Keep Cool without Air Conditioning Even In The Summer Heat

We have survived without a central air conditioning unit in our home for the last 9 years.

In the beginning, during the summer heat, we tried to keep cool by adding in a couple window units. They got to be rather expensive to run, and didn’t help that much. They were the smaller units installed in the biggest rooms in the house. Of course we weren’t going to keep cool.

In our old home, installing central air conditioning wasn’t going to happen. Not on our budget. We had to live without the air conditioning period. Honestly, it wasn’t easy. We had to learn to enjoy the summer heat. We had to learn how to keep cool without air conditioning. Here are some things we learned.

air conditioner post

To keep cool, become a morning person, if at all possible.

We are normally night owls. But, in the summer heat, it’s far easier to get morning chores and stuff done around the yard and house when it’s still cool in the morning. So, we strive for a 5 AM wakeup and get as much done as possible before the heat of the day sets in. Alternately, you COULD do things at night, after the sun goes down. After the sun goes down, it’s far easier to keep cool.

When living without air conditioning, eat cool meals.

We purchased a solar oven to bake things outside. This helps us keep cool by keeping the heat out of the kitchen. We love to eat cool meals. Cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches, salads, cheese and crackers with fruit and raw veggies, quesidillas, and even tacos are simple and quick to cook. Grilling burgers, pizza, and even fish also helps round out the summer menu with the heat outside.

Don’t use the air conditioning in the car to keep cool.

Especially with quick trips. We tried using that to help keep cool before, but found that once we were cooled by the air conditioning in the van, then it seemed even hotter in the house afterwards. So, using the old “2/80” air conditioning (2 windows down, 80 miles an hour) helped us stay adjusted to the heat.

To keep cool, wrap a cool, moist cloth around your neck.

This helps, especially at night. I would grab a couple of washcloths and soak them in cool water and wring most of it out. I would make sure they were still kinda wet, though. The cooling cloth around our necks helped everyone to relax and sleep better. You could also add a bit of lavender oil to the cloth to help cool and relax, too. Sometimes, we would also add a cool cloth to our stomachs. That was when it was really hot and humid out. It did help us keep cool enough to fall asleep.

To keep cool, turn fans IN during the morning, OUT during the afternoon.

You will also want to close the opposite windows. This will blow the cool air in during the morning, and suck the hotter air out of the house during the afternoon. At night, we will turn them to blow back in on us. The best fans are the ones that you can adjust to “lift” the cooler air from the floor and blow it back up, like a “garage” fan.

Use blinds and heavy curtains to keep the light out.

During the heat of the summer, we go into “vampire” mode, where we try and keep as much light out as possible. We have also taped aluminum foil onto the windows to help reflect the light too. Keeping the blinds closed on the west/south facing windows will keep the sun light (and heat) to a minimum.

Learning how to keep cool in the heat of summer without air conditioning isn’t always easy. For the elderly, or those who have experienced heat stroke, it may not work permanently. These tips to keep cool can help you in the event of a power outtage, or during another emergency.

What do YOU do to keep cool when the summer heat is on? Do you use air conditioning or not?

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58 thoughts on “Keep Cool without Air Conditioning Even In The Summer Heat”

  1. Great tips. We currently live in Malaga, Spain so you can imagine how much A/C we use. To reduce our bill I will definately try out your suggestions. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Yona Williams

    Great tips. I could never get the hang of the whole which “way to turn fans and when” to get the best results. I will also have to try the cool washcloth on the stomach when I get uncomfortably hot.

    1. Turning the fans and reversing the rotation of ceiling fans is a bit over rated. If you blow air out of a room, more air has to come in to replace it. If a ceiling fan lifts hot air, the air moves to the perimeter of the room and drops down to be lifted again. If the ceiling fan blows down, air is pushed to the floor and rises along the walls to be pushed down again. Fan direction may make some diffetence, but the important thing is to keep the air moving.

  3. We dont have air conditioner here either. We have ceiling fans which help until it gets humid here which is only for two weeks.

  4. Great post! I will be needing this info when the heat reaches up to 100 degrees here in San Diego. I think we are too dependent on AC and need to look for other greener options.

  5. Karen @ Healthy Green Flamingo

    Awesome tips! My boyfriend and I were just deciding whether to splurge for an A/C unit this year. I’m thinking we can survive without one, and the things in this post will come in very handy! Thanks 🙂

  6. Great tips! I think people have become afraid of sweating! I personnaly love heat! We live in a northern climate so intense heat isn’t a normal day for us. Your tips will help us thru the really hot days without needing to turn on the A/C!

