If I told you I could show you how to beat the heat in your home by at least 10 degrees without fans, air conditioning or opening (or closing) the doors and window treatments and without having the lights off would you be interested? If I could show you how to reduce that temperature by an additional 10 degrees, would you think I’m nuts?
I can do it. All the things I say here have been proven, not once or twice, but through several studies.
80 degrees is hot, but it’s livable. 100 degrees — not so much. You can reduce your perception of the temperature by 10-20 degrees if you wear a light-colored natural fiber fabric in a woven cloth. Read the study here.
Your heart rate will decrease, your skin temperature will drop and so will your blood pressure. Read that last sentence out loud. Seriously.
Wear polyester or nylon and, because these fibers don’t allow as much air circulation, you get none of these benefits and may actually perceive the temperature to be higher than it is. (Yes, I know there are some man-made performance fabrics that don’t act this way, but few of us have these in our everyday lives.)
One of the key points here is woven fabric. T-shirts are not woven fabric; they are knits.
Woven fabric has one thread going one way and one going another way (in the simplest form), with small air pockets in between. A dress shirt is made of a woven fabric.
Knits are several threads twisted around each other to form a fabric much thicker than the woven counterpart.
A sweater is a knit; a T-shirt is a thin sweater.
A polyester blouse may be wrinkle-free, but you pay for that with heat perception. Best solutions are short-sleeved, loose-fitting lightweight cotton or linen shirts with no collars.
There’s the first 10 degrees.
The second 10 degrees comes from the colors in your home. Yup.
Rooms with color schemes from the cool side of the color wheel — greens and blues — are perceived to be 10-15 degrees cooler than rooms colored from the warm side of the color wheel. ( This study quotes these studies: Stone, N. (2001). Designing effective study environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 21(2), 179190. Stone, N. & English, A. (1998). Task type, posters, and workspace color on mood, satisfaction, and performance. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 18(2), 175)
If you don’t want to change your color scheme with the seasons, fool your eyes by using blue or green-colored everyday items: drinking glasses, placemats, your housecoat, your bath towels, sheets or even a collection of blue flowers on the coffee table.
Don’t believe me? Think of a blue-walled north-facing room with a blizzard outside. Or a south-facing room with red walls. I’ve used these pictures in previous beat the heat columns, and I still haven’t found any better ones: