Heat Wave Got You Down? Try These 5 Ways to Stay Cool

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Yeah, we know. When it comes to summer misery, it isn't the heat, it's the humidity. But for residents of the Northeast this week, the difference is academic: The mercury has soared into the nineties, blasting the area with some of the hottest temperatures of the year. At the same time, humidity levels are topping 50 percent, leaving the I-95 corridor feeling -- in the words of meteorologist Alex Sosnowski -- "like a virtual sauna bath." In fact, according to the heat index calculator, the combination of high temperatures and high humidity are leaving the area feeling like it's 100 to 110 degrees.

As with any time when the mercury's rising, some standard warnings apply: don't leave kids or pets in cars, be sure to drink lots of water, avoid coffee and alcohol, and stay inside as much as possible. If you can, try hanging out in the mall, public library or other air conditioned places. Beyond that, though, there are a few other ways to stay cool without spending a lot of money. Here are five of our favorites -- and if you have any more, be sure to let us know!

Heat Wave Got You Down? Try These 5 Ways to Stay Cool
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!
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Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings editor. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.
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