Heat Wave Survival: How To Stay Cool Without Electricity

As everyone gets ready for a family and fun packed Memorial Day Weekend so is mother nature! There is a major heat wave forecasted from the Midwest to the Eastern United States this holiday weekend. For our advanced civilization we tend not to think of a heat wave as a big threat but what happens when your recently invented air conditioning unit breaks down, or there is a power outage?

If you have ever been in a power outage or black out for even a short time, you already know what works and what does NOT.  If this outage lasts for days, weeks, months or forever can you survive during a heat wave?

Answer these questions now to determine your preparedness:

  • When the A/C is off, how will you keep cool in 100* plus temperatures?  It only takes a few hours of this temperature range to dehydrate a person.  Since, the water will most likely be off also, here are some tricks I learned in the desert during the long hot summer.
  • We did NOT have any electricity period, no fans, etc.. I would take bath towels, soak them in water (preferably not what you plan to drink) water from a refrigerator, freezer, toilet tank on back of toilet or a  non potable source works. Wrap them around our necks, just let them drip, when they heat up from body heat, wave them around until they cool off again.  I would even sleep under a wet towel over my legs, when the nights were hot.  By using a small amount of water on the towel it reduced the dehydration of me.  Saved on the drinking water.  This works best when striped down to underwear and the towel makes contact with bare skin.  Also, soaking your feet in a little water will help cool you off.  A loose t-shirt without anything else on, works great!  When your life is in danger, fashion is out the window!  Forget the make-up, tight fitting underwear and the synthetic fabrics.  They will only make you hotter.  Pretty is NOT pretty when it is miserable!
  • Limit physical activities to early morning or late evening, the more you move the hotter you will get, open all the windows, doors, etc. even a hot, faint breeze is better then non at all.  Close off the HOT rooms during the afternoon that are on the west side.
  • Read a book, it takes the least amount of energy, distracts you from the heat, makes time pass and might teach you something!
  • Don’t cook or eat during the heat of the day, eat real early or real late.  Digesting food takes energy, generates heat…try to consume liquids during the hot times of day.  Juice, water, tea etc.
  • Stay in the shade or shady part of the house, if it gets real hot, get into the bathtub or shower, where it will be cooler than the rest of the house.

If it looks like the power is going to be out for a real long time, do the following:

  • If things get REAL bad for a extended period of time, poke some holes in the floor in a closet or other non traffic area, so the cooler air from the basement, crawl space can help cool the room off.  That’s why the dogs want under there during the heat of the day!  Choose the room that is on the NE or NW corner, it will get less sun during the hot afternoon.
  • Vent the attic, most modern homes are built almost air tight, when the power is off, and it is hot this can work against you.  You want AIR with as much movement as you can get.  You don’t want all the hot air trapped in the attic.
  • If you have A/C make sure that the vents are closed if they go through the attic, they will only bring more hot air into the house.  If they go through the crawl space under the house, leave them open.  Check to make sure that A/C is NOT in direct sunlight, if it is then shade it with something that will allow air flow, but block the sun.  The hot air from it can travel through the ducts into the house.
  • Any place that you feel hot air (except windows, doors) coming in, check to see where it is coming from.  You want AIR circulation, not a heat source.
  • Take your wet towel, find a shaded place in the yard, park, etc. take a good book, light blanket or sheet to lay on and pillows.  Kick back and read. Keep moving as the shade moves.  If you have a web type chair or lounger use it, but not solid plastic or other type material, it will only make you hot and sticky.
  • If you have to be in the sun, wrap a wet towel around your neck, cover your head with it also or wear a hat that allows air through..

In Ancient Rome they used their Aquaducts to cool their buildings

One must remember that air conditioning is not a new concept but has been advanced greatly by our technological achievements.

The concept of air conditioning is known to have been applied in Ancient Rome where aqueduct water was circulated through the walls of certain houses to cool them down. Other techniques in medieval Persia involved the use of cisterns and wind towers to cool buildings during the hot season. Modern air conditioning emerged from advances in chemistry during the 19th century, and the first large-scale electrical air conditioning was invented and used in 1902 by Willis Haviland Carrier.

Here is an excellent article how Ancient “air-conditioning’ cools buildings today in a sustainable way!


13 Responses to “Heat Wave Survival: How To Stay Cool Without Electricity”

  1. Hopefully no one will have to go without electricity during an extremely hot time. This was really interesting to read though.

    • Kelli says:

      Well that wish was not granted. The Derecho weather patterns that knocked out a lot of the electricity on the East coast and some of the midwestern areas of the country left hundreds of thousands of families without electricity in 100* + temperatures.

  2. Muchos Gracias for your blog.Really thank you! Awesome.

  3. moogle says:

    “Its gonna go off and it will never, NEVER come back on!!!!

  4. So hott! says:

    Thank you for this! We have been without power for 6 1/2 hours now at almost 100 degrees. It’s nighttime now but power won’t return for another 16 to 24 hours due to a bad storm! Will use these tips! It’s suppose to be another hot one in the morning!

  5. Marlene says:

    We are still without power and its 104 degrees we won’t have power for 6 more days this was interesting to read now to create aquaducts up in here

  6. Brenda Nielsen says:

    If you invest in a compressor and small A/C you could keep cool and run a refrigerator. Can’t wait for the last minute or until there is an emergency because they sell out.

  7. Dorothy says:

    Another way to cool off fast is to put something cold on the inside of your wrists. It can be anything; a bottle of soda, an ice pack, or a cold wet towel. There are major veins in your writsts, and this will cool the blood flowing through you quickly and efficiently.

  8. Beth lloyd says:

    Great article as of today people up and down the east coast are suffering thru these conditions. Great foresight!

  9. Thomas says:

    These Ideas are fantastic..will utilize them when the power grid fails..thank you for sharing.

  10. Stephanie says:

    A small generator is a must have. The other thing is that there are small solar panels to recharge your cell phone, ipods and other small appliances and they are pretty affordable. One last thing if you have a basement it will be MUCH cooler.

  11. Bob Albro says:

    If you have a chest freezer that is not full invest, in 5 or 6 gallon food grade plastic buckets. Sanitize and then fill with tap water 7/8 full and place in freezer. When power goes out these buckets will stay at 32 degrees until all of the ice is melted. You can use the ice for cooling off wetting a towl with the condensate, preserving food for exteded periods of time in the freezer, drinking water or more. I have 3 buckets in my freezer after the Oct snow fall that knocked out power for a week here in PA

  12. Colleen says:

    they have also found if you hold something cold in your hands, it pulls the heat away from the core of your body and cools you down… they have “sticks” you purchase and can hold when you exercise that are meant for this purpose, so you can exercise longer, but they cost hundreds of dollars.. .just find some sticks for putting water in and keep in your freezer, that is what i do…

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