Far fewer consumer products are aimed at cooling you in the summer than warming you in the winter.
But as temperatures continue to rise across the land, as they have this summer, expect a boom in technology to make the heat more bearable. New products are already being invented.
Some help you cope with outdoor situations. Others are designed for indoors, either with, or as an alternative to, air-conditioning.
Some that we tried worked well, others not so much. But all are likely to leave you optimistic about the future of cooling.
Brookstone Bed Fan
Trouble sleeping because youre too hot? The Brookstone Bed Fan sits at the edge of your bed. Through a thin chamber aimed at your feet, it blows cold air under your sheets. I found the fan well designed and easy to operate. It sells for $99.99 and comes with a handy wireless remote control.
But it works best if your bed is between 26 and 57 inches high. My bed is lower than that, which meant that we had to position the fan at an angle to catch the breeze, and it fell down during the night. Still, while the device worked, the cool air felt dreamy.
I didnt have the same reaction to the Chili Technology Chili/Cloud, a gel-filled pillow thats supposed to stay cool. I liked its firmness, but didnt feel any chill whatsoever. Maybe some would find it cooler. But at $129 for the deluxe model, youre placing a big bet.
I much preferred Chili Technologys ChiliPad. This invention cools or heats your entire bed by piping cold water through capillaries under your slumbering body.
To set it up, spread the ChiliPad on your mattress, then place your fitted sheet and the rest of your bedding on top. Connect the pad to an electronic control unit thats outfitted with a thermostat and a pump. Fill the control unit with water, set your desired temperature from a chilly 46 degrees to a sweltering 118 and turn on the device.
In a few minutes, your bed will achieve the desired thermal condition. Even better, the model I tested had two control units, which meant my wife and I could set two different temperatures.
The ChiliPad was marvelous. But the model I tested, a queen-size pad with two zones, is $899; the cheapest ChiliPad, for a single bed, sells for $399. The dual-zone California King: $999.
Columbia Sportswear is best known for its winter fashion, but the company recently employed a team of researchers to wrestle with the paradoxical challenge of designing clothes that make you cool.
Its new apparel line, Omni-Freeze Zero, is due out in 2013. It consists of mens and womens athletic shirts, pants and shoes made of a fabric treated with a compound that is endothermic in an aqueous state. That means the material feels chillier when wet.
During a regular workout at the gym, I tested an Omni-Freeze Zero athletic shirt, which will sell for about $60. Once I began to sweat, the shirt kept me substantially cooler than an ordinary athletic shirt. It didnt feel cold, exactly just not unpleasantly warm.
This device, which sells for about $49.95, is about the size of a 1980s-era mobile phone. It works like most other hand-held battery-powered fans: You turn it on and aim it at your face.
But the Handy Cooler has an ingenious innovation that distinguishes it from its competitors. Tucked behind the fans blades is a sponge-like cooling filter that youre supposed to douse with cold water.
Turn on the fan, and air passes through the wet filter, reducing the surrounding temperature by several degrees, creating an oasis of cool air that you can take anywhere.
The EnduraCool instant cooling towel, made by Mission Athletecare, works in a similar way. After you drench the thin towel under a faucet, youre supposed to snap it several times in the air. This action is said to activate the towels cooling mechanism, though I cant tell you how well it works compared to alternative methods.
Sure, when I wrapped the wet towel around my neck, it did make me cool, but I suspect I would have gotten the same result by hanging an ordinary damp rag in its place. The EnduraCool sells for about $15, which is more than youll pay for an average hand towel.