Cool Your Home Without A/C: 10 Ideas

For many, summer has not yet come to an end (in Hawaii it’s summer all year round!). After a streak of heat like we have experienced this year (with more than 40,000 heat records broken) you might be suffering some major electricity costs. Below are some tips for keeping cool without the electric grid.


Utilize your windows: Open, reflect, shade

1) Create air flow by opening your highest windows to let access heat escape
Remember that heat rises. Open windows in your house that are across from one another so that air can flow in one and out the other. Fresh, moving air feels cooler than stagnant air.

2) Stop heat before it enters your home
Use the reflective power of light colors! Shield your windows with awnings, shutters, or double pane glass. If you can’t afford renovations then use white curtains or purchase DIY reflective film. White curtains can be placed in- or outside windows.

Swap cooling: Water, water, water

3) Build your own swap cooler
Follow these directions. Several hours of cooling should only require a couple gallons of water.

4) Swamp cool your head
Simply, get your hair wet. Your noggin is one of the major temperature control centers for your body and cool water has the added benefit of stimulating blood flow. You’ll think clearer and probably be happier after taking a dunk or shower. This option requires water but with conservation that’s better than your coal-powered air conditioner.

5) Get some plants and let ’em sweat
Indoor plants clean your air and provide cooling when you water them. Just like us, plants sweat through a process called transpiration. They turn heat, light, and water into oxygen and vapor. Place them where windows allow in direct light (and thus heat). Hanging plants in windows will also help. Just make sure you water them early in the morning so that the water will last and you can enjoy their cooling for as long as possible.

The best florists also carry indoor plants! Support small, local businesses!

Transpiration in action. (Photo: Terrarium from Chrysanthemum: Rare Tea & Flowers (Brooklyn, NY)

Fans: The rotating ones will never disagree with you!

6) Use them to bring in the cool morning and push out the hot evening
Add air flow by placing a fan in a shaded window. Move them around throughout the day. This option uses electricity but sometimes that is necessary and fans are a lot cheaper than an A/C unit. Permanent fans are also a great idea.

7) Again, water, water, water
Place a frozen bottle or plate of water in front of the fan. As the water evaporates it will cool the air. Putting plants in front of a fan will help as well.

8) Cool your attic/basement
Installing an attic fan will keep heat from collecting above your ceiling. You can purchase electricity free wind turbines or go with some that will add to your electric bill (still less than A/C). You can also insulate your attic with old clothes (especially denim), blankets, towels,and stuffed animals (donate the good stuff though!). If you have a basement, make sure it stays cool throughout the day by limiting the air that can escape after morning. Cooling the space beneath your floor makes a huge difference.

Cooling outside: Think outside the home

9) Shade your home
Without a doubt, shade trees are the most attractive and cost effective way to cool a home. Trees absorb heat and stop it from even reaching your home. Plus, they provide a great place to hang out when you’ve tried everything to cool your home and can only find relief outside.

10) Plant a garden with wall climbing plants or a pond
Soil, especially wet soil, retains far less heat than cement and dry soil. It also costs a lot less than grass. Adding a garden by a window or near a large wall creates the same transpiration benefits that indoor plants provide, except that it cools the air before it gets inside your home. Climbing plants provide shade and transpiration benefits as well!

Adding a pond creates even more cooling in your backyard!

You just can’t take it: Using your A/C

If all else fails, an A/C may be your only option for survival. Before you blast the thing consider these wise words:

Air conditioning: Cooling on the inside for the cost of warming on the outside.”

Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents: Earth

and these statistics:

U.S. emissions rose by 3.2% from 2009 to 2010. This increase was primarily due to an increase in economic output resulting in an increase in energy consumption across all sectors and much warmer summer conditions resulting in an increase in electricity demand for air conditioning.

Environmental Protection Agency

Using heating/cooling units less throughout the year really makes a difference!

  • Consider a programmable thermostat
  • Try window units instead of central air
  • Purchase Energy Star products
  • Consider a solar panel for charging your A/C. We really only need it on days with full sun so it only makes sense to recycle that energy. After a few years, your savings will cover the cost of the panels and you’ll never have to face summer energy spikes again!

OBVIOUS ALERT: Last, but not least, unplug appliances you aren’t using, switch out incandescent light bulbs for CFLs, and don’t cook hot food! All of these items produce access heat that will keep your home toasty and you uncomfortable. Avoid them when you need relief.

Thats all for now! Good luck! Keep an eye out for an article about low cost heating in a month or so.

Please share your thoughts, all are welcome and will receive a thoughtful response.

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