Stay Cool Without A/C: 15 Tips to Help You Survive Summer

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These tips will help you and your family stay cool without a/c. They might also help you save some money during the summer months!

Summers in the south can be extremely brutal. High heat and high humidity make it a struggle to stay cool. Heat waves that roll across the country mean you have to be extremely careful not to get overheated and dehydrated.

Many deaths have even been connected to power outages during heat waves. However, it’s possible to lose your air conditioning even if your power doesn’t go out.

How to Stay Cool Without A/C

Our power bill during the summer is always so freaking high! The June through August bills typically double the March through May bills. So we try our best not to run the air conditioner any more than necessary.

Unfortunately, it’s necessary. Because we can’t avoid running the A/C in the summer, we do what we can to keep the house as cool as possible coupled with the air.

Blackout curtains will help your home stay cool without a/cClose Your Windows

During the day when it’s hotter outside, keep your windows closed and your blinds drawn. Black-out curtains pinned over the windows will help keep all of the sunlight out and block a great deal of heat. I would recommend getting light colored curtains, the darker ones might heat up and actually radiate heat.

 Tint Your Windows

Using a reflective tint on your windows will actually do a few things to help your home. It will allow you to still see outside but it will block people from being able to see inside, thereby improving your home security. It will also reduce the amount of sunlight that comes through, which in turn reduces the amount of heat inside the house.

Oscillating fans pointed at external walls will help keep your home cool Use Fans

It makes sense to use fans to stay cool without A/C, but there are a couple more tricks that will make them more efficient.

  • Ceiling Fans – If you’re using a ceiling fan, make sure it’s blowing air down (typically counterclockwise). This will cause a “wind chill” effect making the room feel cooler.
  • Oscillating Fans – Put oscillating fans near an internal door facing an external wall (for example, in your bedroom, put the fan in the bedroom door facing into the room). You could also put a pan of ice water in front of the fan to super-cool the air as it blows. Taking the cooler air from the middle of the house and blowing it toward the external walls should help ward off that radiant heat.
  • Box Fans – Despite the fact that the first tip on this list is “Close Your Windows,” maybe you have no air conditioning at all. If this is the case, using box fans in windows pointed outward will help cool your house more than keeping them closed completely.
  • Attic Fans – Installing an attic fan in a gable of your home will help keep down the heat in the attic, thereby helping reduce the heat inside the house. If you want to get real fancy (and more expensive), you can get one of these solar powered attic fans that installs directly in the roof.

Build a “Swamp Cooler”

Like the last tip of using a fan blowing across a pan of ice water, there is a great concept that has been floating around for decades – evaporative coolers (also known as a “swamp cooler”).

All you need to build a swamp cooler is a 5-gallon bucket, a cheap fan, an aquarium pump, a length of rubber hose, and a bit of Duracool pad (which is typically used as filters for humidifiers or commercial evaporative cooler fans).

Check out this great information about building your own swamp cooler here, and watch the video below.

Build a “Copper Coil Air Cooler”

Very similar to the Swamp Cooler, the Copper Coil Air Cooler uses ice and a fan. However, this homemade air conditioner uses a box fan and copper tubing to cool the air. Coil the copper tubing around the front of the fan, connect it to the outlet of a water pump submerged in a bucket of ice water, and you’ve got some really cold air coming from that fan!

This video will explain in more detail:

Eat Cold Foods

In the winter, we love to eat chili, soups and stews that warm our bones. Hot tea, coffee and hot chocolate give us that same warm feeling. So why not do that in reverse?

Help regulate your body temperature by eating cold foods like popsicles. When it comes to meals, think about eating salads and raw fruits. Plenty of ice water and lemonade will help keep your core temperature down, as well. If nothing else, just chomp or suck on some ice.

This will prevent you from having to use your stove or oven as much (which will raise the temperature in your house). If you just have to cook, check into getting a solar oven and use your outdoor grill. You can also make your own solar oven.

Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine

Avoiding coffee will help you stay cool

We don’t drink a lot of alcohol, but we’ve got to have our morning coffee, so this one might be tough for us. Both alcohol and caffeine are considered diuretics (something that promotes urine production). Excessive urination (especially with the sodium content expelled from the diuretics) will eventually cause dehydration.

It’s best to reduce your consumption of alcohol and caffeine if you’re struggling to stay cool. Maybe a cup of coffee in the morning to “wake up” and then water for the rest of the day. It’s actually recommended that you have about eight glasses of water per day, so drop a few ice cubes in your glass and enjoy!

According to WebMD, caffeine isn’t bad in moderation:

The bottom line is that although caffeine does act as a mild diuretic, studies show drinking caffeinated drinks in moderation doesn’t actually cause dehydration.

…but The Naked Scientists confirm the rumor on alcohol:

The common belief that taking alcohol will lead to dehydration is pretty well-supported in scientific research.  The reason for this dehydration effect is that when the blood alcohol level rises it stops the release of a hormone called anti-diuretic hormone.  As the name suggests this hormone normally prevents urine production so when you lower its levels that leads to an increase in the amount of urine you produce.  Consequently you can get dehydrated.

Stay cool without a/c outside under a sun umbrella.Stay Out of The Sun

This one should go without saying, but I’m saying it anyway. If you’ve got outdoor chores to get done, work on them earlier in the morning or wait until the sun goes down in the evening.

Let’s face it, as homesteaders, there’s always something to be done outside. Just remember to work smart!

Set yourself up an outdoor “break” area out of the sun. Using the shade from a tree or a sun umbrella, you can have your own little oasis with a cooler, a couple of chairs, and an extension cord with a fan plugged up to stay cool without a/c outside.

Dress Appropriately

Wearing loose-fitting, light-colored clothing will help keep air circulating where you need it the most. If it’s possible, wear less (but PLEASE not in public). If you do end up wearing less clothing, be sure you’re applying sunscreen hourly to reduce the chance of a major sunburn.

Honestly, I usually wear jeans and a t-shirt when I’m working outside. I wear a hat to help keep the sun off my face, head and back of my neck. Even when I have sweat completely through my clothing, I keep them on.

When we sweat, it’s the body’s natural way of keeping itself cool. When you soak your shirt in sweat, it’s keeping the moisture next to your skin, and you’ll end up sweating less (because you’ll need less sweat to keep cool).

Go Swimming

Kiddie pools are great ways for you, your kids, and even your pets to stay cool without a/c.If you do end up stripping off some of your clothes, why not just jump in the pool?  If you don’t own a pool (or have a friend who has one), even a little kiddie pool full of water is a welcome sight on a hot afternoon. You could even play in the sprinkler with the kids!

If you’d rather stay inside, you could always take a nice, cold bath or shower. Trust me, on a hot day, a cold shower is much more inviting than it sounds.

Turn Off the Lights

For the most part, during the daytime you don’t need lights. If you work outside your home during the day, there should be no lights on, anyway. For those of us that work from home, or on those occasions when you’re home throughout the day for another reason, only turn on lights when you absolutely need them.

If you’re still using incandescent bulbs, I would change your bulbs to light emitting diode bulbs (LEDs). Not only will you use less power, but your house will naturally stay cooler as well. The amount of heat produced by LEDs is negligible, especially when compared to incandescent bulbs.

Use a dehumidifier in your home as "dry heat" will keep you cooler than humid heat.Kill the Humidity

“Dry heat” is far less draining on your body than humid heat. To cut down on humidity inside the house, invest in a good dehumidifier (and run it on the opposite side of the room from your Swamp Cooler).

Taking showers and doing laundry early in the morning or late in the evening will help, as well. In fact, hanging your laundry outside will eliminate your dryer producing more heat and humidity inside the house.

Let the Hot Air Out

At night, when temperatures outside have cooled off, you can always open windows and doors to let out the hot air that’s trapped inside your home.

A good idea is to take those box fans in your windows and aim them in the same direction. If it’s cooler outside, point the fans on one side of your house out, and point the fans on the other side of the house in. This will give you a cross-breeze throughout the house, pulling in cooler air from outside and pushing out the warmer air.

