It has been a sweltering summer for those of us on the West Coast of the United States. So hot that the lenses on my project car melted while it was in the shop.
I think we’ve gone beyond the point of correction and now must focus on mitigation. For those of us on the West Coast, that means massive water conservation efforts are about to dominate our lives.
Keeping our power bills down when running the air conditioning 24/7 is quite a challenge. So, this week I’m going to highlight technologies you can use to personally respond to the heat problem and deal with a world that is becoming too hot to handle.
We’ll close with my product of the week. Last week’s announced Windows 365, which looks to be a game changer.
Getting Sleep on Hot Nights
Like many folks, my wife and I don’t sleep well when the bedroom is over 75 degrees; and while we can sleep with the air conditioning on, cooling the entire house to keep our bed cool is a pretty big expense.
One alternative is to install a mini-split air conditioning system. A much cleaner installation than window air conditioning system, a mini split is a way to cool a single room. It is much more efficient than the typical non-zoned whole house system, and far cheaper to run since you are only paying to cool the room with the system.
I have one of these in my bedroom and in my office, which, during the day takes a lot of the load off the whole-house system (allowing me to set it higher), and at night I can shut down the whole-house system and cool the master bedroom. Most also can heat the room in the winter, but here the whole-house gas-fired systems will do the job more cheaply, mainly if they are zoned.
Consumer Reports ranked the mini splits, and while you need to find an air-conditioning contractor to install one, these things are lifesavers in this heat. (Oh, and my zoned central air conditioner uses the Emme system, which has held up reasonably well in two homes, including the one I’m in now).
An even lower cost solution is to cool the bed. For that I use the Ooler system, a water-cooled solution that can be split on a large bed so your sleep partner can have their side warmer or cooler than yours.
Ooler uses a heat exchanger in the room to get the heat out of your bed when it is hot, and it will electrically heat the water that circulates through the pad you put on your mattress when it is cold. Ideally, you’d vent the heat it throws off when cooling out of the room for higher efficiency, but the current generation doesn’t allow for that.
I took a wide bench seat with a top cushion and storage compartment to put the control units in, and then used PC case fans to pump the heat out of the storage area to keep those control units cool. They consume the coolant and distilled water (don’t use tap water, the minerals will eventually cause the unit to fail). I’ve been using the coolant designed for PCs in mine, and I don’t seem to have to add coolant as often as a result.
There are air-based bed coolers like the BedJet out there as well. With those, you don’t have to worry about coolant, but their temperature range isn’t as wide and you need to be comfortable with a breeze under the covers (which is a ton better than being too hot).
For working outside while seated, like on a tractor or riding a lawnmower with 12V power, consider a driver cooling system.
Rigid’s AlphaCooler makes a reasonably compact unit that you can use to lower your temperature and make working outside on a hot day while seated significantly more comfortable. The AlphaCooler is made to wed with a cooling vest, conceptually similar to how the Ooler works with a mattress pad. AlphaCooler was developed for race car drivers and, as such, is relatively robust.
If you want to be more relaxed while moving in a contained space like a garage and live in a dry climate, consider an evaporative air cooler. Ranked here, evaporative coolers introduce cool water to the air, and the process cools the air substantially. Some allow you to add ice to the system for even more cooling.
The result isn’t as dry or expensive as using a more advanced and expensive refrigeration-based system. Be aware this only works in dry climates; if you have a lot of humidity, these aren’t a good choice. I ordered the Honeywell CO301PC, which lists for around $650, but Amazon has it currently for $435. This model takes ice and stores cool beverages for use on our balcony.
Don’t forget cooling neck wraps. These little miracles hold a decent amount of water and will help you keep calm until the water dries out (also only good in dry climates since they use evaporation to cool).
There are also cooling jackets for dogs, which are similar to cooling towels for humans. By the way, don’t shave your dog without first checking with a veterinarian; for some this will ruin their coat and make them vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer.
It’s hot and likely to get hotter in many places, suggesting more aggressive and more affordable cooling options are and will be critical for a comfortable life in the future.
Another thing to consider, if your region allows it, is rain harvesting to counter what is likely to be massive drought-based rationing. The company I’m thinking of working for within Oregon, where I live, is Oregon Rain Harvesting.
Finally, be aware that many electric cars allow you to turn the car off but still leave the air conditioning on (in a gas car, the engine has to be running), keeping the car cool for your return. It has made a huge difference with my Jaguar I-Pace, as getting into a car in 110-degree heat isn’t fun at all since it can be up to 40 degrees warmer in the car on a hot day.
Good luck — and stay cool out there.
I’ve been covering Windows as an analyst since 1994 and the launch of Windows 95.
Microsoft last week at its Inspire event unveiled Windows 365, which is potentially an even more significant game changer than Windows 95.
This version is streamed Windows, and like Office 365, is delivered as a service.
It will be constrained by network bandwidth and latency, not processor or GPU speeds, given it mostly runs remotely — and you can thank the rollout of 5G that this is even possible.
Windows 365 arrives just as networks are able to handle this kind of load, although many still likely cannot. So, initially, this won’t be practical for everyone.
The advantage to a solution like this is performance is only limited by what you can access remotely, which is up to full-on workstation hardware right now and eventually will include even more advanced elements.
Your work will be safer because it resides in a secure cloud environment — not on your PC — so even if your hardware is stolen or catastrophically fails, your work will be preserved.
The service will handle updates and patching, so you no longer have to deal with those issues, and responses to security threats should be far faster. Microsoft can apply the fix almost immediately after the threat has been identified and analyzed rather than waiting for a typical patch rollout.
But much like Windows has evolved a great deal since its intro more than 35 years ago, this is just the beginning for Windows 365, and I expect its evolution will be far more dramatic. This is because Windows 365 will have access to cloud resources that are relatively unlimited, particularly when compared to what is currently available on a PC.
This platform will predate but eventually embrace artificial intelligence, quantum computing, advanced forms of telepresence, and drive a hardware revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since the PC was created.
Available Aug. 2, Windows 365 can be one of the most significant events this century — and it is my product of the week.