Canada's Condominium Magazine

No air conditioning; trying to save energy? Six stay-cool lessons from hotter climates around the world

In Canada, we endure long winters, looking forward to our balmy summers. Then, once summer hits, we complain about sweltering heat and mosquitos. Here are some “cooling tricks” from much warmer climates, that might help keep you cool, without staying at home and cranking the A/C.

In Part 1 of this two-parter, we look at tips for “going out in the heat.” After all, what’s the point of looking forward to summer if you can’t go out?


In the heat, the condo pool or the city pool are good alternatives to the gym.


In part 2, tomorrow, we’ll run through some of the low-tech ways you can use to cool your condo without turning on the air conditioner; or, at least, saving a few hundred dollars by turning the temperature higher.

Look to hot climates for tips on staying cool

Look to hot climates to see how people handle heat without air conditioning. For instance, the plains of India can reach 47 degrees Celsius (not humidex, straight temperature) — much higher than we have to cope with even in Toronto summer. Heat stroke can be deadly — as seen in Quebec this summer. A few cooling tips can help.


Looking to hotter climates for tips on staying cool in Toronto: try white, loose fitting cotton clothing and something to cover your head.


What works in hotter climates around the world, in sweltering weather, works just as well here. In North America we tend to favour tank-tops and shorts; in hotter climates, skin is mostly covered, but with loose, long, light-coloured, natural fabrics such as cotton — which is a bonus in mosquito country. A compromise might be fashionable “harem pants.” So, what else can we learn from these hotter climates, which make our summers seem positively frigid? We’ve pulled together some tips from around the world, first for the body when you venture out, then for your condo for when it’s too hot to try.


Spicy hot food are proven to cool the body. They trigger sweating, which cools the body.


For the body

1. Stay cool by eating hot

There are two ways to eat cool. One is hot, spicy food — which may sound counter-intuitive. Ever wonder why in hot climates, spicy food is universally preferred? This is because most spicy foods contain capsaicin — spices such as jalepeno, habanero or cayenne, and even most curries — which triggers us to sweat more. When combined with plenty of liquids, which spicy food inevitably does, this actually dramatically cools us down through the day.

“Spicy foods excite the receptors in the skin that normally respond to heat,” wrote Professor Barry Green of Yale in an article in Sicentific American. “Therefore, the pattern of activity from pain and warm nerve fibres triggers both the sensations and the physical reactions of heat, including vasodilation, sweating, and flushing.”

The other trick is to eat cool. This isn’t a contradiction. Along with your spicy jalepeno and currie, serve a side of watery and cooling cucumbers and watermelon, and other watery vegetables and fruits.


If you are out and about, and feel too hot, seek out the nearest air-conditioned mall or public area. Don’t necessarily take the lawn chairs to the supermarket, however (Scene from Married with Children.)


2. Drink plenty of non-alcoholic drinks — especially water

The idea behind sweating is to cool down the body. Water is the best hydrated for most people, although one trick from hot climates is “lemon soda”, which goes by names such as soda lemon, banta, Nimbu paani. You can also make your own. Lemon and lime with water is refreshing and cooling. Coconut water is especially useful in the heat, as it replaces many of the minerals and electrolytes we tend to sweat out. Carry an electrolyte powerder pouch or drink when you find yourself sweating more than usual.

Most experts also suggest to always carry a water bottle. Whether you walk, bike or drive, the bottle goes with you. Heat stroke can hit without warning, and is quite dangerous; water is one of the best defences. Avoid sugary drinks, pops and alcohol.


Loose fitting clothing made of natural fabrics is the secret to a cooler summer. Loose clothing from New Market Kokata India. You don’t have to be this flamboyant, of course.


3. Forget fashion: wear loose natural fabrics

While North American iconic summer wear tends to be shorts and tanks, for people who live in much hotter climates, the real secret to keeping cool is loose natural fabrics. Covering the skin with light cloth (light in colour and weight) is much cooler than baring your skin to the sun. While it seems counter intuitive to “cover up” with clothing, think if it as your metaphorical portable shade tree. The looser the better, allowing a flow of air under the garments. Cotton is the coolest, but other natura hand-spun fabrics are suitable as well, such as hemp, banana fibre and linens. Bonus — this rig is nearly mosquito-proof — and if you do use the DEET, try spraying it on your loose clothing instead of right on your skin.


Harem pants are a great way to cover up and stay cool. Covered skin is usually cooler — and helps keeps mosquitos at bay.


4. Speaking of shade-trees, wear a hat

Along with your loose cotton clothing, consider a wide, cotton hat — or a scarf loosely wrapped. Or, if you don’t mind looking a little different, carry your rain unbrella on the sunny day. Nothing beats a little shade.

Broadbrims that shade the face are best for cooling, preferrably with vent holes. Cotton fabric, again, breathes. Simple, clever designs, such as Tilley hats, are ubiquitous with tourists in hotter climates, but just as useful in Toronto during a heatwave. It may not be high-fashion, but it’s your own portable shade tree.


Hats are a great way to stay cool. Even with sunblock, hats are highly recommended.


5. Hit the shopping malls; use the condo pool

Although Toronto opens “cooling centres” during heat waves, one sure way to enjoy A/C without paying the hydro costs is a trip to the mall. Preferrably on an air-conditioned bus or subway? Right TTC? It’s important in major heatwaves, especially if you have no air conditioning at home, or if you’re out and about and suddenly feel faint with heat, to hit the A/C “hotspots” such as shopping malls, big box stores, grocery stores, and cooling centres.


A beautiful pool and view at the Tridel community Bianca on New Dupont.


6. For exercise, skip the gym, hit the pool

For obvious reasons.

See tomorrow, for part 2: Low-tech and cost-effective keep cool tips for the condo

If you’re trying to save a few hundred dollars, try turning the A/C two or three degrees higher. Or, go without except on the real heat-wave days. For the non-A/C crowd, or to supplement your air conditioning, try some of these tips… (coming tomorrow.)

Auberge on the Park-Tridel


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