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Every summer seems to produce new records for heat, and the only thing rising rising faster than the mercury is the price of staying cool. You could run your air conditioner all day long and upgrade your home with the latest in energy saving devices, but these are expensive options.

Here are six affordable ways to beat the heat:

1. Do It Yourself Automotive Sunshade

Really nice sunshades for your car can reflect the powerful radiant energy of the sun, but they can cost $50 or more. An inexpensive alternative can be constructed for a fraction of the cost. First, go to any bicycle store and ask for a bike box. They will quickly produce a large cardboard box that they receive their bicycles in. They will even be happy to give it to you as they were probably going to through away. Cut out some of the cardboard in the same shape as the inside of your car’s windshield. Finally, cover the outside with aluminum foil. The foil will reflect heat while the cardboard will insulate the foil. Fold it over towards the side covered in foil to store it.

2. Wearable Hydration Packs

Professional cyclists and other athletes have started using vests filled with cooling packs in order to boost their summertime performance and keep from overheating. While these systems work great, they are very expensive. An affordable alternative is to use a backpack hydration system like those sold by the Camelbak company. All you have to do is fill the pack with ice cubes, followed by cold water. Wearing this during outdoor activities keeps you cool by conducting heat away from your back. At the same time, you can enjoy ready access to cold drinking water during your outdoor activities. The best part is that the ice should not melt for several hours, even in the hottest conditions.

3. Turn The Circulation Fan From “Auto” To “On”

If you live in a home with a basement, you have probably learned that the coolest air in your house accumulates there. When your thermostat is set to “Auto”, cold air is only circulated from there while the air conditioner is running. By switching this setting to “On” you can enjoy several cost cutting benefits. First, cool air continues to be re-directed from the basement to the rest of your house, evening out the temperature difference. Next, the heat exchanger in your system will continue to cool air, even after your air conditioner’s compressor shuts down. Finally, having air circulating over your skin will always make you feel cooler, whether the air is from a ceiling fan or the circulation fan in your home’s heating and air conditioning system.

4. Room Darkening Shades

Much of the heat that enters your home comes from the radiant energy of the sun, so it is important to observe which windows receive the most direct sunlight. You could install a heavy curtain by each of those windows, but that is a very expensive option. A more affordable alternative is to use heavy room darkening shades. These vinyl shade roll up when not in use, but do a great job blocking sunlight when deployed. As an added bonus, you will also be able to keep your room dark enough that you can more easily sleep in on summer mornings when the sun rises too early.

5. Choose The Right Clothing

The type of fabric you wear can have a dramatic effect on how you experience higher temperatures. Avoid cotton as it can hold warmth when dry and it prevents ventilation when cool. It also absorbs sweat and odors. Wool is really best suited for winter, so keep it in your closet until at least fall. As an alternative, look for synthetics that are designed with the heat in mind. The ideal materials are nylon blends that breath well and wick moisture away from the skin. Look for thin athletic socks, synthetic t-shirts, and  lightweight nylon travel pants.

6. Try Evaporative Cooling

Evaporative coolers are sometimes called swamp coolers. They are far less expensive to run than traditional air conditioners, but they are only well suited to dryer climates. Some people in the southwestern United States often install evaporative coolers to service their entire house, while others cool a single room with a portable unit. If you live in a humid area, you can still utilize the same effect by setting up misting sprays on your porch or other outdoor areas.

Staying cool can be both difficult and expensive during a long hot summer, as it can be extremely costly to stay inside and run your air conditioner all day. At home, staying cool is largely a question of saving money, while outside the house it is a mostly a mater of comfort and enjoyment. By using a little creativity and ingenuity, you can maintain comfort in the heat without wasting energy and your money.

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