Chill Out in the Basement

It’s a known fact that heat rises. Your basement (if you have one) is most likely at least partially underground. Again, a known fact that temperatures underground are naturally cooler. Basements can be 10-15 degrees (or more) cooler than the main level of your house.

The bottom line here is that the bottom floor of your house will be way cooler than anything above it. Hang out downstairs!

Wear a cooling towel in any number of ways.Grab a Cold Towel

Soak a washcloth or small hand towel in cold water, wring it out (or don’t) and place it around your neck. They even make “cooling towels” that you can get specifically to help you stay cool. You could also use a cold compress pressed lightly against your carotid artery (on the sides of your neck) or femoral artery (inside your thighs). This will help cool your blood, which will, in turn, cool your body.

Put It All Together

Combining any or all of the methods above will make sure you stay cool as a cucumber this summer! If you’re in your basement in a cool bath drinking cold water with the windows closed, fans going and running your swamp cooler, you might actually catch a cold!

I kid, of course, but I’m sure you’d be pretty doggone comfortable!

How to Improve Your Air Conditioner’s Efficiency

Assuming you have air conditioning that works, here are a few ways to maximize its efficiency, saving you even more money and cool air.

Insulate your attic

Be sure your attic has a proper layer of insulation. Without insulation, the heat that accumulates in your attic will seep into the rest of the house.

Insulate your ductwork

The ductwork that runs from your unit to the vents need to be wrapped in insulation. This will prevent the cold air that runs through it from warming up before it makes it to the vents.

Keep your a/c filters changed every month with FilterTime.comCheck your weather stripping

Every door and window in your house needs weather stripping. If any is damaged or missing, there may be leaks, and the cold air inside is getting out.

Change your filters

Your unit should have a filter, and the return should have one, as well. Each needs to be replaced monthly so the air isn’t restricted by dust and dirt. We actually use a website called FilterTime.com. It’s a subscription service so we don’t forget to change our filters regularly!

What methods have you used to stay cool without air conditioning during a heat wave?

Have you got a method to stay cool without A/C that isn’t on this list? Maybe you’ve built something we haven’t talked about. Let us know in the comments below!

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29 thoughts on “Stay Cool Without A/C: 15 Tips to Help You Survive Summer”

  1. Great tips and suggestions! We definitely need them over here in hot, hot Texas. This Summer doesn’t seem to be letting up anytime soon, thanks for the great info!

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  2. As someone who designs HVAC systems in their day job – let me add a concept called “economizers” to your bit about taking advantage of night time temperature drops. Whenever the outside air is cooler than the inside air temp, then you can take advantage of the cooling! Use your indoor thermostat to read the inside temperature, and a weather app or outdoor thermometer to read the outside time. If you have a furnace that takes in outside air (most newer homes are required to have this by code for ventilation” then you may be able to run your furnace fan with the furnace OFF to cycle that cooler nighttime air. If your furnace or heater isn’t capable of this, then definitely make sure to get cross ventilation by opening windows on opposite sides of the house, or windows that are the largest vertical distance apart.

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  3. I never heard of a swamp cooler before but I’m intrigued by this! I’m going to save this post so I can refer back to it later if we need some help keeping our home cool this summer.

    Reply
  4. This is a great list! We have gone through a few summers with either no AC or less than stellar AC. There were a few ideas on here that were new to me. I’ll have to add them to my list of resources.

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  5. I have to have my AC but with bills $500+ in the dead of summer, something has to give. We decided to try window units instead of running our 30+yr old system this year.

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  6. Great ideas! We’ve been thinking about experimenting with earth-cooled air. Both pumping it up from a shaft and circulating it in a housing situation, and circulating it through pipes laid out underground for the greenhouse. Heat is SUCH an issue here in MO – and it’s wet heat, the worst kind.

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  7. Great tips! Especially if the grid goes down or a power outage! I like the swimming pool method the best, lol =)

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