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The 12 Best Ways To Keep Your House Cool Without Air Conditioning

The 12 Best Ways To Keep Your House Cool Without Air ConditioningEnduring extreme heat during the summer isn’t easy, especially without A.C.

But the sooner you learn to adapt to an A.C.-less heat wave, the better off for your household. Not only could you sizably reduce your power usage, it also would prepare you for cases of power outage or an all-out grid-down emergency. It’s good to be prepared.

Of course, you may be living in a scenario where you already don’t have A.C. Whatever the case, here are 12 tips:

1. Get an early start. If possible, be a morning person. If you woke up at 5 a.m., you’d have accomplished a lot by the time it gets hotter in the day. You’d do as well to prioritize the chores that involve the most heat. Whether it be working in the garden or cooking and ironing clothes inside, it’s best to be rid of those heat-generating activities by mid-morning. Of course, you could choose to do them at sundown, but you won’t have the benefits of natural light.

2. Keep windows on the warm side of the house shut. And those on the coolest side open, especially at night. Those that get direct sun during the day can be lined with solar screens or plain old aluminum foil, which reflects heat back into the atmosphere. It’s the same principle used in sun shades for windshields of parked cars.

3. Choose cotton. This goes not just for clothing but also beddings and curtains. Cotton is light and breathable unlike silk, satin, polyester and most synthetic fabrics. Use multiple layers of cotton for curtains, if you must, depending on the gravity of the heat outside. If you’d prefer blinds, consider using Roman-style shades, which are made of cotton canvas. They’re thick enough to block heat and sunlight, but permeable enough for air to pass. Wear loose, light-colored long-sleeved shirts when venturing outside, and wear a hat with a large brim. Opt for cotton gloves when working in the garden.

4. Cool down with a cold compress. The pulse points of the body are the ones that heat up most quickly. These are the neck, wrists, the insides of elbows and knees, the groin and inner thighs, the tops of your feet, the temples, and the insides of your ankles. (1) Drape a cool washcloth over these areas when you feel the need. Keeping rolls of these baby towels in your freezer might come in handy; just grab one as needed, moisten with water, and it’s ready for use.

The 12 Best Ways To Keep Your House Cool Without Air Conditioning

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5. Be a fan of fans. Improve the air circulation in your home with fans and vents. There are different kinds of apparatus that you can use and install around your home to either blow away warm air or suck it out of your whole house: box fans, desk fans, stand fans, ceiling fans, window fans, whole house fans partnered with vents, and whirlybirds. When it gets hotter inside the house than out, set a box fan by the door or window facing out — so the hot air is sucked out of the room. You also can set ceiling fans to run counter-clockwise so the blades pull the hot air up and then out, instead of just swirling it around and around the room.

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If you have a basement, then keep its door open and position the fan there so it pulls up the cool air from underground. Or if there’s some crawl space under your house, install floor vents to draw the cooler air from that level up into the main level.

6. Make your own evaporative cooler. Set a large bowl or pan filled with ice or ice packs in front of any fan, or place jumbo-sized sponges in it, soaked in cold water. Alternatively, you can hang a wet towel in front of the fan. There are lots of cheap, ingenious ways to make DIY coolers online, using just a regular fan and easily available materials. Choose one that suits your fancy.

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7. Shade the openings of your house. If you don’t have awnings or trees lining your house, try hanging baskets of cascading plants and flowers along the eaves and porch roof. Or mount pergolas or trellises above windows and glass doors, covered in fast-growing vines. They won’t just cool and beautify your home; they’ll also bring extra privacy and the sweet scent of summer.

8. Bring in some of your potted ornamentals, too. Plants help a room cool through transpiration, a process by which moisture is released and evaporated from the leaves, stems and flowers. This evaporation involves energy, which they get by pulling heat from the surrounding area. (2)

9. Try to do as much of your cooking outdoors. Barbecue on the grill, bake pizza in a solar or cob oven, or bring out the crockpot and plug it in the garage. If you must cook inside, use your toaster or microwave, as these don’t heat up the kitchen as much as a regular oven would.

10. Opt for cool meals. Salads, sandwiches, lettuce wraps, cold pasta, hummus, sushi or cold, leftover meat wrapped in taco or pita. Easy, no-cook or quick-cooking lunch meals don’t have to remain noontime affairs. Have lots of juicy, refreshing fruits peeled, cut and stored in the fridge for ready snacking in between meals.

