Need to cool down a room without turning on the AC? Here’s how a few simple changes to your home can help you beat the summer heat
It’s a hot summer night and a heatwave is in full effect. Temperatures have reached an insane degree, turning your home into a sauna.
The muggy, humid air drains you of your energy, leaving you sluggish and fatigued. You’d get some sleep if it wasn’t for the oppressive heat making you sweat so bad that you stick to the sheets.
Desperate, you need a way to cool down a room and fast.
Sure, the most obvious solution is to crank up the air conditioning, but on this particular night, that’s just not an option.
Maybe you’ve been unfortunate enough to have your AC unit pack up on you at the worst possible time of year and as is so often the case- there’s a lengthy waiting period before the repair company can make it out to you.
Or perhaps your reasons for seeking an alternative to air conditioning has more to do with the impact your unit has on both your bank balance and the environment at large.
Make no mistake about it, blasting that AC isn’t exactly cheap. According to the United States Department of Energy, air conditioning use counts for six percent of all electricity produced in the USA, costing an eye-watering annual total of $29 billion.
That’s to say nothing of the damage all of that artificially cool air is doing to our planet.
Air conditioning is responsible for releasing some 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year. Many older models, in particular, are also known to release harmful gases known as chlorofluorocarbons and hydro-chlorofluorocarbons, contributing to the rising damage in the earth’s ozone layer.
So, whether you’re trying to save money, save the planet, or simply save yourself from going crazy before the AC repair guy gets here, one question remains:
How do you cool down a room without air conditioning?
Here, we round-up 37 quick, simple, and practical solutions to help you beat the heat.
1: Manage Your Windows
Opening and closing different windows at different times of day can work wonders in reducing the amount of heat that flows into your home
The windows in your home may offer wonderful views of your beautiful garden, but they’re also drawing in all that baking heat from the sun.
As such, you’ll find it helpful to close and block off the right windows at the right time.
In the morning, shut windows that face to the south and to the east, while keeping north and west-facing windows open. This blocks out the most intense of the sun’s heat while still enabling the fresh morning air to flow through your room.
After lunch, you’ll start to find that the temperature drops.
At this point, simply switch things around. North and west-facing windows should be closed while the south east ones should be opened, allowing any heat that your home absorbed throughout the day to now be released into the outdoor air.
2: Install Window Blinds
A good pair of window blinds are essential for blocking out the sun’s heat
Opening and closing your windows at specific times may be a good start, but even a closed window will still bring heat into your home unless you find a way to adequately block out the sunlight.
A good pair of curtains is a good start, but to really keep the heat at bay, invest in a pair of quality window blinds.
Redi Shade’s Original Blackout Pleated Paper Shades are a good, low-cost option for flocking the heat and are incredibly easy to install, but really any pair of window blinds you can get your hands on will work pretty well.
3: Keep Doors Closed
Never underestimate what a big difference a small act like closing the door can make.
You may already be using a screen door, but if that’s letting in plenty of light then that means its also letting in heat, too.
Although it may seem counter-intuitive at first, keeping doors tightly closed can reduce the amount of heat that travels into, and throughout, your home.
4: Meet Your Biggest Fan
A ceiling fan can be a great way of keeping a room cool at a fraction of the cost that it takes to run your AC
OK, so it doesn’t have to be the biggest, but installing a fan is always a great way to keep your room cool while using only a tenth of the energy that it takes to power an AC unit.
Indoor ceiling fans like this 56-inch, three-blade model from Westinghouse Lighting tend to work best as they blow cool air directly downwards onto you and your surroundings.
However, they also tend to be fairly expensive, especially compared to free-standing fans.
Pelonis’ stylish Oscillating Tower Fan is about half the price of the aforementioned Westinghouse ceiling fan and still does a great job at cooling the room. Even the slowest, one mph setting, you’re still looking at a very noticeable three or four-degree reduction in room temperature.
5: Put Ice Under Your Fan
If your AC unit is broken, here’s a handy way to make your own, DIY version.
Take a decent-sized bowl or pan and place it directly in front of or below your fan.
The fan’s breeze will skim across the surface of the ice, spraying a refreshing, cool mist across your room that feels oh-so-good on those stuffy, sweltering hot days.
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Don’t have a bowl handy for the fan-and-ice method of cooling a room? Here’s how to acheive the same results with a few leftover Gatorade bottles.
OK, so this might be a drastic step for those of you who find yourselves in the middle of the rarest of heat waves or if you’re simply waiting for the AC repair guy to show up.
