Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Frugal Eggplant: keeping cool in summer

Here's one big tip about keeping cool(er) and saving money that I'm surprised many people don't know about, perhaps because it's counter-intuitive.
I learned this while living in Northern Italy, in the Po Valley, which gets very hot and muggy in the summer. Italians use A/C a lot less than we do; many think it's unhealthy. At the very least, the settings are not frigid.

When it gets really hot, you should keep your windows open at night when the air is cooler, and use fans. As soon as the outside air is no longer cooler than the inside air (usually in the early or mid-morning), shut windows and blinds to block out hot air and sun. You can do this even if you have air-conditioning, as it will save on the bill by bringing the temp down.

This is of course subject to safety considerations. Most Italians don't live in single-family homes and therefore are less likely to be sleeping on the ground floor. They also have persiane or tapparelle (in the photo) which are built-in shutters that seal the interior partly or wholly from air and light.

Some other stuff. I also quickly learned in Italy why warmer climates have siestas more than we do. The hottest hours are in the early and mid-afternoon, when it is advisable (if you can) to slow down or even take a nap. Cut down on coffee and alcohol. Take hot showers- also counter-intuitive, but the hot water and soap all over your bod will open your pores and free your skin of oil, allowing for better sweating and thermoregulation. Cool down in the last few minutes with cooler water. Avoid synthetic clothing, including underwear- prefer cotton and linen. Cut down on cooking (and calories) by eating more raw and simple foods.