11. Sleep in the living room or any part of the house that’s roomier, more ventilated, and closer to the ground. Hot air rises, so the lower you go, the cooler it gets. This even would mean laying your mattress on the floor. Or, you may want to make your basement habitable; you never know when you’re going to be desperate enough to sleep in it! Also, consider having your porch screened so you can spend the night there, al fresco.

12. If all else fails, sleep like the Egyptians. Before bed, soak your top sheet or a thin blanket in water, wringing out the excess. Strange as it may seem, it’s a life-hack the ancient Egyptians used, and it works. Alternatively, you could wear damp socks with you to bed. Keep a spray bottle handy, too, in case you find the need to re-moisten them in the middle of the night.

What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below: 



  • Gordon, Whitson.  Know  Your Body’s Quick-cooling Spots.  com, June 25, 2010.
  • Venolia, Carol. Plant Your Way to Energy Savings:  Landscaping for Energy Efficiency.  Mother Earth Living, January/February 2011.
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  1. Thank you! Right on time. I was just talking about this yesterday. What potential ways can we cool the house on top of the central AC? Perfect! Now I know more about evaporative cooling, the ancient technique we’ve lost – favoring electrical means.

    • Evaporative cooling- “lost ancient technique” are you kidding?? We bought a portable evap. cooler (contrary to your argument yes it IS electric) and it is awesome. There is another non-electric way to evap. cool, and that is by using pottery, the porous clay kind that you buy for outdoor plants? that stuff was used as a cooler for eons, it would be wetted, a container say of milk would be inside it, and the evaporating water from the clay would cool it off.

      I am in a hot, arid desert and we had temps over 120F this year. I was thinking, why is it in this area we haven’t built houses partially underground? They would stay cooler I think. Earth-bermed, or underground.

      I line dry all of my laundry. I want to make a sort of solar oven, or a “fireless cooker” and have instructions for them in some old public domain books.
      I wonder how difficult it would be to put together a passive solar hot water heater? Why not take advantage of this extreme heat and sun right?

      One thing I do, which cools off my backyard AND waters my plants is I routed the drain hose from the washer out to the garden. I had to cobble together some unused vacuum cleaner hoses to add length to it, but wow- what a lot of water that would have been wasted. You MUST remember to keep the drain hose elevated at it’s highest point just above the filled water level of the washing machine, if you simply lay it down to drain, your washer will continuously run water forever! There is a float in the washer, and the drain line from the washing machine if you look at it, it rises just above the washing machine THEN goes down. I had to figure this out the hard way myself oops.

      Without AC: WATER. Author says “cotton curtains” this I have, and double layered curtains that snugly fit in the window sills, with no gaps. We keep the house dark during the day when we can help it and we have thick curtains.

      We sleep and live in the living room- cooling one room only.

      Wear linen or silk clothing. VERY cool compared to other fibers.

      Fan, obviously.

  2. sorry i have always had swamp coolers

  3. Yep. Getting out the old water hose to soak down the the sheets before bed tonight. That and a soaking wet pair of socks ought to do the trick.

  4. If I ever built a house it would have floor to ceiling windows with opening screened panels at the top and the bottom, and a slanted ceiling tallest at the window side ,lower at opposite side. This lets the cool air in and the hot air out just by opening the windows. Would also build on a slab as low to the ground as possible with rainwater diversion designed well around the house perimiter. Wouldn’t hurt to have what the old building had at the top of the highest point of the roofline, a small square tower projection above the roofline with vented windows to let the hot air out of a large area like a living room ,kitchen area.

  5. Another trick that works great is what many asians do, sleep on a grass mat. Sleeping on your sheets, rather than under them, works most of the time. A ceiling fan helps too. What if that’s still not enough? Go to Chinatown, buy a grass mat and try it out. It works really well in humid areas like Houston where the cotton sheets stick to you. Ick!

  6. The temp our way can ger to 112 so far here in desert area southen Cali but we use three big fans and a ceiling fan plus couple table type 12 inch fans brand name Lake Breeze.

    have never done the wet sheet etc plus we run the A C we also try to use the Revolex shirlds we cut to fit the windows to keep a bit more heat well thats it all keep on enjoying the website

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