Make an $8 Air Conditioner, and 4 More Hot Tips for Staying Cool

A cheap trick with an ice chest will help keep you cool all summer — and that could keep you healthy.


Summertime means heat, and that can make living not so easy.

The National Weather Service reports that on average more than 120 people a year die from the heat. In the extreme heat, even the heartiest may suffer.

Money Talks News financial expert Stacy Johnson offers a cheap, low-tech way to turn an ice chest into an air conditioner.

His advice goes along with Money Talks News’ tips to lower your air conditioning costs and unusual ways to beat the heat without an air conditioner.

Try these summer hacks to feel cooler whenever the sidewalk feels hotter than a match head:

1. Construct an ice chest air conditioner

  • Materials: Buy or find around the house a cheap Styrofoam ice chest; a couple of dryer vents or PVC joints; a small fan.
  • Construction: Put the vents toward one end of the ice chest lid and trace around them. Do the same on the other end with the fan. Grab a serrated knife. Cut the vent holes; cut inside the fan line.
  • Assembly: Fit the vents in snugly; place the fan so it rests on top and won’t fall in. Fill the cooler with ice. (Keep a few water-filled milk jugs in your freezer, you’ll always have a free supply, and they’ll last longer in the cooler.
  • Operation: Turn it on. As the fan forces air over the ice and out the vents, you’ll get cold air. About the same temperature as an air conditioner, says Stacy — until the ice melts.

Technically, you may want to call this an air cooler, as your cheap trick doesn’t have a condenser and coils, so it’s not really an air conditioner. Nor is it exactly an evaporative cooler, which works in arid, but not humid, regions by blowing air over water at you. But you won’t sweat the difference when your room cools down.

“And I’ll tell you something: this thing feels really good,” Stacy says.

Get yourself a battery-powered fan, or a battery and an inverter, and your air conditioner will work in a blackout as long as you’ve got ice, he adds.

While you’re enjoying your cool air, consider these additional tips.

2. Strategically applied ice

Apply flat, compact ice packs you keep in your freezer to your joints or other areas that tend to perspire a lot – your neck, forehead, wrists, lower back, backs of your knees or décolletage, says the American Grandparents Association. Not only will it cool those areas quickly, but you’ll focus on the burst of frigidity, instead of the overall heat.

3. Time your activities

The hottest time of a summer day is usually midafternoon, not noon, says the National Weather Service. That’s because there’s a delay of up to three or four hours between when the sun irradiates the earth-atmosphere system and when the temperature begins to increase on the planet’s surface. This delay, known as the thermal response, means you should get summer outdoor activities done before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m.

4. Drink the right fluids

Dehydration is a key factor in heat illness, warns the Mayo Clinic and other health organizations. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water, which helps your body sweat and cool down. If you exercise intensely, a sports drink, rather than water, can replace sodium, chloride and potassium you lose through sweating. Alcoholic drinks, however, actually promote fluid loss.

5. Eat cooling foods

Fruits and vegetables hold lots of water to help keep you hydrated in the heat. They include celery, cucumbers, apples, watermelon, strawberries and many more, experts say. And don’t forget spicy foods, like chilies, mint and ginger, says the Voice of America. Spicy dishes may make you feel like you’re burning, but actually can help cool you down by making you perspire, giving your skin the feel of evaporative cooling. Also, try gazpacho or other chilled soups.

It’s a question of comfort — and health

Mayo doctors explain why hot weather puts extra stress on your body.

“To help cool itself, your body sends more blood to circulate through your skin. This leaves less blood for your muscles, which in turn increases your heart rate. If the humidity also is high, your body faces added stress because sweat doesn’t readily evaporate from your skin. That pushes your body temperature even higher. Under normal conditions, your skin, blood vessels and perspiration level adjust to the heat. But these natural cooling systems may fail if you’re exposed to high temperatures and humidity for too long, you sweat heavily, and you don’t drink enough fluids.”

What tricks have you discovered to stay cool and healthy in the heat? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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