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 were 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 a few tips to keep your cool – no matter what kind of air conditioning (if any) you have in your home.
Start Waking Up Earlier
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.
Eat Cool Meals
When living without air conditioning, eat cool meals.
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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, quesadillas, 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.
Another tip for eating to beat the heat? Avoid large heavy meals. The last thing you want to do when you’re hot is to eat a large meal, particularly right before bedtime.
Avoid AC in the Car
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.
Use a Moist Cloth
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 kind of 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.
If you can, learn the best pressure cooling points on your body. Place wash cloths in places like your neck, as I mentioned, or even around your wrists.
To keep cool, turn fans IN during the morning, OUT during the afternoon to create a nice cross-breeze and reduce the heat and humidity in your house..
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.
While you’re at it, take the time to adjust your bathroom fans, too, as well as the exhaust fan in your kitchen.
Make sure these fans are circulating warm air out of the house while you’re cooking or taking a steamy shower – that way, the hot air doesn’t hang around for longer than it needs to.
And don’t forget to turn those ceiling fans on, either! These should be running at all times – a box fan strategically placed in a window is also a good idea.
Use blinds and heavy blackout curtains to keep the light out.
During the heat of the summer, we go into “vampire” mode, where we try to 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 direct sunlight (and heat) to a minimum.
Drinking water will not only help you stay cool but it will also help you stay hydrated to prevent heat-related illnesses.
In fact, drinking a big glass of water should be the first step you take when you’re feeling overheated.
While cold water will feel better to drink, it doesn’t have to be ice cold to cool you down. Any water temperature will do – just make sure you drink up. Carry ice cold water bottles with you wherever you go!
Take a Cold Shower or Bath
Taking a cold bath or shower will lower your core body temperature and cool you down. Hopping in a pool works, too!
Consider adding peppermint soap to the bathtime ritual to help cool you down even more. The menthol in the peppermint oil will cool you down even faster.
Close Your Doors
Close off any unused rooms in your home. This will prevent cool air from permeating into those areas during the hottest times of the day and create more areas of shade.
Capitalize on the cooler nighttime hours, to – let air flow naturally through your home without shutting the doors.
Change Your Sheets
Switch out your bedding to keep cool. Fleece is great for insulation, but it won’t do much to keep you cool.
Instead, use a cotton blanket or even a buckwheat pillow – both of these materials are great for keeping you cooler.
If you’re really feeling overheated, try putting a bowl of cool water by the bed and dipping your feet into it. This hack is sure to cool you down when you’re sweating it out in the middle of the night!
Change Your Clothes, Too
Be smart about your clothing choices! Wear shorts and tee shirts rather than long sleeves, and stick to lighter colors to reflect the heat (rather than absorb it) whenever possible.
Loose-fitting clothes are best, since they’ll allow for more airflow to prevent your body from overheating.
Heat rises – so get low to the ground. Sleep on the couch or in the basement when it’s hot out, and you’ll likely find that the air there is much cooler.
Of course, you can always take the opposite approach, too – try sleeping in a hammock. Since this kind of bed is suspended, you’ll have more airflow while you snooze.
Hack the Windows
Open the top section of your windows on the downwind side of your house, and the bottom section on the upwind side – this will allow in the most cool air possible.
You can also, again, try wetting a sheet and hanging it in front of the second open window like a curtain. Homemade AC, coming right up!
Get Rid of Incandescent Lights
If you needed yet another reason to stop using incandescent lights in your house, it’s this – they give off so much heat! Switch to CFLs, or compact fluorescent lamps, and you’ll likely notice a huge difference.
Apply High-Reflectivity Film
High-reflectivity film, when applied to windows, can be incredibly helpful in keeping heat out without having to turn your entire house into a cave. You’ll still be able to see out your window and you’ll keep heat out at the same time.
These have three layers – an adhesive one that sits on the glass, a polyester film layer, and a scratch-resistant coating.
When the sun hits the glass, the window film serves as a form of sunscreen, blocking out harmful rays and keeping your house much cooler.
Yes, nothing feels more relaxing (and cooling!) than a nice cold beer after a hot day spent working outside.
However, it can also dehydrate you and make your body lose water – so you’ll end up feeling much hotter.
Turn Off Electronics
If it’s warm enough for you to be feeling the heat, that means it’s warm enough for you to enjoy some outdoor recreation! So get outside and turn off those electronics.
If you shut off all your gadgets, from your television to your laptop, the house will cool down because these appliances and electronics aren’t generating heat.
Simple as that! Plus, this energy-efficient hack will reduce your electric bill. Bonus!
Your partner might hold this one against you, but summer’s not the time for cuddling – especially not in a heatwave.
Consider sleeping alone and hogging the bed. The same goes for pets – sorry, Fido.
Be Smart About Your Fridge and Freezer
Be mindful of how often you are opening up your freezer and refrigerator.
There’s nothing wrong with opening it every now and then to grab a snack, but you should avoid trying to stay cool by standing in front of it.
That’s a sure-fire way to only feel hotter after – and to lose a ton of energy.
Watch For Signs of Dehydration, Heat Stroke, and Heat Exhaustion
Most importantly, make sure everyone in your family is aware of the signs of heatstroke and heat exhaustion.
If the temperature in your home starts to reach 90 degrees F (32 Celsius), it might be time to take some of these steps mentioned above – and if those don’t cool you down, you might want to head elsewhere.
Once indoor temperatures get over the high 90s, you start running the risk of heat-related illness.
Heat exhaustion is the precursor to heatstroke and is the first sign that you’re overheating. It can cause people to become combative, confused, dehydrated, and heavily fatigued.
However, it’s nowhere near as dangerous as heat stroke. Once heat stroke happens, immediate medical attention is necessary – or you could die.
Signs include hot, red skin, a strong and rapid pulse, and an extremely high body temperature (usually one over 103 degrees Fahrenheit). People who are suffering from heat exhaustion often suffer from delirium or might even be unconscious.
If you notice any signs of heatstroke and heat equations in yourself or anyone else in your household, take immediate action!
Stay Cool This Summer!
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 outage, or during another emergency.
What do YOU do to keep cool when the summer heat is on? Do you use air conditioning or not?
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.