As someone who lives on the second floor of a large brick building, I know a thing or two about stifling rooms in the heat of summer.
You know, the kind of heat that has you lying awake in the middle of the night missing all that snow from January. The kind of heat that finds you standing in your kitchen with the freezer door open, leaning further and further into the cool, icy haven.
In our house, this weather is known as “stupid hot.”
And every year, it keeps getting hotter, earlier. When the weatherman announces another heatwave is on the way, for many, the answer is simple – turn on the air conditioning.
With over a billion single-room air conditioning units globally, it’s becoming harder and harder to imagine a home without AC. Yet, our air conditioning addiction plays a significant role in why it’s hotter year after year.
As temperatures rise, we’re more likely to kick on the AC, but doing so adds to the problem.
The energy needed to run these units, and often the coolants inside them, all contribute to a significant portion of our greenhouse gas emissions.
And then there’s the cost. Running an air conditioner can send your energy bill skyrocketing. It’s not uncommon for electric bills to double in the hotter months of the year.
Between the cost to your wallet and the climate, folks are looking for other options to beat the heat.
But how do you keep your home cool if you don’t have or want air conditioning?
For starters, pull your head out of the freezer, grab the ice cubes and pour yourself an ice-cold glass of switchel. Put on your coolest outfit, and join me back here for 25 brilliant ways to keep yourself and your home cool without using an air conditioner.
Quick Ways to Cool Your Home
1. Ceiling Fans
First thing’s first. Make sure every ceiling fan in your home spins counterclockwise.
You’d be surprised how many people are unaware that ceiling fans should spin in different directions depending on the time of year. In the warmer months, ceiling fans should spin counterclockwise; doing so will move air up, creating a slight wind chill effect in the room.
In the winter, set your ceiling fan to spin clockwise on the slowest setting, and the fan will force warm air back down into the room. Most fans have a switch somewhere near the top that can be flipped one way or another to change the direction the blades spin. Just be sure you turn your fan off first before flipping the switch.
2. Open Windows in the Evening and Shut Them During the Day
In the evening, once the sun goes down, open up the windows and let the cooler air into your house. In the morning, before it starts getting warm, close everything back up again. This works especially well if you can close the windows before the sun comes up. I’m always amazed at what a huge difference this makes in my home.
3. Keep Your Blinds Closed
Along with closing up the windows, if you keep the blinds closed when the sun is shining on that side of your home, you’ll also reduce the amount of heat coming into your home.
I do this with my east and west-facing windows each day, and it makes a noticeable difference. I start in the morning by drawing the curtains on the eastern-facing windows. Once the sun has passed to the other side of the house, I open them and close up the western facing blinds and curtains.
4. Invest in Light-blocking Curtains
The sunlight that comes pouring in through your windows brings a lot of heat with it. When you close the curtains, you can immediately feel the difference.
To keep as much excess heat out as possible, invest in a set of light-blocking curtains. Choose curtains that are light in color, with a heavy, white backing to reflect the heat. Not only are they great for keeping the hot sun at bay, but they also help to keep rooms warmer in the winter.
5. Enjoy an Ocean Breeze
There’s nothing quite like the cool breeze that rolls in off the ocean. Make your own faux ocean breeze at home. Fill a shallow baking dish or pie plate with ice cubes or ice packs and put the dish in front of a fan. Turn the fan to the highest setting and enjoy! No sunscreen is needed for this breezy trip to the beach.
6. Create a Cross Breeze
While fans don’t cool air, they can still make you feel cooler by creating a cross breeze. Set up fans on opposite ends of a room, hallway, or window so that one is pulling the air and the other pushing. This will create a breeze that moves across the room, making you feel cooler.
7. Shut the Door
To keep interior rooms cool during the day, keep the doors closed. This will prevent warm air from heating the room, as well as make it easier to cool your entire house down in the evenings after the sun has gone down.
This works especially well with bedrooms, which you’ll want to keep as cool as possible for sleeping.
8. Use a Box Fan to Vent Hot Air
At the end of the day, when it’s time to reopen the windows and let the cool air in, don’t forget to put a box fan in a window. Face the fan so it’s pulling air out, and it will vent the warm air of the day, cooling your home faster.
If you’re able, consider putting another box fan on the opposite side of the house, so it’s pulling in the cooler air. For the best results, pick an eastern-facing window, as it will have had less sun exposure during the second half of the day. The air from this side of the house will be significantly cooler.
9. Box Fan with Cold, Wet Sheet
This next tip is pure heaven.
Make a lovely ocean-like breeze and maximize the benefits of a box fan and the cool night air. Put a box fan in your window, so it’s pulling air into the room. Dampen a bed sheet with cold water and wring it out well. Hang the sheet from the top of your window in front of the fan.
You’ll get a lovely, misty and cool breeze, and by morning your sheet will be dry and ready for the next toasty evening. If you want to go all out, make yourself a fancy cocktail with an umbrella.
10. Ditch Those Old Incandescent Bulbs
It’s time to get rid of all those old incandescent lightbulbs. Anyone who’s tried to change one after it’s been on for a while can attest to the massive amount of heat they create. Now, think about all the heat they’re adding to your house in the evenings.
LED light bulbs are affordable and more energy efficient. Switching will not only reduce the heat but will save you a significant amount of money.
11. Skip the Stove
Nothing heats up a house as quick as cooking. While that’s great in the winter, it makes for a sweaty and unpleasant meal in the summer. In the hottest months, consider eating cool.
