By Pang-Chieh Ho
This week I’m settling the debate on whether a window fan should face inside or outside and offering other tips on how to stay cool this summer. Also in this issue: the surprising amount of food we throw out. And I’ll answer a question from one of you: “What happens when sunscreen expires?”
THE BIG STORY‘Big Fan of Yours’
For the first eight years I lived in New York City, I managed to do the near impossible: I hardly turned my AC on in the summer.
Part of it was practicality. I was barely making enough money in the first few years, and I wanted to keep my electricity costs low. Second and perhaps most importantly, none of my roommates at that time had an AC, and I felt selfish for using one while others languished in the heat.
So I rarely turned on my AC and got inventive instead. One summer, I slept with a tower fan laid out on my bed like a person so it could blast air straight into my face. And during a string of particularly hot days, I once dragged my desk to the entrance of my apartment and worked with my front door propped open because I could feel a breeze coming from the hallway. I wasn’t going to let my neighbors’ confused faces stop me from enjoying it. We all have a past. Mine is just a bit sweatier than yours.
For the past two years, I’ve eased up a bit on my no-AC rule because I realized extreme heat can pose a health risk. On the days when it’s not too hot in the summer, however, I still try to use the AC as infrequently as I can, given that its use accelerates climate change. This means that fans have been a lifeline for me, and if you’ve ever wondered whether you’re utilizing your fans properly, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Here are the answers to some common questions about fans and ventilation.
Should a window fan face in or out?
When polled, our social media users who used window fans said they faced theirs inside, but the real answer is a bit more complicated.
You should place outward-facing fans on the warmer side of your home to blow the hot air out and inward-facing fans on the cooler side to draw cool air in, says Barry Jacobs, vice president of product development at Comfort Zone, a home environment product company.
If you live in a multilevel house, the upper floors are likely to be warmer in the summer than the ground floor. You can have fans blowing out of the windows on the upper level to exhaust the warm air trapped there, says Chris Regan, an engineer and CR tester of AC units. And when the outside temperature starts to drop, you can pair that with fans blowing inward in shadier rooms to maximize the airflow in your home.
When is the best time to use a window fan? When is the best time to keep windows closed?
Window fans are most effective at exhausting hot air from your home, so in general, the best time to use them is when the air indoors is hotter or less comfortable than the air outside.
When the temperature outdoors is higher than inside, try closing your windows and shades to prevent hot air from coming in and cooler air from getting out instead of using window fans.
Which direction should a ceiling fan spin in the summer, clockwise or counterclockwise?
The ceiling fan should operate counterclockwise (or blow down) so that you’ll feel a cool breeze standing directly underneath the fan, according to the Department of Energy.
If you’re using air conditioning to cool your home, a ceiling fan can allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4° F without you feeling too uncomfortable, which helps reduce electricity costs. And when you leave the room, make sure to turn off your ceiling fan to conserve energy.
Are electric fans enough to stay cool in a heat wave?
If your indoor air temperatures are hotter than about 95° F, fans are not effective at cooling you down, according to the New York State Department of Health. To be safe, you should stay in air-conditioned spaces as much as possible from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., typically the warmest time of the day.
Heat waves are no joke and can be hazardous—here are our tips on how to stay cool in extreme heat.
If you want to stay cool, but you’re also conscious about saving money and energy, here is our advice on what you can do (you can check out more here).
☀️ Block the sun. Use window shades, blinds, or curtains to keep the sunlight from coming into the room.
💨 Seal the leaks. Sealing up gaps around windows, especially the gaps around your window AC, and door frames can prevent hot air from sneaking in and raising your cooling costs.
🌡️ Experiment with the AC temperature. For every degree you raise your thermostat, you’ll save about 3 percent on your utility bill.
What are your ways of staying cool this summer? Tell me. (No really, I’m serious. This is not a request. I need to know.)
ASK AN EXPERT
Reader’s question: What happens when sunscreen expires? Does it stop working?
When the ingredients of your sunscreen show signs of separating or if your sunscreen has changed color or has a funny smell, then your sunscreen has likely expired. And once it expires, it may lose its sun-protecting properties.
Sunscreens usually have a shelf life of around three years, and some have an expiration date on the container, which makes it easy to determine the product’s “freshness.”
48.5 billion: The number of robocalls people in the U.S. are expected to receive this year, which is down from the 50.4 billion in 2021, but still, well, high. This is why I don’t answer calls.
$1,866: The average estimated value of food American families throw out per year. Or, in even more vivid terms, the average U.S. household throws out about a third of the food it acquires.
78 percent: The percentage of Americans considering getting a car or truck in the next year who said they are planning to buy, compared with the 9 percent who said they would lease one. (And here are the pros and cons of buying vs. leasing.)
½ inch: How much longer your shoe should be than your longest toe to prevent bunions and hammertoes.
THE GOOD STUFF
TEST RESULTS JUST IN
Every week, we test dozens of products to see how well they perform. Some get high ratings, while others don’t pass muster. This week, the item we rated as a Don’t Buy: Safety Risk is the Tony Hawk Silver Signature Series helmet. Why? Well, it failed one of our safety tests.
THE SHORT ANSWER
Do cars with dark interiors get hotter in the sun? Yes (but not as much as you’d think).
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