what science says about the best method to cool down in the heat

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The latest heat wave is already dissipating, but summer has only just begun, so it’s a good idea to prepare for the months of July and August. The strategies to combat the heat are the most varied, but among the first that always come to mind are fans and air conditioning. Each one has its defenders and detractors, but the truth is that there is no one system strictly superior to the other. That is why it is convenient to make an objective analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of each one, in order to make a choice based on our needs.


Some of the most common types of apparatus.
Both among air conditioners and among fans, different types can be distinguished depending on the criteria to which we refer. Perhaps one of the most important differences is the installation. In both cases we can find devices that require installation and others that can be considered portable.

Air conditioners work transferring heat from the inside of the building to the outside, more or less like a refrigerator does. Among the most common air conditioners are the installed ones. These have an internal device that is responsible for cooling us (or giving us heat) and a device that is installed on the outside responsible for dissipating heat. A (more or less) portable version of these is the “penguin”, which dissipates the air through a duct that we take out through the window to the outside.

Among the fans, the ceiling fans are distinguished from the portable ones. The roof ones are the most effective, capable of circulating air throughout the room in which they are installed. Also, like air conditioning, they can help maintain thermal comfort in both summer and winter by moving cold air up and hot air down.

I want to cool my house: technology to combat the heat from just over 20 euros

Thermal comfort and real temperature.
Air conditioning systems have an important advantage over fans, which is that they cool the air instead of simply generating currents of it. These devices will bring the temperature of the room to which the thermostat marks them. That yes, his energy consumption It will depend on the difference between the room temperature and the one we set on the thermostat.

Fans do not cool the air but they can reduce our wind chill up to five degrees. This can give us the relief we need on a hot day, but it implies an important limitation, and that is that, if the air that “throws over” us is above our body temperature, the fan will heat us more than it does. cool down The temperature limit which is usually set is 35 degrees centigrade. At higher temperatures, it is advisable to turn off the appliance.

Both systems can, yes, be used in combination.
In cases of extreme heat, the air conditioning can lower the temperature a few degrees until it is possible to use the fan. As the cost of the air conditioning is relative to the temperature differential, we can use the fan to lower the thermal sensation a few more degrees without having to spend more.

Combining systems has one more advantage, especially if we use ceiling fans, since these will make it easier for the air to circulate, which in turn will make the temperature more stable, not causing the air conditioning to activate and deactivate too often.

It not only depends on the temperature, but also on the humidity.
The fan has one more limitation and that is that it works better when the environment is not too dry. The absence of humidity can make this device useless, so air conditioning is also the only viable option in very dry conditions. Of course, we must also take into account that the air conditioning will dry out the environment even more, which is not desirable.

Using a humidifier (or other more homemade systems such as bowls of water) can be useful whether we want to use a fan in a dry environment or if we are going to use the air conditioning. If we opt for this last option, it is also a good idea to pay attention to our own hydration and drink water.

Efficiency is as important as effectiveness.
If fans have a clear advantage over air conditioning, it is their lower energy consumption, which can be 10 times lower. On average, air conditioning accounts for 1% of electricity consumption in Spanish homes, which translates into about 40kWh (in 2010 data).

The cost of each system will depend on whether we install a fixed or portable one. Keep in mind that ceiling fans can be more useful than portable ones, and that portable air conditioners are less efficient than installed ones.

Health is also important.
So much air-conditioning What fans they can negatively affect our health, but fortunately we have tools at our disposal to avoid possible damage. Our body has room to adapt to cold or heat, but sudden changes in temperature do not suit it, even if it is to improve thermal comfort.

cold can cause irritations in our respiratory tract, even more so when we sleep, since our body temperature drops. For this reason, even if we have a device on to refresh ourselves at bedtime, it is a good idea to program it so that it turns off later. In the case of the fan, the best precaution is not to have it too close when sleeping. The irritations caused by the cold are just another annoyance, the serious problem for our health appears when germs appear in the air conditioning filters that can cause us an infection. To avoid this, it is important to maintain these devices well, cleaning filters with certain frequency.

Weigh advantages and disadvantages.
Air conditioning is the most versatile option and The only one that can get us out of trouble when thermometers approach 40 degrees. But it is also the most expensive option, so its use will depend a lot on our energy budget unless we use it paying attention to details.

Avoiding its use during the hours of greatest energy demand of the day (although these often coincide with the hottest) can be a way of preventing our electricity bill from rising in summer. Using the air in combination with a fan can also be a way to avoid the worst of the heat without having to lower the thermostat too much.

Natural ventilation and other ways to cool down.
Electrical appliances are not the only tools we have to keep us cool in summer and during heat waves. A good piece of advice is to keep our homes well insulated from the heat of the street and ventilate them well as soon as the temperatures allow it.

Opening the windows to the fresh air can also be a good alternative when we go to sleep if we do not want to have appliances on. The noise here can be decisive. Sleeping well during summer nights can be a very difficult task, but achieving it is of vital importance, since a restful sleep is necessary to maintain good health and well-being.

Image | Galvão Menacho

The latest heat wave is already dissipating, but summer has only just begun, so it’s a good idea to prepare…

The latest heat wave is already dissipating, but summer has only just begun, so it’s a good idea to prepare…

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