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Brainstorming Extreme Methods to Keep Cool

Given the ridiculous heat wave most of us are experiencing right now, it’s no wonder everyone is trying to figure out how to keep cool. The real question is: what would we do if the power went out right now and there’s no end in sight to the relentless heat?

After reading this post on Keeping Cool Without Power at Prep-Blog.com, I began wondering to myself “what can I possibly do to keep my family cool if the power went out in heat like this?” I’m not talking about awnings or window tint. Not at all!

Now, I’m not saying any of these ideas will work or are even a good idea whatsoever. It’s just brainstorming…

  1. Paint your rooftop white – I once read somewhere that dark shingles are among the worst things we can install on our homes because the dark colors absorb radiant heat thereby increasing home temperatures; just step into the attic and you may agree. So, how about reversing this and painting the rooftop white? Sounds crazy, I know. But, it’s a known fact that light colors (especially white) reflect radiant heat while dark colors (especially black) absorb radiant heat. Instead of turning your rooftop into a giant heat absorber, turn it into a giant heat reflector. I’m sure you can do the math, but I would suspect a five-gallon can of white primer would go a long way.
  2. Capture and redirect wind into your home – Strategically opening windows to take advantage of cross drafts is a wise idea. Unfortunately, our home is situated so that the wind generally avoids major windows; however, it is quite windy where we live and simply stepping out from the house a few feet dramatically increases wind speed. As such, I wondered if it would be possible to redirect the wind into the house using tarps setup at fairly steep angles, say 60 degrees or so. I figure some serious bracing would be in order but it may be possible to do and worth the effort. Even a slight breeze is better than nothing when there is no active cooling.
  3. Use tarps to act as “mega” awnings for your home – I also contemplated how to use tarps to act as “mega” awnings not just for windows or doors but large portions of the house. Simply reducing the radiant heat alone has to do something positive for cooling the house. Of course, this idea may directly impede the previous one so maybe this would best be used in strategic locations such as on the south-facing side of the house only.
  4. Abandon upper floors – Anyone who has lived in a two-story homes can tell you that the upstairs is typically several degrees warmer than the downstairs; this is often welcome in the winter but not so much in the summer. Understanding this, it may turn out that you should completely abandon the upstairs. That is, completely block it off and insulate it from the downstairs. It might also prove useful to open several upstairs windows in order to reduce heat retention, which will eventually radiate to your downstairs.
  5. Create a room-within-a-room – I’ve seen recommendations that say in order to stay warmer in the winter you can create a room-within-a-room. I wonder if that idea can be reversed in order to stay cooler. That is, use items like bed sheets, rolls of plastic sheeting, tarps, carpet and padding from abandoned rooms, and so on that can be draped from floor to ceiling in multiple layers at several inch intervals from exterior walls. I would think that doing so might act as yet another layer(s) of insulation to reduce radiant heat exposure.
  6. Use aluminum foil and newspaper as radiant heat barrier – I’ve used products like Reflectix Radiant Barriers before; it’s often used in attic crawl spaces to reduce heat transfer from your rooftop into the attic. I’m not sure how well it works and, since it is a bit expensive just to have on-hand, I thought about recreating something similar using aluminum foil and maybe newspaper as bonus insulation. You could tape together large sheets of foil and newspaper that can then be placed over offending windows and doors. You might also considered simply rolling out something like the Reflectix Radiant Barriers (or just aluminum foil) directly over the horizontal attic insulation. If you don’t have a large attic then perhaps the same idea can be used on the upstairs floors? I really have no clue about this one.

So, what do you think? Are any of these ideas plausible or even worth considering? What ideas can you come up with?

7 comments to Brainstorming Extreme Methods to Keep Cool

  • widglid

    when I was in the navy we would have drills on protecting the ship from many different attacks. one of these drills would facilitate cutting off the ventilation system. I worked nights so during the day, when most of these drills took place, was when I got to sleep. let me tell you closed up in a small compartment with 20 or so other guys and no ventilation things would get realy warm and uncomfortable, pretty much impposable to sleep. one day an old salt recomended that I try baby powder, sprikle powder all over and I’ll stay cool and sleep like a baby, I tried it , it worked , still use it to this day whenever the temps get close to or ubove 90.

    • Didn’t know that. I’ll have to try it someday. I can just picture the Walmart clerk’s face when I pull up to the register with a cart load of baby powder! :)

  • Jennifer Murphy

    There are products available, here in Australia, and I believe would be so in the US. The are a form of plastic.
    One is a pillow shape to which you add water, in order to have a cool pillow and sleep better.
    I have seen a larger shape that seems to work on the same principle.
    This claims to help reduce heat, again to facilitate sleep.
    They are not extremely expensive. Less than $100 for the two.

  • Suzi

    July 23, 2012 at 7:35 am · Reply
    The room within a room probably won’t work due to body heat retention (which is why it does work in cold). The rest sound like good possibilities
    If your winds are at all strong you might think about a sheet or two of plywood or corrugated metal as wind baffles instead of tarps since the tarps might not last long.
    In a dry climate (only!) you could hang wet towels in the breeze path for cooling.
    A small, battery operated fan (rechargeable D cells) could make a huge difference, too.

    All worth trying . I suppose we would eventually re- adapt to the heat. I remember as a kid living in Texas and Florida without AC, but kids seem to handle the heat better.

    • I never thought about incorporating water cooling ideas… duh! I guess it doesn’t cross my mind much because I live in a fairly humid environment.

  • Ed

    I’m not sure how well any of that stuff would work but kudos for thinking outside the box.