This story was originally published on DNAinfo Chicago on 2015. It has been updated because it will be dangerously hot in Chicago this weekend.
LINCOLN SQUARE — Remember winter, when everyone was like, “Why do I live in a place that makes my face hurt?”
Well now it’s summer and over the next couple of days, temperatures are going to flirt with the 90s and humidity levels are expected to reach “gross.”
Can you stand the heat, Chicago?
Plenty of folks will respond by reaching for the thermostat and dialing the air conditioning to — oh, the irony — “arctic blast.” According to the census, 70 percent of housing units in the Chicago area has some sort of air conditioning.
But not everyone’s home is equipped with central A/C. And some folks have A/C but are making a conscious effort to reduce their environmental impact. For every bead of sweat that drips from their forehead, an angel gets its wings.
Seriously, Americans’ consumption of air conditioning is no laughing matter. We use more of the stuff than the rest of the world combined, producing half a billion metric tons of carbon dioxide per year in the process, according to experts.
Our dependence on A/C has physiological repercussions, as well, hampering our natural ability to acclimate ourselves to higher temperatures. And frigid offices are actually sexist, according to a recent study.
Given that air conditioning has only been widely used for the last 50 years or so of humans’ existence on the planet, it stands to reason that people have survived without it — for eons. They developed numerous ways to cope with the heat, plenty of which are still useful today.
• Open your windows at night. Flood your house with cooler air at night by opening multiple windows (on multiple floors, if your home is more than a single story). Open on opposite sides of a room and/or opposite ends of a building. For maximum circulation, open multiple side-by-side windows.
• And close them during the day. Especially south and west windows. This will keep the temperature inside cooler than the hotter air outside.
• Keep your blinds down and curtains closed. Turns out our grandparents and great-grandparents were onto something. The more you can shade your home and keep out the sun’s rays, the better.
• Turn your fans off … when you leave the room. The breeze is there to cool your skin (by evaporating sweat), not the room.
• If you have to use your A/C, run it in bursts: Air conditioning units are at their best when running at full speed for short periods.
More ideas, some of which come straight from the ancient Egyptians:
• Make the most of your fans. Point box fans out the window so they push hot air outside. Fill a shallow bowl or pan with ice and place it in front of a fan to create a cooling mist.
• Cold water, duh. Cold showers are a no-brainer, but it also helps to apply ice or cold compresses to pulse points. Cool down your entire body by dunking your feet in cold water.
• Pay attention to who and what you sleep with. Cuddling is the enemy in a heat wave. Pretend you’re a couple in a ’50s sitcom and opt for separate beds. Before you hit the sack — alone — chill your sheets in the fridge or freezer. Or take a wet sheet and hang it in front of an open window and it will cool the entire room.
• Unplug and hit the switch. Light bulbs (even CFLs), gadgets and appliances emit heat. Turn ’em off and unplug them to reduce the total heat in your home.
If you do need help keeping yourself or a loved one cool, the city has help available as well.
My Block, My Hood, My City is also offering free fans and cold water to elderly people in the city who are in need during the heat wave. Those interested can fill out a form online to have the items dropped off at their home.
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