    1. Fear of sweating? Yes, you’re right. Air movement, with a fan if there is no breeze, helps evaporate sweat. I’ve heard that putting a bowl of ice so the fan blows over it cools the air, although the humidity might not be appreciated.

  7. Very interesting to read!!! Good tips to think about and helps you realize that you really don’t need AC.

  8. Uplifting Families

    Great tips on surviving without AC. We couldn’t get away with that here in TX. Most days in the summer time are over 100 and it barely gets cool enough in the evenings to break the heat cycle.

  9. One trick I use to stay cool in the summer is building a sort of hoop house out of a sheet over my bed, using pvc to build the hoops, clothespining a clean sheet to the frame, and setting a fan at the foot of the bed, with the end of the sheet clothespinned around the outside of the fan. Take a spray bottle full of water to bedwith you and lightly mist the sheet before turning on the fan. It gets you cool enough to fall asleep 🙂

  10. Great tips I didn’t have an A/C in my house in California but they apparently didn’t build most house with them because it never got hot enough. However when I moved back home to Oklahoma there is really no living without an A/C it can get up to around 105-110 in the summer with the nights being almost just as hot. I think it really depends on where you live if it is possible to go without. We have lots of deaths each year because of the heat.

  11. Great tips! We try to make time to go swimming (there’s a large creek a few miles away) when it gets really hot. The cold water lowers your body temperature and keeps you cool for hours afterward.

  12. Great tips Heather! We also open up all our windows at night to cool off the house. Then in the morning before it starts to warm up too much outside, we close the windows. It makes a huge difference and keeps the house cool so it feels like it is air conditioned!

  13. Survival Prepper Joe

    Great tips! Thank you for sharing these!

    Turning the fans in during the morning definitely works. But when the sun is up, I like to close the windows and try to trap as much of that cooler air inside.

    There’s a mansion from the tycoon era in Rhode Island that has an amazing “air conditioning” system from before the age of electricity! Their front hall has a steeply sloped cone-like ceiling leading to a skylight with windows all around (almost like a lighthouse). Just below these windows is a ring of gas piping with little nozzles around the ring.

    The way it worked, you opened all the top windows and windows throughout the mansion, turned on the gas, and lit the ring on fire. The heat from the gas ring of fire rises, drawing more air up with it. It causes a draft throughout the house. Pretty ingenious!

    Thank you again!

  14. Having live in an area where the summer temperature may reach 110 degrees plus during the day and a chilly 90 degrees at night A/C’s are a must. One summer my A/C decided it was tired of cooling me off and stopped working. I found that by putting ice cubes into a Ziploc bag, wrapping the bag in a towel and placing at on my feet made it tolerable to fall asleep. One would still perspire, but I would be able to fall asleep. Using the tips you mentioned would have really helped. Thank you for the tips, good to know.

  15. I live in the hot, humid south where it can get to be “killing heat” without an A/C. When my small window unit went out in July during an especially high heat spell, until I could afford to buy another A/C, I would take my largest bowl into which I put milk jugs with ice I’d frozen in them, and set that bowl in front of our box fan. For hours, that cold air coming off the ice kept us from heat stroke. We did this for about 3 months and were able to make it during the hottest hours of the day. We also did any work very early in the morning.

  16. I don’t think I could go with out AC here in Phoenix, but I do keep mine set at 80 or so and use ceiling fans and other cooling techniques. I used to live in an un-air conditioned dorm in N. TX. Many of of us utilized the 2 large windows in these rooms and had 1 box fan blowing out, and 1 box fan blowing in with cheesecloth that had been dipped in cool water, wrung out, and clothes pinned to the fan grate. You just re-dip and wring out the cheese cloth every couple of hours – works pretty well. Alternately, some people placed a pan with ice water in front of the one blowing in, but I was afraid of that spilling.

  17. You are so right about using the car to cool off. I have done that before and I’m burning up when I return. I love to grill out when I can -keeps the heat and mess out of the kitchen. If I can grill a couple of meals ahead it’s always good. Now I need to just wait for the heat!

