In search of tile and a cool mist

Published 9:28 pm Thursday, July 19, 2012

The heat is on in Suffolk, and I’m not talking about a hotly contested sporting event, political race, or anything else to which the phrase could be applied as a metaphorical cliché.

I’m talking about the mercury that is through the roof, the burning sun and the sultry atmosphere.

Air conditioning seems as vital as food, water and air at these times, and it makes one wonder how anyone ever coped without it.

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But they did, and I did, too, many years ago, on a different continent where the heat was … different.

It was dry. It was probably more intense for longer periods of time than here, but without the humidity, it seemed less oppressive.

We had no air conditioning, anyway.

We lived without it by doing things like confining ourselves to the coolest part of the house, immersing ourselves in cool water as often as possible, and clothing ourselves as scantily as propriety would allow.

Doing away with the propriety clause, my innovative grandfather devised a way of combining all three by laying flat on his back on a tiled surface clad only in underpants and periodically misting himself with a sprayer.

It also worked for anyone visiting the house, such as my grandmother’s church friends, who would entirely forget about how hot they were on entering the bathroom.

For most of us, who spend our days scurrying from one artificially cooled space to another, that sort of thing wouldn’t fly these days.

In Suffolk, with the heat index over 100 degrees every other day, those air conditioners running around the clock are sucking a lot of electricity.

Dominion Virginia Power has offered some tips for keeping power bills lower:

  • Confine activities that use hot water — washing dishes and clothes — to early morning or late evening, when they won’t heat up the house as much.
  • Embrace the outdoor grill, instead of cooking inside.
  • Raise the thermostat (every degree saves as much as 3 percent on cooling costs).
  • Turn off as many lights as possible, and start using cooler-burning fluorescent bulbs, which are also more energy-efficient.
  • Use fans with air conditioning or without it. With air conditioning, you will be able to raise the thermostat. Without it they’re essential.
  • Keep drapes closed.
  • Ensure window air conditioners are the correct size for the space they’re cooling.
  • Clean or replace filters.
  • Properly working attic fans can also make a big difference.