(ARA) - Last year's summer temperatures broke records in many areas of the country. Depending on where you live, this summer could be shaping up to be a scorcher for you. As temperatures climb, many of us retreat indoors, leaving our outdoor living spaces vacant until fall. However, it is possible to enjoy being outside throughout the sultry months if you take a few steps to keep your outdoor living spaces as cool as possible.
Here are a few ideas to help you keep your cool outdoors this summer:
* Ever wonder why you sweat? It's your body's way of cooling off. "The effect of sweat evaporating off your skin makes you feel cooler," explains Rick Kelly of Port-A-Cool, LLC, makers of portable evaporative coolers. "You can borrow Mother Nature's smart trick and use evaporation to cool off your environment, too."
Evaporative coolers like those made by Port-A-Cool can significantly lower the air temperature in outdoor living spaces while using less electricity than it takes to run a typical hair dryer. For example, the Cyclone 2000 can lower temperatures by up to 30 degrees in 500 square feet of space, and features a convenient hose connection so you don't have to keep refilling the water tank. For larger spaces, use two coolers positioned at cross angles to each other to maximize effectiveness. Log on to www.port-a-cool.com to learn more about portable evaporative coolers.
* Shade is a smart, natural way to lower the temperature in an outdoor setting. You can find plenty of options for creating shade, from simple and temporary solutions like umbrellas, to more permanent and decorative tactics such as retractable awnings. You can even use nature to create shade by strategically positioning trees and shrubs or vine-covered trellises. When considering shade options, keep in mind the time of day your outdoor space gets the most sun and position shade elements accordingly.
* What you sit on can be just as important to your cooling comfort as where you sit. To minimize heat absorption, choose outdoor furnishings that will enhance coolness such as pieces upholstered in light fabrics or naturally breathable materials like wicker. Avoid metal, which will heat up in the sun, or darker-hued wood or vinyl furniture, since dark colors absorb more sunlight and will make your seating area feel hotter.
* Al fresco dining is one of summer's great pastimes, but a grill can heat up your outdoor living space significantly if it's too close to seating areas. One option for cooler culinary experiences is to avoid grilling altogether. Order takeout - after all, you're on summer break - or serve no-cook meals such as fresh salads and fruit dishes. If you must cook, look for recipes that require minimal cooking time and that don't involve starting the oven. When grilling, move the grill as far away from seating areas as possible; the positioning is not only safer, it will help keep your outdoor environment cooler as well.
* Of course, leaving your refrigerator door open isn't an option for cooling things down inside, but you can use some fridge tricks to help yourself stay cool outdoors. Freeze bottled water and carry the iced beverages with you when you sit outside. You can use the frozen bottle as a convenient face cooler and sip the chilled beverage as the ice melts. Chill a spray bottle of water in the refrigerator, and then take it outside for a refreshing face spritz. You can also store sunscreen and skin lotions in the refrigerator for an added punch of cool refreshment when you apply them.