Summer without air conditioning can make excessive heat feel uncomfortable. However, it is possible to stay cool and comfortable in your home during the warm summer months without an air conditioner. You can avoid the heat and save money by skipping the AC.
Method : Cooling Yourself
Sleep cooler. If the heat is keeping you from resting at night, try these ideas:
Get a fan for your room. A fan on a low setting that can keep a light breeze blowing across your room can work wonders. If you dislike like air blowing directly on you while you sleep, you can still make your room cooler by using a fan in your window to circulate fresh air.
Get a waterbed. A waterbed is like an air mattress, but full of non-pressurized water that supports the body by buoyancy. Water conducts and absorbs heat far more than air, so a waterbed, like a pool, feels cool in practically all weather. (It will need a small, low-power heating pad under itself to run most of the year.) They are very smooth but tend to “hammock”, more as one is bigger and heavier (as with most sleeping difficulties) so if possible try before you buy.
Put a small pillow in the freezer an hour or two before you go to bed. Put a few plastic shopping bags over it to keep ice from forming on the fabric.
Hang up your bedding in the coolest part of the house during the day. As soon as you get up, take your bedding to the coolest room in the house (in the basement, or where there is the most shade) and hang up the blankets and sheets so that each side is exposed to the air. Take them down and put them back on your bed just before you go to sleep.
Use silk or satin pillowcases, and satin sheets. Crisp cotton sheets are also good. These fabrics will feel smoother and cooler as you sleep. Put away your flannel sheets until the weather cools down.
If you wake up too hot, consider removing bedclothes. Throw aside the blanket and go with just a sheet.
Just add water. The relief is almost immediate, and will last for up to one hour or more.
Drink water frequently. Your body will feel cooler if you are hydrated. Try drinking eight ounces of water at least every hour. Adding mint leaves, or orange, lemon or cucumber slices to your water makes it more refreshing. Many people will drink more if water has more flavor.
Get a spray bottle – fill it with water, adjust it to fine mist and spray it on your exposed skin for an instant chill-zing cooling effect.
Keep the back of your neck in shade (wear a cap backwards, or raise your collar) or put a wet handkerchief on the back of the neck. The sensor for our body temperature control system is in this area, and so with this method you can make the rest of your body think that you are “cool”.
Place or tie an icepack behind your head.
Wet all your hair, or just all along the hairline in a pinch. The evaporation of the water will cool your head (though it may make your hair a bit frizzy if it’s curly!).
Wear a bandana with water soaked on it and put it on your head. Or you can relive the 80’s and wear a wet terrycloth headband on your forehead.
Try using a water misting fan. These portable devices are battery operated so you can take them with you wherever you go. As you mist and fan yourself, the water is evaporated on your skin, giving you an instant cooling sensation.
Soak a t-shirt in the sink, wring it out and put it on. Sit in a lawn chair (or other chair that lets air through to you) in front of a fan. Re-wet as it dries. Use lukewarm or cool water (not ice-cold) for this so you do not “shock” your system.
Wear a short sleeved shirt and put water on the sleeves only. If there is a breeze or fan blowing on you, you can actually get cold! Use a squirt bottle, the sink or hose if outside to keep your sleeves wet. If you are outside and wearing long pants and you put water on your legs, the water will cool your legs. Long skirts are also good for this. Just sprinkle the hemline with water.
Run cold water over your wrists for 10 seconds on each hand. This will reduce your temperature for roughly an hour.
Soak your feet in a bucket of cold water. The body radiates heat from the hands, feet, face and ears, so cooling any of these will efficiently cool the body. Kiddie wading pools are great for adults feet too.
Fill your bathtub with cool water and get in. Once you are used to the temperature, let some water out and refill with cold water. Keep doing this until you are sufficiently cold. Your body will stay cool for a long time after you get out. For a fast cool-down, add ice!
Go for a swim. Visit the swimming pool, lake, ocean, or river and unwind.
Dress appropriately. There are several strategies to dress (or undress) for the heat, depending on your situation:
Wear nothing. If you are in a situation where you can go without clothes, this can be the most comfortable and natural way to stay cool.
Wear next-to-nothing. Put on a swimsuit, or wear your underwear at home.
Wear natural fiber summer clothing. Wear loosely-woven natural fabrics (cotton, silk, linen) rather than polyester, rayon, or other artificial fibers (with the possible exception of performance fabrics).
Wear light colors. Darker colors will absorb the sun’s heat and stay warmer longer than light or white clothing, which reflects light and heat. Wear natural summer clothing.
