HOW TO STAY COMFORTABLE AND SAFE DURING EXTREME HEAT
When you don't have air conditioning or need to minimize use of an air conditioner
Drink at least a cup of water every 20-30 minutes during extreme heat periods in the summer, even if you aren't thirsty. Avoid soft drinks, caffeine, and alcoholic beverages - these will dehydrate you. The idea that an ice cold soda pop is the perfect solution to thirst is a delusion fostered by hundreds of millions of dollars of advertising. The more soda pop you drink, the more thirsty you will be, the hotter you will feel, and thus the more uncomfortable you will be in hot weather. Soda pop advertisements are LIES! Sugar free soft drinks are as bad as the sugared versions.
Cook outside to avoid increasing the heat and humidity inside your house.
Eat small, light meals, spaced throughout the day, rather than 2 or 3 big heavy meals.
Dress for the season.
Wear shorts and a light shirt. Loose fitting clothes are cooler and more comfortable than tight fitting garments. Go barefoot or wear sandals. Natural fabrics are cooler than synthetics. At night, use light cotton sheets on your bed. Minimize indoor fabrics, as fabric increases interior humidity.
If the heat becomes oppressive, dowse your head, arms, and feet with cool water, or take a cool shower.
Or go outside and dowse yourself with a water hose. Keep a spray bottle of cool water handy, and give yourself spritzes of cool water. Dip cloths in cool water and wrap around your neck, wrists, and ankles.
Shade is your friend. Keep the sun's heat from hitting windows, doors, walls. Shade the outside of the windows.
Indoor curtains are not enough (although they help). Once the sun hits the glass and window frame, the heat is conducted inside the house, even if you have curtains. Use auto sun shades to make a cheap outdoor window shade. They cost a dollar or so at local stores. Duct tape two or three of them together (depending on the size of the window) and hang them on the outside of your windows. An inexpensive bamboo roll-up window shade also works fine. One or more curtains inside will help, and choose white or another light color (sheets are do-able and cheap, & more is better). Don't forget to shade the doors if you don't have a porch. The best choice for your wall shade is vegetation. Although it takes many years to grow a tall tree, vines grow in just a few weeks. Morning glories grow quickly and provide beautiful flowers besides the shade.
If you have no air conditioning, ventilate your house at night and then keep the house closed up during the day when it is hot outside until the inside and outside temperatures are the same.
Then you open up the windows and doors. If practical for your situation, during the day only open windows and doors that are shaded. At night put box fans in the south windows to pull hot air out of the house, and box fans in north or east facing windows to draw in cooler air. Open every window and door to facilitate cross breezes. Typically, we close our windows & doors between 7 and 8 AM, depending on the temperature, humidity, wind, and cloud cover. The exact time is based on our perception of what the weather is doing. If it is warming up and the humidity is high, we close up right away. If the morning coolness lingers, we "stay open" longer. We open up the house when the inside and outside temperatures are about the same.
Keep the air moving around inside.
We use ceiling fans and rotating or box fans to create breezes in the house during the day and the night. Moving air can knock ten degrees off of the apparent temperature, so fans can add considerably to indoor comfort. They can also be used in conjunction with conventional air conditioning. With breezes inside, you can set the thermostat temperature higher than would be the case without the fans.
Minimize heat buildup inside the house.
If you have a dishwasher, don't use it or at minimum don't use the heat dry at the end of the cycle. Take cool showers. Many electronic devices such as "instant on" televisions draw current all the time, and thus create heat all the time. Plug them into an electrical outlet strip and turn it off and on with the switch on the electric outlet strip, and thus eliminate the "hot plates" adding heat to the indoor climate. Don't use the clothes dryer, hang your clothes on a line outside to dry. If you smoke, do so outside. Turn your computers off when they are not in use. COOK OUTSIDE!