    1. It hardly takes a few minutes to cool off, but then it’s worse when you get out of the car, or store…

  18. I don’t know why people quit installing ATTIC FANS. If you have an ATTIC FAN…you can turn it on in the evening and it will SUCK all the heat out of your house, and get so cold…you at least will never need an AC at night. My daughter is just learning all the Passive Solar Heating Priciples I have been trying to teach her for the past 35 years. She is on her own and now gets having heavy and multiple curtain layers on the windows and to open them up in the Winter. My 83 year old mother however, simply will not get it. I am alternating between them for a few months to save up to go off grid. I have to get up every morning & shut all the curtains as my mom likes to see the sunshine, but doesn’t understand that her house heats up 30degrees hotter by noon than when I monitor the windows letting the sun in. In fact, right now, the sun has moved to the other side of the house & I realize, I am getting warm…here I go.

    1. I am going to Enclose the daughter’s front porch later in the summer, before Winter. A Glassed in Porch is such a wonderful heater in the Winter and have it screened in for Summer eveings.

      1. Alanna aurand

        We turned our old porch into sun porch great for no more frozen pipes on that side of house .but ive had to come up with ways to cool it i had few insulated curtens so i put them up im also using a silver tarp on one side and black on other facing silver side up for cealing.my bonus is i have a staircase to basement so im using a fan to blow up stairs i might try the ice trick infront of fan ive darken the room. By 90 keeps my temp 8 dregrees cooler. Before it will match or go ovet the temp out side now on a 89 day it stays about 84 on one side away from fan and 78 near fan .great and confortable when temps climbing durling the day .im also using silver insulation foil tape i think. You put on furnaces i rase it in eveing and put it down in morning

    2. We are looking into doing that as well here…having a hard time finding them anymore, though 🙁

  19. Heather Welch

    Here’s a couple of things we do to keep cool. The first is to open all the windows when it starts getting cooler outside than inside in the evenings and then closing up when it starts to get warm in the mornings. The second is a trick I learned from my grandmother, who lived in Oklahoma. Where they know hot. I only use it very occasionally, when it is just too hot too get to sleep. You take your top sheet, get it wet, wring it out, and sleep under it. It seemed so weird that I took a long time to try it out, but it works a treat! You can also take a spray bottle to your bed and just spray everything, but it doesn’t work quite as well, or for as long a time.

  20. Susan Carter Vincent

    I wet my hair in hose outside all the time…also cooling cloths work great i soak it in a bowl of ice water.. wring it out some and around the neck it stays untill it starts to feel warm then soak it again….run wrist under cold water or put ice on them till it becomes to cold to stand it any longer. Hang wet sheets or light weight wet cutains where u have windows where wind blows in nicely at night. Hang outside blinds on outside of windows..when not in a drought like we are in calif..hose off sidewalks near house and sides of house if made of stucco and any plants or bushes near house and porch if cement

  21. I love some of these comments! I do these things: Cool, frequent showers if you have the water, It’s not enough to turn the fans out. The secret is, you have to block the parts of the window – every inch which is not filled with the fan, then open window on the coolest side of the house. The out-facing fan will draw cool air into the house, I leave this on all night long, then close up the house completely to keep it cool during the day. Also, aluminum foil in windows getting direct sun exposure really helps – you usually don’t have to cover the window completely – check how high the actual sun rays hit, and cover only that area, leaving the upper window for natural light. This hack means you don’t have to buy heavy curtains or go without natural light, and you can rip it down in cold weather. You can do the same with your parked car – put a reflective windshield
    guard in the window in summer, and black one (or the reverse side) in
    winter. (To keep your home warm in winter, cover that same portion of the window with black construction paper and leave the curtains open.) If you can afford it, just get self-adhesive film which is reflective on only one side, especially for sliding-glass doors or if you need to see out a window and still repel the heat.

  22. Diane Hoffmaster

    In the last 20 years I have lived in Texas and Georgia and no way would I give up my air 🙂 However, we don’t use it if we really don’t need it and have insulation, new windows, blinds, etc to keep out the heat!