Cover yourself up. Covering up may actually keep you cooler, especially if the climate is low in humidity. In the scorching temperatures of the Middle Eastern deserts, traditional cultures wear clothing covering from head to toe. By protecting your skin from the sun beating down, you’ll also shade your skin. Be sure your clothing is made of natural fabrics and is loose-fitting.
Alter your diet. What you eat and drink can help keep you cool as well.
Stock your freezer with flavored ice treats. Freeze a bag of chopped fruit such as watermelon, pineapple or lemons. Cooling down can be a tasty experience too!
Use a hint of mint. Mint refreshes the skin and leaves a nice cooling sensation. Try a few minty or menthol products to cool your skin. Slather on lotion with peppermint (avoid your face and eyes), shower with peppermint soap, use a minty foot soak or other powders with mint. There are even a few minty recipes you could try, for example:
- Candied Mint Leaves
- Watermelon Yogurt Mint Smoothie
- Mint Tea
- Irish Cream Mint Chocolate Drink
- Minted Fresh Green Pea Soup
- Mint Truffles
- Basil Mint Orange Pesto
- Dark Chocolate Dipped Mint Leaves
- Pudina Aloo (Potatoes in Mint Sauce)
- Green Pea and Mint Sandwiches
Use cucumbers. Slice a thin piece of cold cucumber (from the fridge or a cooler) and stick it in the middle of your forehead! This feels fantastic on a hot day or when stuck in a hot car and works almost immediately! An ice cube or a cold soda can work similarly, though the astringency of the cucumber is more refreshing for your eyelids.
Eat spicy food. It’s not a coincidence that many people in hotter regions of the world eat spicy food. Spicy (hot to the taste) food increases perspiration which cools the body as it evaporates. It also can cause an endorphin rush that is quite pleasant and might make you forget about the heat.
Go downstairs and lie on the floor. Warm air rises (since it is less dense than cooler air) so it is layered on top of the downward moving cooler air, which sinks lower. For instance, if you are in a house, it will be coolest near the floor in the basement or on the ground level.
Try a heat snorkeling system. Take a glass and fill it almost to the brim with ice cubes. Hold it up to your mouth and blow gently into the cup. The ice causes the air you are blowing into the cup to cool down drastically, and since the air only has one way out of the cup (the hole which should now be aiming right at your face) the cold air is forced out over your skin.
To put the “snorkeling system” to more efficient use, point a fan into a square of four cups filled with ice water and ice cubes. The cooler air in the cups has nowhere to go but out. Each night, refreeze the cubes and open the windows instead.
Think cool. Read books about climbing Mount Everest, visiting Antarctica, or watch winter movies like “March of the Penguins” and “Ice Age.” You might not be physically cooler, but if your mind envisions a cold environment, you might feel a bit cooler.
Rest smart. Relax and cool down at the same time with these tips:
Sit still. Physical activity in the heat is a bad idea. Save that walk, weeding the garden, or vacuuming the floor until the cool of evening.
Get Made in the Shade. Get out of the sun. Trees and other greenery usually provide superior shade than man-made structures. But whether you get under an awning, or on the shady side of the beach, get out of sunlight.
Avoid peak sunlight hours. Avoid going out between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun’s rays are hottest. You will also avoid a sunburn this way.
Use an old T-shirt. Take an old T-shirt and get it completely soaked. Let it soak in water for at least a few minutes. Then, squeeze it out just so it’s not dripping, roll it up, and place it around your neck. You will instantly feel a lot cooler.
Method: Cooling Your House
Close the blinds. Shutting your blinds and curtains during the day will help block the sun’s heat. As soon as the sun hits your building in the morning, close all windows and keep exterior doors and windows closed throughout the hottest part of the day. Do this until night falls and it is cool enough to open the windows for the night.
For even better protection, get cellular, insulated curtains, or window tint film (which, like car tint, looks like a dark or shiny part of the glass itself: shrink-wrap temporary insulation is different and more for preventing conduction of heat out to very cold outdoors; in summer, solar radiation, blocked by the color or shine, is more important than conduction blocked by the bubble.) Or, for a quick fix use removable sheets of reflective bubble insulation, or cardboard cut to size and covered in foil. If possible, go around the outside of your house and clip sheets over the outside of the house, especially on the south side (or north side if you live south of the equator). These exterior curtains you rigged up will keep the sun’s heat from getting anywhere near your window frame, but still let a breeze through. You can even rig a temporary “porch” awning out of broomsticks and sheets.
