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How to Stay Cool Homesteading During the Relentless Summer Heat

Life on a homestead is challenging year-round. Families who live off-grid must rely on firewood, generators and other alternate methods of heat to stay warm during the winter. However, staying cool during the summer can be even more challenging. How do you handle temperatures of 90 F and above without air conditioning?

The human body is meant to operate at a temperature of 98.6 F. Internal illness can raise your body temperature and give you a fever. However, external temperatures can also upset this natural equilibrium and make you sick. If you don’t have access to artificial cooling, you need to take the dangers of heat seriously.

Hot temperatures raise your risk for sunburn. However, people who spend too much time in the sun can also come down with sun poisoning. Symptoms include fever and chills, dizziness and a headache, in addition to a bad sunburn. Dehydration due to heat will make you feel sick and affect your ability to think clearly.

Every homestead is different, but there are several basic principles every homesteader can follow to protect themselves over the summer. Ideas range from property improvements to thoughtful personal care. Whatever strategies you adopt for your homestead, ensure you plan how to handle the heat before it arrives.

1.   Use Passive Design

Keeping the inside of your home cool during the summer will make it much easier to handle high temperatures outside. Thankfully, this is fairly easy if you follow passive design principles. Passive design works with the surrounding climate to keep your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It starts with understanding how your house responds to its environment.

Think of your home as part of a temperature system. When heat is added to air molecules, they use that additional energy to expand. That’s why hot air rises and a fireplace can warm up a cold room. You can leave doors and windows closed during the hot part of the day to keep hot air out. If you have to go outside, use a door that opens in the shade.

You can also use breezes to move hot, humid air out of your home. To do this, open two windows on opposite sides of the house. One of them should be facing a natural breeze outside. These open windows will create a cross breeze that cools your homestead. Some homesteaders will blow a fan out of one of these windows to create a low-pressure system that draws fresh air inside.

You should also consider the role of the sun in heating your home. Keeping the blinds drawn in the morning will help cool your home by blocking slanting sunlight from coming inside. Shading windows and doorways can also help. Many homesteaders plant trees on the east and west of their homes to block heat from the sun as it rises and sets. 

Another feature of passive design is good insulation. Homes with a tight envelope will resist heating up in the summer and be warmer in the winter. Of course, they will still need ventilation. However, you can let air circulate during the early morning and late evening when outdoor temperatures are naturally cooler.

2.   Rethink Your Chores

You must do chores every day regardless of the weather if you live on a working farm. However, you can protect yourself from overheating by adjusting your schedule to suit the season. Many homesteaders rise early so they can finish essential work before the sun gets too high. You may have extra things to do to keep your animals safe and cool.

During midday, it’s best to stay inside and out of the sun. You can do computer work, eat lunch and take some time to rest. Before air conditioning, many cultures took a mandatory siesta at this time of day to avoid the heat and recharge for evening activities. You can finish outdoor chores before bedtime when the sun gets low again.

You may have noticed that livestock also follow this pattern. Animals are busy in the morning and evening but rest in the shade during the afternoon. Although you can work through this time, the heat will drain your energy quickly and reduce your productivity. It’s much more effective to allow natural rhythms to shape your schedule.

Cooking can also pose a challenge when temperatures are high. It was historically done in a separate building to prevent heating up the entire home in the summer. You can follow this example and cook outside with a grill, sun oven or fire pit. Some homesteaders even build a small kitchen or put a tent over the area to provide shade.

Indoor appliances heat your home’s temperature. Some homesteaders don’t use electricity at all, while others use solar power or generators to run a few essential pieces of equipment. On really hot days, it’s a good idea to avoid using large appliances like washing machines and dryers.

3.   Invest in Air Conditioning

Some homesteaders cool their homes by putting a bowl of ice in front of a fan system. As the water melts, it supplies the fan with cool air to send throughout the house. However, if summers are unbearably hot where you live, it may be worthwhile to invest in an AC unit. There’s no reason that living off-grid has to be miserable.

AC units present two problems for homesteaders. The first is how to power it, and the second is how to fund it. Powering an AC unit off-grid is easier than you may think. You can set up a sustainable energy source like a solar panel system or invest in a generator that runs on fuel. Either way, you’ll need extra juice to run it overnight.

A battery storage system will help you keep cool overnight if you rely on solar power or another form of sustainable energy. Some generators will pair with one because they run on solar energy. However, other off-grid generators run on propane or gasoline. Some allow you to switch between different types of fuel.

Installing an AC unit can be expensive, but you can get one on a budget. You can significantly reduce the overall cost if you’re willing to do the installation work yourself. There are often detailed instructions online for installation. You can also find YouTube tutorials by other homesteaders who have made the same decision.

Some AC units are better suited to homesteading than others. For example, ductless mini-split systems are easier to install and require few supplies. Maintenance is easy, and these can be placed anywhere as long as they’re against an external wall. Although they take an initial investment, they’re highly efficient and cool your home quickly.

