Save Money, Fight Climate Change: 5 Ways to Stay Cool This Summer

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Cracked, dry ground is seen where a pond normally stands on the property of Ray Mercer in Crossville, Illinois, U.S., on Wednesday, July 11, 2012. Mercer said he had lived on the property over 50 years and this was the second time the pond had dried up. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

President Obama's climate change speech on Tuesday laid out a few plans for cutting carbon emissions. Simultaneously ambitious and vague, it proposed the creation of caps on the carbon produced by power plants but punted on the details. According to the president's speech, limits will be hammered out over the next two and a half years.

Summer Money SaversEven in the absence of specifics, though, it seems likely that carbon caps on power plants will translate into higher electric bills. For anyone who has watched power bills rise over the past few years, this should come as no surprise: Electricity is getting more expensive, even as temperatures seem to be climbing ever higher.

For someone hoping to keep cool this summer, then, the problem is twofold: on the one hand, you need to find ways to cool off. On the other, you want to do so without powering up your air conditioner and totally draining your wallet. So why not try one of these techniques.

Save Money, Fight Climate Change: 5 Ways to Stay Cool This Summer
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Save Money, Fight Climate Change: 5 Ways to Stay Cool This Summer
It's basic physics: light colored roofs reflect light -- and heat -- while darker ones absorb it. For all the simplicity of the idea, the potential savings impact is huge: Homes with light colored paint or shingles can cost up to 20 percent less to cool. Plus, all that solar energy causes dark-colored shingles to wear out more quickly, shortening the life of the roof. (For more detail, check out our Savings Experiment video below.) So if you're due for a roof replacement anytime soon, consider cooling off your roof with lighter shingles, or aluminum panels painted white.

As a side note, if your roof is flat, you might consider installing a green roof. Not only do they provide a great place to plant veggies, but green roofs can help conserve water while lowering your heating and cooling costs even further!

This seems pretty obvious, but if you're in the middle of a heat wave, try not to cook indoors. If you have the option, grill outside; alternatively, try a picnic-style dinner of sandwiches, salads, gazpacho, and other chilled foods.

While you're at it, you might want to cut down on other sources of indoor heat, like incandescent lights, hair dryers, clothes washers and dryers, and dishwashers. Try running washers and dryers at non-peak hours, think about installing CFL bulbs, make sure to turn off your lights, and keep appliances properly cleaned and serviced so they run at maximum efficiency.

Most of the cooling that you feel on a daily basis comes from liquid evaporating off your skin. With that in mind, you'll find that you'll stay much cooler if you keep lots of air moving around. Strategically placed fans keep cool air moving. Experiment with cross-ventilation: on the shady side of your house, position your fans to blow air in. Meanwhile, on the sunny side, position fans to blow air out.
You don't have to rely on perspiration -- or even on fans -- to keep your body cool. You can help things along with a cold, water-soaked washcloth or with a misting spray bottle filled with water. If you really need to cool down, take a short shower, followed by a long, relaxing nap in front of a fan.
If it gets really hot and you really want to save on cooling, you'll need to get creative. Try going to the park -- or anywhere with trees -- cooling your heels in the local library, or strolling around the mall. Drink a lot of water. Avoid coffee, alcohol and soft drinks, as they can dehydrate you. Personally, I've found that showering with Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Magic Soap makes me feel a few degrees cooler (although, admittedly, the effect is diminished once temperatures go over 90 degrees). Or you could get really creative: BrokeMillennial advises snuggling up with bottles of frozen water to help keep you cool at night!

Did You Know: Lighter Colored Roof

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