10 Ways to Keep Cool Without AC

View as:


Keeping your home cool and comfortable during the summer without blasting the air conditioner may seem impossible. Air conditioners certainly are effective, but rarely are they cheap. The cost varies by locale, but in southern California, for example, AC is responsible for more than half of the typical summertime electric bill, according to a local heating and cooling specialist. Instead, follow these simple tricks for staying cool without the AC and save yourself a few bucks.


Put away dense comforters and those made with heavier fabrics, such as satin and silk; ditto for sheets with higher thread counts, which trap heat and moisture and leave you feeling hot and muggy. Choose thin, lightweight sheets and comforters to help you stay cool at night without resorting to the air conditioner. Blankets with minimal or no filling absorb less heat and enable air to pass through, as do sheets made of cotton or a cotton blend, preferably in a light color.


Set ceiling fans to spin counter-clockwise to circulate cooler air. The federal government's Energy Star program notes that a counter-clockwise rotation creates a wind chill effect that makes you feel cooler. (Blades turning clockwise have the opposite effect.) Ceiling fans don't blast arctic air but can cool a home at a fraction of the cost of air conditioning.


Ovens emit heat, which can increase a home's interior temperature and tempt you to turn on the air conditioner. Avoid this trap by choosing recipes that don't require any oven use. Rely on the stove top, crock pot, microwave, or outdoor grill when preparing meals -- or throw together dishes that don't require any cooking at all.


Keeping a home cool requires removing or reducing all unnecessary sources of heat, including lights. Incandescent and fluorescent bulbs emit both light and heat, and the latter is sufficient to bump up the temperature in a room. (About 90 percent of the energy released by incandescent lights is heat, according to the Energy Star program.) It's no surprise that you instantly feel warmer when standing under or next to these bulbs. Some experts advise switching to LED lights to reduce energy costs and heat emission, but you can avoid the cost and simply rely on natural light during the day.


Just like cool air seeps through cracks during the winter, warm air makes its way into your home along the same path. Sealing cracks is a relatively small and affordable DIY project that can help reduce utility bills, regardless of the season. (The U.S. Department of Energy offers a handy how-to guide on its website.) For small projects all you need is caulk or weather stripping, supplies that cost less than $5 at Home Depot and Lowe's. Larger jobs might require the services of a professional, but the investment should pay off over time.


Stoves and dryers in operation can quickly increase the surrounding temperature. You can minimize demand for air conditioning by restricting use of these heat-emitting appliances during the heat of the day. Save cooking and clothes drying until the sun goes down and the outside air is cooler.


Even in the thick of summer, don't be afraid to open the windows. Opening doors and windows might seem counterintuitive when the goal is to keep hot air from entering the house. And while you should keep things closed down during the hotter hours of the day, busting open the windows at night lets cool breezes waft through your home.


Energy from the sun, as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory points out, is a leading source of unwelcome heat -- especially in the warmer months. As the sun's heat seeps into your home through glass windows, room temperatures rise. You can lessen the impact by closing shades and curtains in the morning and reopening them in the evening. Additionally, try adding light-colored, sun-blocking curtain liners to window treatments; they're inexpensive and available online and at big-box stores.


Staying cool without using the air conditioner also depends on how well you deflect heat away from your body. The best way to achieve that goal is to wear clothing that repels heat and permits airflow. Avoid tight-fitting clothes and fabrics that attract and trap heat and moisture. Choose loose, light-colored clothing, preferably made of linen or cotton, for indoors and out.


During the hottest portion of the day head out to a bookstore, library, coffee house, or some other air-conditioned facility that welcomes patrons. Hanging out at the pool and joining in the water fun at a park are more good reasons to leave a hot house. Before reaching for the air conditioner, lounge around in a cool place for a few hours every day.