Central AC is for suckers. Why are you cooling every inch of your house, even the dust bunnies under the couch, when the only part that actually needs to be cooled is your body?
Having endured, sans air conditioning, countless summers in locations including the deep South and the middle of the gigantic urban heat island known as Brooklyn, I've developed the following ultra-simple method for saving myself hundreds of dollars a year in electricity bills.
For lack of a better term, I'll call it the Personal Swamp Cooler, because it works on more or less the same principle as the energy-efficient evaporative coolers that can be found in dry climates everywhere.
1. Buy a fan. A good one. Not too big.
Why would you pay $40 for a 12-inch fan? Because it moves more air than fans twice its size, and for half the energy, that's why. Which is another way to say that I like the Vornado Compact 530.
2. Secret Sauce: Buy a polymer bead-filled bandana or a synthetic "cooling towel"
This is where the magic happens and the unbelievers become converts. Campers, outdoorsfolk and people who work outside for a living have known about these things forever, but office workers, understandably, do not. There is a whole class of bandanas/towels out there that use a variety of synthetic substances to hold onto water for hours, allowing it to slowly evaporate.
Soak something comparable to a HeatMax EverCool bandana, a Frogg Togg Chilly Pad or a Chill Its Cooling Towel in water for a few minutes, wring it out, and wrap it around your neck like you’re Fred from Scooby Doo.
3. Aim fan at head. Marvel at results.
Once you've got one of your special outdoorsperson cooling things draped about your neck, you will be amazed at the degree to which the power of your conventional fan has been magnified. That's because now you're exploiting the magic of evaporative cooling. Every molecule of water that evaporates off your neck carries with it an amount of heat equivalent to water's latent heat, which is pretty damn high.
It also helps that your super-cool definitely-doesn't-make-you-look-like-a-weirdo evaporative bandana is now immediately adjacent to a pair of gigantic arteries running straight into your head. It's as if you've attached your Personal Swamp Cooler directly to a heat exchanger carrying your blood supply.
As I write this, the mercury is climbing. I'm sequestered in my home office, it's 83 degrees inside, yet I'm perfectly comfortable. I'm not spending a dime on air conditioning. Wouldn't you like to be able to say the same?