4.   Rely on Evaporation

There are several ways to reduce your body temperature and protect your health if you get overheated. The human body sweats to cool itself down. Unfortunately, sweating causes you to lose salt, essential minerals and water. Making a DIY sports drink can help you stay hydrated and cool on hot summer days.

It can be very challenging to fall asleep when you’re overheated. Try taking a cold shower right before bed to cool your internal temperature. Sleep under natural fibers, as they breathe better. You can also take a wet or frozen towel with you to bed. The evaporating water will help you cool down and sleep better.

Some homesteaders even go to bed with frozen water bottles. If the air has cooled outside, consider hanging wet sheets across your windows and letting the wind blow through them. You need to consider safety, but opening the windows at night can often significantly reduce your home’s temperature.

You can run your wrists under cold water for instant cooling during the day. Your wrists are one of many pulse points on your body — places where blood vessels are closest to your skin. These spots can quickly warm or cool your blood and change your body temperature. Other pulse points can be found behind your knees, in your elbow creases and at your temples.

Swimming is a great way to quickly cool yourself down during the day. If you have a pool, keep it in the shade so the water won’t heat up. You may want to invest in a pool cover if it’s sitting under trees. You can also cool off in clean water sources on your property, like a stream or pond. Even just putting your feet in cold water can make a huge difference.

5.   Dress for the Heat

Appropriate clothing can protect you from the sun and help regulate your internal temperatures if you have to go outside during the heat of the day. Families with air conditioning are used to wearing shorts and tank tops in the summer. However, long-sleeved shirts and long pants are better at protecting your skin against sunburn.

It’s best to cover as much of your skin as possible when working outside. Light-colored clothing will reflect the sunlight. You can shop around for natural fibers, which will allow your skin to breathe and feel much cooler than synthetic materials. Cotton and linen are good choices for summer clothing. Evaporation will help you stay cool as you sweat through these materials.

Although many modern clothes are form-fitting, baggy items are better for hot summer weather.. They allow more air circulation and cooling while you wear them. You should also invest in a hat that shades your face and the back of your neck. Choose a breathable material like straw that allows your head to stay cool.

Footwear can also make a huge difference in how warm you are. You may have noticed that uncovering your feet helps you sleep better in the summer. Feet play a large role in regulating body temperature. Wearing sandals or other loose footwear allows them to breathe and cool your body down.

Consider wrapping a wet cloth around your head for relief in extreme heat. Your head helps control your body’s internal temperature, much like your feet do. You can also wrap a wet or frozen cloth around your neck. This cold towel draws heat from your body and sends it into the atmosphere through evaporation.

6.   Eat Cold Food

You can also regulate your body temperature by eating cold food. This is way more effective than it may initially seem. Think about a glass of water that you want to chill. You could pack it in ice to cool it down or put ice cubes inside it. Internal cooling works faster and requires less ice, and the same thing is true of your body.

Summer is the perfect time to eat ice cream, popsicles, iced drinks and chilled fruit. Cold liquid cools your body more quickly, but cold solid food can also help you reduce your internal temperature. Keep it on hand and eat frequently to ensure you stay hydrated and energized in the heat.

Keeping food cold may be a challenge if you live off-grid. However, people have been successfully refrigerating food for hundreds of years. Take your cues from the Amish and use ice blocks to keep food cool. Even without electricity, a modern fridge or freezer chest will keep food cold if you pack it with ice. You can also use styrofoam to insulate an ice house or freezer chest.

If you plan to preserve food for the winter, it’s a good idea to dig a root cellar that will keep your food cool year-round. You can keep drinks and food there in the summer so they stay cool. They’ll stay cold all year because they’re underground. Your cellar door should be in the shade so opening and closing it doesn’t affect the internal temperature.

You can also invest in a solar system or generator to run a modern refrigerator. The more you fill a freezer, the colder everything will stay inside. However, refrigerators run better when there’s air circulation. Make sure you clean the coils and allow for external airflow around your refrigerator as well.

Heat-Proofing Your Homestead

Staying cool on a homestead can be challenging during the summer. Although average temperatures in your area may be manageable, you never know when a heat wave might come through. It’s best to be prepared so you can handle the warmth and stay safe while continuing to care for your property.

People have been working through the summer without artificial cooling for thousands of years. Although it takes intention and preparation, it’s very doable to handle summer heat on an off-grid homestead. Use these tips to stay comfortable and protect your health during the hot months. Before you know it, fall will arrive with cool winds and dwindling temperatures.

Author Bio:

Jane is the editor-in-chief of Environment.co. She is passionate about sustainability, gardening and homesteading.

By Damian Brindle

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One reply on “How to Stay Cool Homesteading During the Relentless Summer Heat”

Thank you for these tips. Some i have in place already and it is good to keep abreast on what others are doing too!

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