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Helter Swelter: How to Stay Cool When the AC Conks Out

Life happens. Sometimes appliances – including air conditioners – just conk out for no rhyme or reason. Whether it’s a power grid outage, a faulty wire connection, or a plummeting meteorite just happened to crush your outdoor condenser unit. The reason why an air conditioner stops running in the middle of a heatwave matters little; what does matter is finding a way to alleviate the discomfort that sweltering temps bring. When hot spells roll in, HVAC companies get swamped with phone calls and that can mean two- or three-day waiting periods for repairs. In the meantime, you've got to get creative and make do the best you can. Here are some simple steps to cool things down:

  • Get out of the house — It’s 2019. Plenty of public places offer air conditioning. Catch a flick at the movie theatre. Read some magazines at the local library. Burn some calories walking around the mall. Cold beverages at your favorite restaurant is a good move. Go for a long drive in the car with the A.C. on full-blast.

  • Blast the fans — While using fans won’t technically cool an area, they will make you feel cooler. If you really want to kick it up a notch, put some trays of ice in front of the fan. Even draping a wet T-shirt on the fan will circulate seemingly cooler air.

  • Drink up! — It’s imperative to consume enough fluids when the mercury rises. Dehydration is the main culprit behind heatstroke and heat exhaustion. Core body temperature can be kept in check with the aid of surplus water intake.

  • Rinse and repeat — Hop into the shower and chill out under a steady stream of cool water. Afterward, the heat will be a bit more bearable — for a while, anyway.

  • Avoid using appliances — Most household appliances generate heat, especially the larger ones. Try to resist using the oven, dishwasher, dryer and stove if possible.

  • Go low — Because heat rises, the ground floor is usually cooler than rooms upstairs. A basement is an even better escape if possible


  • Lighten up — Wear light, loose-fitting clothing. Some people even don a wet bandana to keep their dome cool.

  • Skip the stir-fry — Avoid hot and spicy foods. Not only does the meal emit heat, but your body will feel hotter as the food is metabolized. Stick with popsicles.

  • Sweat the small stuff — There are a million little things you can do to fight high temps: turn off all non-LED lights, unplug non-essential gadgets, open windows to aid cross-ventilation, close blinds facing the sun, etc.

  • Resolve to undergo a professional HVAC maintenance inspection next spring to ensure your central A.C. won’t conk out next summer. A certified professional can spot and repair most potential problems in an hour or so, providing comfort and peace of mind for when that next heatwave rolls through your neighborhood

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