Open the windows at night. Open strategic windows so that cooler night air is blowing in throughout the evening. Leaving all interior doors open (including closets and kitchen cabinets) helps, too. If you leave them closed, they store the daytime heat and your house won’t cool off so quickly at night.
Be sure to get up and close the windows and blinds as soon as the sunlight hits your house. This can be as early as 5 or 6 a.m. in some areas.
Try cross ventilation. Open the house in the cool of the morning. Close the curtains on the hot side of the house. Crack the windows less than an inch from the bottom on opposite side of the house for a draft to help keep cool.
Cool down your house with fans. Position a ceiling fan, an upstairs window fan or an attic fan to draw off the heat collected in upper rooms and push the heat outdoors. Set up your portable fan so that the fan sucks up cooler air from the floor below, and blows hot air upwards towards the ceiling.
If you live in an apartment, use a combination of fans to create good air circulation. Blow hot air out by positioning a powerful exhaust fan near a window – but not so close that rain may damage the fan motor. Also, use oscillating fans placed near other windows to blow in fresh, cooler air. Use this fan combo only when outside temperatures are cooler than the inside of your apartment. This tends to be during the night or on overcast days.
Make a do-it-yourself air conditioner. Put a metal bowl of salted ice in front of a fan, and adjust the fan so that the air is blowing over the ice. Or, use one or more 2 liter (0.5 US gal) bottles and fill them mostly full of water (70%) and rock salt (10%). Leave 20% of the volume empty for expansion. The salt lower the temperature at which the water freezes, allowing you to make the ice super cold. Freeze the liquid in the bottles, then place them in a large bowl (to catch dripping condensation). Position a fan to blow on them. As the salty ice in the bottles melts, the air around them cools and the fan will blow that air at you. The water and salt in the bottles can be refrozen every night and used repeatedly.
You can also turn on your stove ventilator hood fan or open up your chimney flue. These will also draw hot air out of the house and pull cooler evening air into the house.
Turn off all heat sources. Don’t use the stove or oven for cooking. Eat cold food, or use the microwave or an outdoor grill when cooking your meals. Incandescent light bulbs also give off heat. Switch to compact fluorescents or LEDs. Turn off your lamps and your computer when you’re not using them. You should also turn off your TV since it gives off a lot of heat and take the power off of non-essential plug-in power adapters (transformers).
Avoid steam. Don’t take a hot shower, wash dishes, wash clothes or cook until after dark. Make sure your pot lids are tight-fitting. Make sure the door gasket seals on your oven, washer and dishwasher are in good shape and have no breaks or rips.
Adjust your pilot light. If you have a gas stove with pilot lights, make sure they are set correctly. If they are set too high, they will produce excess heat.
Put smooth white fabrics over anything in your house that is fuzzy. For example, you could cover corduroy pillows with white satin pillowcases for summer, put linen slipcovers over wool sofas, or even just throw white sheets over furniture. Light-colored fabric will reflect heat instead of absorbing it, and the smooth texture will give you the look and feel of coolness.
Use light-colored roofing. If you have the choice, choose a lighter roof or roof coating. It will reflect sunlight rather than absorbing it.
Insulate your home. A home that has well-insulated walls and attic will actually keep the heat out of the house in hot seasons. Just imagine your home as a gigantic Styrofoam cooler! There are lots of insulation options to choose from, including types that can be conveniently blown into your walls without much hassle. Another bonus is that there may be government grants to help offset the cost of this kind of upgrade.
Plant trees. Leafy trees can shade your home or yard and keep things considerably cooler. Deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves in winter) will let sunlight through in winter when it’s desired and create shade in summer.
If you can’t plant a tree, build an overhead trellis and grow vines on it. Decorative leafy vines will act like deciduous trees or you can plant edibles – grapes or kiwis.
Position your patios to take into consideration the cool or shaded part of your house. Don’t build unshaded patios of concrete, stone or brick right against the house where they will reflect sun heat onto walls or windows, especially on the south or west sides. Rocks, stone and concrete also retain heat longer than planted areas after the sun goes down.
If you already have such a patio feature next to your home, plant a tree so that both the patio and that side of the building will be shaded during the hot parts of the day.
Take shade from awnings and porches. Build any summer porch on the north side of your house, which is generally the shady side. The south and west sides of your home will generally be the hottest and most in need of shade, so plan the location of windows and exterior doors in your home. (The compass directions will be reversed in the southern hemisphere.)