5 summertime staying-cool faux pas … and some smarter alternatives

(Image credit: Tambako via CC)

The sun’s out and the temperature’s up. With that comes the quest to stay cool … and with that comes some questionable products and habits.So this summer, whether you find yourself on the court, course, park or pool, don’t pull one of these staying-cool faux pas.

1. Wearing a solar-powered fan hat

Hey, we love solar. But we’re pretty skeptical of the solar-powered fan hat. Reviews on Amazon run the gamut, though note that several buyers admitted they gave the hat as a gag gift.

Smarter: Wearing a hat with a visor and neck drape, and moisture-wicking clothing

Look no further than the world’s toughest footrace for inspiration on dressing to keep cool. The Badwater Ultramarathon is a 135-mile run from the lowest point in Death Valley—where temperatures can top 130 degrees Fahrenheit—to the flank of Mount Whitney. Successful competitors, like former winner Dean Karnazes, swear by a hat with a visor and neck drape, and clothing made with moisture-wicking fabric.

2. Eating ice cream

I scream … you scream … we all scream. Virtually everyone loves ice cream. But unfortunately, it just doesn’t keep you cool (sorry). Your body’s efforts to digest the fat and protein in ice cream speed your metabolism, and that makes you warmer.

Smarter: Drinking water… or a beer?

Drink water and eat water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. Room-temperature water is actually best, as it helps your body’s cooling system (i.e. sweat) work. Here’s some even better news: beer or wine, in moderation, can help too!

3. Standing in front of an open refrigerator/freezer

The ‘fridge is one of the biggest energy users in your house. And, according to at least one physicist, opening its door will have only a negligible effect on cooling a room—and you.

Smarter: Using your ceiling fans

Ceiling fans can help you feel cooler through the wind chill effect. In fact, a ceiling fan can let you raise the thermostat about 4 degrees—saving electricity otherwise used by your air conditioner—with no change in comfort.

4. Buying an athlete-endorsed cooling towel

Maybe you’ve seen the ads: Pro athletes cooling down with a little towel that gets cold when they dampen and “snap” it. It’s not that cooling towels don’t work—at least according to this Consumer Reports piece. It’s just that for the cost, you don’t get much greater benefit than with a homemade solution you can make for a lot less money (see below).

Smarter: Making a cooling towel

Make your own cooling towel with a bandana, a needle and thread, and polyacrylamide crystals (a common soil additive used by gardeners). Check out the easy-to-follow instructions. Or, in a pinch, just wrap some ice in a towel and apply it to your body’s cooling spots.

5. Hand-fanning yourself

You’ve probably been told at some time in your life that hand fanning makes you hotter due to the effort required to wave the fan itself. Opinions actually vary on this—one astrophysicist claims fanning can keep you cool; other sources question that conclusion.

Smarter: Having someone hand-fan you

Wherever you come out on the hand-fanning debate, it seems hard to deny that the best technique is to have someone fan you. It’s not just for Cleopatra anymore. The trick is to find a fanner. A hand fanning session can be the wager in a friendly bet, a way to let your significant other work his or her way out of the “doghouse,” or something useful for your kids to do on a lazy, hot, summer day.

Wherever you find yourself when the mercury rises this summer, be sure you’re using smarter ways to beat the heat. Avoid these staying-cool faux pas.

Another smart alternative: cool your home efficiently while enjoying the money-saving benefit of rooftop solar. Learn more here.

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