  23. We have a full length porch on both the east (back) and west (front) sides of our house, which are the long sides of our house. Both porches are lined with sun-blocking screening material from the garden center so direct the direct sun does not touch the house walls in the summer. My washer and dryer are on our screened-in back porch, keeping the heat out of the house. I have a second stove on the back porch for cooking and baking in the summer. I have window blinds, sheers and curtains on every window for insulation against summer heat and winter cold, opening and closing them as needed. We open the windows in the evening to let the cool night air into the house and close them up in the morning when the temperature starts to rise, trapping the cool air inside the house. We use LED and florescent light bulbs to cut down on the heat given off by our lights. We open and close the outer doors as little as possible. We do our outside work in the early morning and at sunset.
    We installed whirlybirds on the roof to suck the hot air out of the attic. We cut holes in the ceiling, moved the insulation out of the way, and installed vents for hot air to rise up and out of the house into the attic, to be sucked out of there by the whirlybirds. We have ceiling fans in every room that help move the air upward to the ceiling vents when the temperature starts to rise in the house. If you have a basement or crawl space under the house, you can use floor vents to draw the cooler air from that lower level up into the main level with the ceiling fans. The ceiling fans have to be turned off at night or the house won’t cool down all the way.
    We live in the Arizona desert, so we have an evaporative cooler for the hot days (100-120 degrees), which uses a whole lot less electricity than an AC would. Evaporative coolers need the windows to be partially open to work properly, but that doesn’t work so well when the wind is blowing the desert dirt around; this is when the ceiling vents come into play for their second purpose of funneling the cooler air out through the attic when the windows have to be closed due to blowing dust.

  24. I suppose it depends on where you live. I am a Floridian and no way in hades could we live without the a/c in the heat of summer without a breeze. Back in the 1800s, when people lived here and could live without, they weren’t surrounded by concrete and large condos on the beach, cutting off the sea breeze. Now, unfortunately, it is a necessity to avoid heat stroke, rash and disgusting fungal infections.

      1. Not really. We can survive, but not really exist after a hurricane when the power is out. I am a full time caregiver for my 90 yr old grandmother and the elderly absolutely cannot endure that kind of heat. Again, this is wonderful if you live in an area where you get maybe a week of over 90 degree temps, but on an island in Florida where it’s usually in the 80s at Christmas, June-September would be unbearable without A/C. We keep the A/C set at 80.

  25. Kara, the Hippy MIlspouse

    I currently live in Seoul and using the AC is just too expensive so we don’t. We also live on the 4th floor of an apartment building so we get all the heat rising up. We open our windows at night, to let the cooler night air in. Though unfortunately the wind dies down and it doesn’t always work as well as we’d hope. We keep our blinds closed, and windows closed during the heat of the day. We only have small fans, so I usually have one blowing on me all day…literally. And at night we have the fan on as well of course. Cool showers, or simply cooling down your face/neck with cool water, and your wrists helps too. A friend told us when she lived in Vietnam they’d make the sheets damp and sleep that way to be cooler at night, but we haven’t tried that yet.

      1. Kara, the Hippy MIlspouse

        Maybe! I haven’t tried it yet…it just sounds weird and I’m not sure how I feel sleeping with damp sheets on me lol.

  26. Here in Australia we get temps 40+ degrees Celsius and after 30 years have finally got an A/C. But before that, we would use fans, ceiling fans. Water would be our best friend. Water in spray bottles was useful but only for short periods at a time. Damp sheets were great after you got past that initial cold, this allowed us to get sleep especially on the nights that remained over 30 degrees Celcius. Filling a bath with cold water for the occasional dip was good and having face cloths and hand towels dipped in water then put in the chest freezer also gave a welcome coolness. Sitting on the floor is also better than the couch as heat rises, so best to keep low.

    1. For the home, we hung shade cloth from the eaves in front of our windows (we have a single story home), this helps to stop the sun hitting the windows directly as glass allows heat both in and out, and we shut all block out curtains and blinds. We have awnings now and they stay down throughout summer and winter.

  27. I found this an interesting read, especially with a hurricane crawling up our coast, and it can be helpful to anyone to some degree. To those of us in Florida and other hot states, it may be only for when the AC goes out. Maybe I mistook your meaning, but your reply to don’tpanik indicated this post wasn’t to her personal taste. Yet I believe she was, rightly, pointing out that heat down here kills. I think it’s dangerous and sounds uninformed to be dismissive of that, although I can’t imagine you aren’t aware of the danger of high temps down here. My disabled son experiences high levels of neuropathic pain accompanied by icy heat. That means he feels cold yet like he’s burning hot at the same time. His symptoms are better when he’s in cool temps. AC feels very necessary to us, but as we could lose electricity in the next 48 hours, I’m going to keep your ideas in mind.

