Beat the Heat with Science!

Posted: July 21, 2016, 2:40 pm by cspeciale

Wow, it sure is hot out there and it's only going to get hotter! During an extended period of hot and humid days, it can be difficult (not to mention frustrating) to keep cool. To add to the aggravation, cooling costs can really add up and many may be reluctant to turn on the air conditioner. But what else can we do? Actually, some simple science may provide solutions to beat the heat.

First off, your clothing can actually be a big factor. Besides just putting on shorts and t-shirts, keep in mind the color and tightness of your choices. Stay away from dark and tight clothing and try going for light and loose fitting options. Dark colors tend to absorb sunlight while lighter colors reflect it. Every object has what scientists call an albedo which measures how much sunlight it reflects. An object with a high albedo (eg. white shirt) means it reflects light and thus stays cool. On the other hand, an object with a low albedo (eg. dark shirt) means it absorbs most of the light and therefore tends to be warmer. That's why blacktop surfaces in the summer can become so hot...they have a low albedo and absorb most of the sunlight.

Say you are still hot wearing a white, loose shirt and shorts. What other science facts can help? Try spraying water on your face and sit in front of the fan. It may sound a little silly but it truly works! Think about the last time you came out of the pool or ocean and a breeze hit you. Felt chilly right? That's because evaporation is a cooling process. In order for water to turn from a liquid state to gas state, energy must be taken away from its environment to change its phase. So, when water is on your skin and you blow air over it, you are accelerating the evaporation process. The heat on your skin will be used to change the water into vapor, leaving you feeling cool. Next time you are debating whether to turn the air on at home, try these simple remedies instead. You will be amazed how cool you can be without putting a dent in your pocket.

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