep cool when it’s hot outside, but these tips can help you feel better during a heat wave.
By Bethanie Ryan and Joyce McCauley-Benner