    1. You ARE right, there are places, people and situations where A/C can mean the difference between life and death. Even in Indiana, where it’s only hot and humid with dangerous heat indexes 14-21 days a year, there are people who can’t live without it. Those would include people like your son, the elderly, patients who have experienced heat stroke in the past. You are absolutely right that the heat can kill. I totally agree with you. 🙂 My point in all this, is what do you DO when the power goes out? Such as your hurricane? That means you need to be ready for anything, including dealing with heat and humidity without the cooling A/C.
      I will be praying that you DON’T lose power, and stay safe this hurricane season!

  28. I lived for about 5 years without Central Air when mine broke….in Fort Lauderdale, Florida….so it can be done. Cool showers, box fans set in the windows facing in during early morning and evening and out during the day. Ceiling fans running and lots and lots of Iced tea!!! (I agree that it cannot be done with an elderly person in the household as they have a difficult time regulating body temperature) I installed a new central air system about a year ago, but even now, if the temperature is below 85, I don’t bother with the A/C, so I only use it during the Summer months. Tile floors and keeping upstairs windows open at all times, plus large trees to the Southwest side of the house to block the strongest of the afternoon sun helps.
    Someone mentioned attic fans, which are actually a small fan in the attic that sucks the air out of the attic, but not the house. The correct term is a ‘whole house fan’. It is a large fan cut into the ceiling that sucks air up into the attic and pushes it out the eves. You open a window at each end of the house and it sucks the air through and up at a high velocity. Older homes here used to have them instead of air conditioning. They are still made…I believe California leads the country in the industry.

  29. Wow!! what some great ideas . got to try this for sure , my power bill will go down and I can save for a much needed vacation,, Thanks for the input..

  30. To keep cool, become a morning person, if at all possible.
    = very right way to exhaust or feels cool , i enjoyed a lot .

    When living without air conditioning, eat cool meals.
    we love the way of live of villagers .

  31. Foot baths in cool water, leg spray with aloe, loose clothing in light colors and fabric, keeping the mister nearby and lying on the floor (cool air falls) help living in an apartment without a/c, but if I ever have a house there will be a/c, at least in my room and the family room. I’ve worn out fans every year and we aren’t allowed to hang curtains. I will try putting a car shade in the windows since our apartment faces south. Tuna, chicken, and ham salad are mainstays, plus plenty of cold water and popsicles (I make my own) and go to cool places. It causes me breathing problems when it’s hot.

  32. Useless for places where temperatures reach 40C for almost 5 months Ina row, during days and never less than 33C at night. It NEVER “cools down” enough to follow suggestions such as “do things at night or early morning”. At 6am is already near 35C and humidity never less than 75%.
    I’ve also noticed you don’t even mention where you live and temperatures , so at least be nice to give things info so people won’t waist there time if you are talking about temperatures tops 35C for 2 weeks in summer.

  33. Some more tips to ad are get a calf wrap cold water on a cloth wring it out and wrap it on your lower legs (calf’s) this is used also if your kid or patient gets fever cold calf wraps have been used for that for centuries here in Europe takes the heat down. The calf’s are the points in Jin Shin Yiutsu Japanese healing Method, you can google that , to hold just place your hands on your calf’s and hold them regulates the temperature for about 20 minutes,of the body u can do that on another person too. This works also if the person is undercooled. Another trick is to make yourself a handy spray bottle with apple cider vinegar diluted just so that it barely tastes sour, I carry this bottle with me in my purse so it’s not that big , and spray my calf’s or whole legs and arms wherever I can, even in a city bus that helps a real lot . let it dry on your skin, this is my favorite body aricondition in summer. I also do is hang a lot of wet sheets or clothes form the washing Maschine not totally dripping but wet as possible I hang these on strategic places in the Haus , like windows, or draft pathways in the house. When you can’t do it with the laundry then use some thick material like big towels or thinner blanket , I repeat this through out the day this sinks the temperature in the rooms . I also used humidifier in which I filled with icecubes and ice cold water . Wear a straw hat underneath cold wet hair or ice pack if it gets too cold take it out. Aloso drink cold diluted glass water with apple cider vinegar just half a tea spoon, pure or with a bit of xilitol or honey ,I prefer xilitol or pure does not damage your teeth so badly . Apple cider vinegar constricts the capillaries in your body which are wider in hot climates as they should be. This constriction cools the body by the way when doing the calf wraps u can soak the cloth in water were you ad apple cider vinegar not too sour the best measure ist taste it it should be drinkable then you know it’s -right ! 1 Liter of water and one table spoon of apple cider vinegar is approximately the mixture. Hope this helps someone .

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