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The heat is definitely on

We moved from South Florida in part because I don't really like hot weather.

Thermometer_hot So I guess coming back home to Texas wasn't the smartest move in that regard. Right now, my WeatherBug icon is flashing 107 from my PC's task bar.

I think (hope!) that might be a bit on the high side, but here we go again. Last July, just after we moved into our house, we went through almost two straight weeks of triple-digit temps.

But it's a dry heat.

OK, some of my fellow Austinites might argue that point. But having lived in South Florida for six years and many more in the area surrounding the reclaimed swampland that is the nation's capital, relatively speaking, Central Texas isn't a very humid region.

Sure, it's a little damper here than the desert of West Texas, where I spent my childhood playing outside, impervious to the heat as long as someone on the block had a sprinkler going that we could run through.

But compared to the air you can literally touch in SoFla, I'll take it.

Plus, I know that in December, I'll get to wear my coat for a while, but not have to shovel the snow we did back in Maryland. So all in all, I'm dealing with Austin weather just fine.

Procter & Gamble issued a report last month that backs up my youthful meteorological memories and current climatologically assessments.

The consumer goods company happens to make Old Spice and the company's "study" a vehicle to hype the brand's deodorant bar. But the findings are interesting, even when taken with that bead of sweat.

P&G says the top 10 sweatiest U.S. cities are:

  1. Phoenix, Ariz.
  2. Las Vegas, Nev.
  3. Tucson, Ariz.
  4. Dallas, Texas
  5. Corpus Christi, Texas
  6. San Antonio, Texas
  7. Austin, Texas
  8. Shreveport, La.
  9. Houston, Texas
  10. Waco, Texas

You're thinking that totally refutes my argument, right? Well, let me relate what the report says a few paragraphs later:

While Phoenix is still the nation's sweatiest city [and] the state of Texas is perhaps the sweatiest state in the country … you're likely to find the weather in Miami a lot less comfortable. The combination of heat and humidity there results in sweat that doesn't easily evaporate -- which leads to soaked shirts and sweaty brows.

"Heat -- and becoming overheated -- is what causes people to sweat," said Dr. Paul Ruscher, associate professor and associate chair of meteorology at Florida State University, "but high humidity prevents sweat from evaporating."

Taking both of those factors into consideration, the 10 most uncomfortable cities in America are Miami, Fla.; Corpus Christi, Texas; Orlando, Fla.; Phoenix, Ariz. (where you can still fry a CBS egg on the sidewalk); West Palm Beach, Fla.; Houston, Texas; San Antonio, Texas; New Orleans, La.; Tampa, Fla. and Fort Myers, Fla.

See. No Austin on that sweaty AND uncomfortable list.

No escape: I believe Al Gore. Not about that Internet thing, although even that's more credible than Ted Stevens' "tubes" explanation of the medium.

I share Al's conviction that global warming is here, there and everywhere.

That said, you can't use summer as the gauge because, for as long as I can remember, it's just plain hot every damn place from late May through the end of September.

Look at the news reports. Minnesota, the state that has underground tunnels so its residents can escape brutal winter snows, is frying right now. Heat-related energy usage caused problems today on some New York subway lines. Golfers at the British Open are melting. The hubby covers golf and his buddies over there in Liverpool for the tournament are bemoaning the heat and the lack of iced beverages to relieve it.

This isn't new. One of the first trips we ever took together more than 20 years ago was to Toronto in July. We thought we'd get out of the MidAtlantic swelter and relax in the cool of the Great White North. No such luck. It was just as hot there as the Washington, D.C., area. And things haven't changed.

Check out Toronto Mike's blog, where he reports it's the hottest Canadian year on record and offers his list of "hot" songs.

Keeping cool: In such conditions, you need to take care of yourself and your home.

On the personal level, you should stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and doing so before you feel parched.

But don't overdo it, especially if you exercise. There have been reports of water intoxication of people who work out and then dangerously dilute their bodies' already depleted-by-sweat salt content with too much water. The condition is hyponatremia, and you can read about it here.

To avoid that danger, replace your lost salt and minerals by supplementing H2O with drink fruit juices and sports beverages.

And wear lightweight, light-colored clothing of natural fibers that breathes.

Fan_2 Keeping cool, the home version: As for your house, here are a few ways to ensure your air conditioner doesn't collapse either.

Change the filters regularly. Dirty filters restrict air flow, reducing efficiency and worse case, can cause the evaporator to ice up.

Be sure all access panels are secure, with all the screws in place.

Clean obvious obstructions such as overgrown shrubs, leaves, trash, etc. from around the exterior of the unit.

You can find more A/C tips here.

Our latest, and largest to date, bill from Austin Electric contains these handy tips to help keep the rest of your house cool:

Make sure your home's duct work is in shape. Leaking ducts, especially in older homes, can cost you up to $25 a month in added cooling costs.

Check your home's insulation. Without adequate amounts, you'll use around 15 percent more A/C.

Install solar window screens or window tinting. These deflective devices can block up to 70 percent of the sun's heat causing rays. You also can simply close blinds and curtains to keep the rooms cooler.

Turn off lights if you're not using them. Where you can, switch to cooler, more energy-efficient fluorescent lighting.

Check weather stripping. Your dad was right: You don't want to be air-conditioning the whole block by letting the cool air seep out around windows and doors.

Make microwave meals. They produce about a third of the heat of conventional stoves.

And be sure to get Uncle Sam to help you pay for some of your energy-efficient improvements.

As I noted in this earlier post (the Tax rewards for energy-efficient homes section), the Energy Policy Act of 2005 now offers homeowners a tax credit of up to $500 for specific energy-saving products installed in homes between Jan. 1, 2006, and Dec. 31, 2007.

Eligible improvements include energy-efficient windows, insulation, doors, roofs and heating and cooling systems.

So get to work, but stay cool!


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