Homemade swamp coolers are an internet sensation, but were no match for Washington’s heatwave in June. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Homemade swamp coolers are an internet sensation, but were no match for Washington’s heatwave in June. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Do-it-yourself hacks to beat the heat — do they actually work?

After the June heatwave, she’s taking stock of which heat prevention tricks worked and which were a waste of time.

The deadly heatwave in June has taught me a lot. Our house doesn’t have air conditioning or a basement — and we struggled. If not for our poodle, Merlin, we might have sought shelter at a nearby cooling station. But leaving our dog at home to bake seemed heartless.

The upstairs portion of our house reached 95 degrees and the downstairs was 91. That was after we deployed an arsenal of DIY tricks to stop the heat. Now, I’m taking stock and considering which heat prevention tricks worked and which were a waste of time.

I won’t go over basic things we did like closing blinds during the day, running a box fan or opening windows at night. If you’re like me, you probably grew impatient with others recommending obvious solutions. No, I’m talking about weird things we tried and reflecting upon if they made a difference.

Let’s start with our homemade swamp coolers that I learned about from an online tutorial (youtu.be/HxSLbpAwibg). I had three of these contraptions on hand after making them last year. Correction: After coercing my husband into making them last year. Give credit, where credit is due!

The first step is to purchase a five-gallon bucket. Next, you acquire a five-gallon bucket cooler insert like you might use to store fish on a boat. The cooler inserts can be difficult to find in stores but are available online. Other materials include three small sections of PVC pipe and a small desk fan. The cooler goes into the bucket. Using a bi-metal hole saw, you drill three holes into the bucket for the PVC pipes. Then you add ice to the bucket and put the fan face down so that it blows cold air out the holes.

Like I said, we had three of these swamp coolers. If you sat in front of them, they created a nice breeze. The problem was making enough ice to keep them going. Our garage became so hot that our chest freezer defrosted on the inside. It stopped being able to freeze water in a timely matter. So while it was great that we had the swamp coolers on hand, without enough ice they were almost useless. Buying ice wasn’t an option because stores were sold out.

Another hack we tried was to black out the windows. I wedged cardboard underneath the blinds to block out the sun. The cardboard helped, but insulated packaging worked even better. I’m going to hoard this type of packaging and store it underneath my bed for future heat waves.

A problem we failed to solve during the heatwave was how to manage our skylights. Heat poured through them and there was nothing we could do to stop it without damaging the ceiling with nails. Since then I’ve purchased inexpensive heat-shield blackout curtains that attach to the glass with suction cups. It’s unclear if they will help or not, but at least we’ll have something to use on the skylights.

Finally, the biggest lesson I’ve learned from June is that we need a portable air conditioner. I’m getting estimates for traditional air conditioning as well. The climate is changing, and I want to keep my family — and our dog — safe.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at teachingmybabytoread@gmail.com.

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