Enjoy fresh salads from your garden and other no-heat dishes. Fire up the grill as often as possible. Consider meal-prepping, doing all of your indoor cooking one day each week, so you only have to heat up your kitchen once.
12. Turn on Your Bathroom and Kitchen Exhaust Fans
These fans are made to vent air, moisture, and the smoke from that skillet of bacon you forgot was on the stove when the phone rang.
Turn exhaust fans on during the day to pull the hot air out of your home. The bathroom fan works especially well for this, as warm air rises.
13. Top-Down and Bottoms Up
To create a spectacular cross breeze in your home, pay attention to how the wind is blowing. Open the top sash of your windows, so they are downwind, and open the bottom window on the side of your home that’s upwind. The cooler air will force the warm (rising) air out.
14. Save Your Chores for the Evening
Appliances such as dishwashers, washing machines, and especially clothes dryers all put out heat when they’re in use. While you can’t stop washing clothes and doing the dishes, you can wait and do these chores in the evening when it’s cooler out.
If you have the option, hang your clothes outside to dry. If it’s stupid hot out, you might as well put that heat to good use.
Get a Cool Night’s Sleep
Nothing ruins a good night’s sleep like trying to sleep in a hot, stuffy room. You might be able to bear the heat all through the day, but when the sun goes down, and it’s time to sleep, you need to be comfortable.
Here are a few things you can do to ensure a cool night of sleep even without air conditioning.
15. Cotton Sheets
Oh, this one is a must. If you want to stay cool, 100% cotton sheets are the way to go.
Unfortunately, they’re getting harder and harder to find. Microfiber shows up everywhere; it’s advertised as being soft and breathable. What most folks don’t understand is microfiber is a polyester/nylon blend.
Yeah, it’s basically plastic. And plastic doesn’t breathe.
So, while those microfiber sheets might feel soft, they’ll trap your body heat and leave you tossing and turning all night long. Purchasing a quality set of 100% cotton sheets can be a bit spendy, but the investment in a cool night’s sleep will pay for itself over time.
16. Pick up a Cooling Pillow
While you’re at it, keep your head cool with a cooling pillow. Those noggins of ours generate and release quite a bit of heat; this is why it’s important to wear a hat when it’s cold out.
But when it comes to summertime sleep, you want a cool pillow to lay your head on. There are plenty of cooling gel pillow options to choose from.
If you want a more natural option, pick a buckwheat pillow. The hulls have natural air pockets that won’t trap air, keeping you and your pillow cool all night long.
17. Move Your Mattress to the Floor
Hot air rises, which often means the coolest place in your house is, you guessed it, on the floor. If you’ve got the room, consider putting your mattress on the floor during the hottest months of the year. Even better, sleep on the first floor or in a cool finished basement.
Cooling Home Improvements
If you’re looking for more permanent ways to keep your home cool in the summer, here are a few improvements you should consider.
18. Insulate the Attic
Attics are notorious for leaking hot air in the winter and holding it in the summer. If you want to get serious about staying cool without relying on air conditioning, consider installing or replacing old insulation. This simple improvement will bring you great heating and cooling benefits all year long.
19. Install an Attic Fan
Vent the hot air that gets stuck in your attic by installing an attic fan. Many are designed to clip right into the existing vents of an attic. Even if you choose to have one custom-fitted, it’s still cheaper than adding air condition.
20. Plant Climbing Vines Near Windows
Much like room-darkening curtains on the inside, climbing vines like ivy insulate your windows from the outside. The plants absorb the heat rather than the walls of your home. And they often provide extra shade around windows, which helps to keep internal temperatures down.
21. Install an Awning
Another great way to shade windows and keep the heat at bay is by installing an awning over windows that get the most sun each day. Not only will this provide shade and cooler internal temperatures, but awnings are an attractive feature for the outside of your home.
Keep Yourself Cool
Keeping yourself cool and comfortable can go a long way to make a stuffy home feel better too. Here are a few things you can do that will help you personally beat the heat.
22. Drink More Water
I know this one is obvious, but it’s important to stay hydrated when the temperatures rise. Drinking plenty of water helps your body regulate its internal temperature. With all that sweating, it’s easy to become dehydrated. Keep a glass of ice water nearby and sip it throughout the day.
23. Take a Cold Shower
I’m a huge fan of cold showers year-round, but they’re especially wonderful in the summertime. Sure, that icy cold blast takes a few seconds to get used to (breathe slowly for the first 20 seconds), but nothing feels better when it’s “stupid hot” out.
When all else fails, when you’ve done everything you can to cool your home, and you’re still sweaty and uncomfortable, a cold shower always does the trick. Try taking one before bedtime to lower your body temperature and prepare you for sleep.
24. Choose Natural Fibers
Remember those microfiber sheets? The same principle applies to your clothing too. In this day and age of sportswear that’s designed to keep you cool, most of it is all some polyester or nylon blend.
You just can’t beat the classics – cotton, linen, and bamboo fabric for breathability and cooling. Reach for clothes made from these natural fibers when it’s hot and sticky out.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
Sometimes the only thing you can do is to learn to live with the heat. Spend time outside every day to build up your heat tolerance. Work in the garden or perform light activities outside to acclimate yourself. Drink plenty of water, so you stay hydrated and monitor yourself for signs of heat exhaustion.
Prepare yourself mentally for dealing with the heat too. Often the more we think about how negative something is, the more negative it becomes. Try meditation to calm yourself.
Whether you go AC-free by choice or necessity, just remember each one of these tips adds up. The more you choose to incorporate around your home, the cooler you’ll be. And before you know it, fall will be here, and with it, cooler temperatures.