For those who are living in the northern hemisphere, the weather is gradually turning from warm to unbearably hot as we inch closer towards summer being in full-swing. Over here in Kyoto, Japan, the temperature has been climbing fast, and people are starting to crank up their air-conditioning at every opportunity.
So if you're like me, staying in a Japanese-style cramped, one-window apartment which feels uncomfortably hot and stuffy at any time of the day, and yet don't want to give in to air-conditioning, what can you do? Well, having lived in tropical Malaysia for over 20 years (where it's summer all year round!), I've decided to apply some of my no-brainer methods to beat the heat.
Fans are a mainstay of many middle-class homes in Malaysia, and they are equivalent to what bicycles are to cars, when compared to energy-guzzling air-conditioning systems - cheap, effective and energy-efficient (they use only about 5% of electricity compared to air-conditioners).
So I dropped by the neighbourhood second-hand store and grabbed a portable stand fan for just under than $5. I keep my window open, and have the fan next to me whenever I'm in a relatively stationary position, like when I'm working at the computer. The direct wind and increased air-flow is enough to keep me comfortably chilled. At night, the fan not only cools, but also drives away mosquitoes. For extra cooling effect, I sometimes put a container of ice in front of the fan.
During the hotter days, I'd have a spray bottle filled with water next to me, and periodically spritz a mist of water over my face and body with the fan at full blast. Having a spray bottle saves me the trouble of fumbling with wet cloths, and it works like a charm! When the water evaporates, it can really feel as cold as air-conditioning.
Of course, I also practice some "common sense" measures, such as drinking more water, and wearing light cotton clothes. Sleeping naked works well for me too, but of course this is only possible because I stay alone.
Believe it or not, by simply relying on low-tech fans and water, I've pretty much managed to survive in Malaysia without home air-conditioning for many years, and it's not like I was suffering. Not only do I get the satisfaction of contributing less to global warming, but there's the added bonus of slashing my electricity bill. That's why it's sad to see how people instinctively just reach for the AC switch without considering the alternatives. People don't realize how giving in to the temptation for temporary relief ironically makes the earth hotter in the long run!
What I've shared here are just the simplest ways to get by without the AC, but as explained by this Popular Science article, two fans can be used to effectively lower room temperatures by enhancing air ventilation. Besides, there's so much more that can be done - just check out these two WikiHow articles, over here and here. If you're a house owner, you can take it further through home improvement measures for better insulation and installing more sophisticated non-AC cooling devices.
And if you really can't live without air-conditioning, use it more wisely - no need for freezing temperatures, a sensible range (between 25 to 27 Celsius) will do. At night, just cool your room for an hour or two, and switch off the AC before sleeping.
All right, have a cool summer everyone. Hands off the AC remote, if you can help it!