However, if you live in the kind of place were scorching temperatures are the norm, it might be a good idea to get out the paintbrushes.
In their Cooling Your Home Naturally report, the US Department of Energy notes that dark colors absorb between seventy and ninety percent of the sun’s energy and transfer it into the home, causing the temperature of your room to rise significantly.
Conversely, the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) says that heat gain through white walls is around thirty-five percent less than it is through darker walls.
With that in mind, the next time you’re planning to revamp your home decor, choose whites or other light colors to help keep the whole place cool.
7: Repaint the Roof
A dark roof like this one will absorb a significant amount of heat, so consider repainting to a lighter color
It isn’t just the interior of your home that you should consider repainting.
ASES also tells us that a black roof can become over 60°F (33°C) hotter than a white roof. If both you and your neighbors all have dark roofs, this could mean that your home gets heated twice over, first by your own roof and the second by the rising temperature of the overall neighborhood.
So, as long as you’re not breaking any major Neighbourhood Association rules, get that ladder and paint roller and get up on the roof.
8: Add Plants
Certain plants and flowers can have a wonderfully cooling effect on your home
If completely redecorating your home seems like a step too far, there is another way to cool down your home and improve its appearance that is much easier to manage:
Add a few plants.
If you already love spending time growing things in your garden, then bringing a few of your favorites into your home will produce positive results.
While anything from marigolds to magnolia trees may work, there are some types of indoor plants that are particularly effective at cooling a room.
Boston ferns, golden pathos and aloe vera plants are especially good. They absorb heat from the room to use as part of their growing process. Then, through the later process of transpiration, they release moisture into the air which has further cooling effects.
If your home has an attic, adding proper insulation to its floor can keep the rooms below it cooler.
Usually, when we think of adding insulation, we think of it as something that helps keep cold air out during those chilly winter months.
Yet ensuring your house is well-insulated will often prove beneficial during the sweaty summer season too.
Hot air absorbed from the roof collects in the attic and then filters down into the rooms below, making the whole place warmer.
You can prevent this from happening by trapping that hot air in the attic using an appropriate amount of insulation on your attic floor.
How much is an appropriate amount?
The Insulation Institute say that this all depends on where you live.
If you’re in the cooler, northern states, then opt for at least eighteen inches of insulation. If you’re in the warmer, southern states, 14 inches should suffice.
10: Switch to Cotton Sheets
This might not cool the room down, but it will certainly cool you down and help you get a good night’s sleep on an otherwise hot, sticky night.
Ditch the polyester and save the silk for that romantic winter’s evening.
Instead, opt for a lightweight cotton bed set like this low-cost bundle from Hillfair.
Cotton linens are much more breathable than other varieties and are great for encouraging ventilation and airflow.
What all this means, of course, is that you never again have to experience that horrible moment of peeling those sweat-soaked sheets from your overheated body in the middle of the night.
11: Turn off the Oven
Leave the kitchen oven off this summer and cook outside to avoid overheating your home
They say that if you can’t stand the heat you should get out of the kitchen and, honestly, that’s pretty good advice.
We all know how hot it can get when you’ve been slaving over a hot stove, so to keep things cool, turn your oven off and leave it off.
Make the most of the good weather and spend more time dining al fresco.
If outdoor grilling or barbecuing isn’t an option, consider using a microwave or crockpot rather than your oven as these generate significantly less heat.
You’ll soon notice the difference.
12: Time Your Cooking
If even that isn’t possible and for some reason, you absolutely have to use the oven, make sure to get the timing right.
As a general rule, your home will cooler earlier in the morning and later in the evening, making them the best times to use the oven without overheating the place.
13: Eat Light
Sticking with the subject of meal times, this is another way of helping you stay cooler no matter what the room temperature might be.
A large, heavy meal like a huge steak requires a lot of energy to breakdown in your system, a process that naturally raises your body temperature.
Consider saving those carbs for the winter and instead opt for lighter meals with lots of fruits and vegetables.
Your body temperature will thank you for it.
14: Make Use of Your Ventilation Fan
Your extractor fans can prove very useful in drawing hot air out of your home
Always thought that the exhaust/ventilation fan in your kitchen was just for getting rid of steam when you’re cooking?
On a hot day, the same process by which it eliminates steam can be used to draw hot air out of the room too.
Likewise, if you have a ventilation fan in your bathroom, put it to work in cooling the place down.
15: Use a Whole Home Fan
Taking the ventilation fan to the next logical step, make use of your whole-home fan.
Though usually found in older homes, they can still be bought and installed in more modern properties.
At several hundred dollars, models like this Cool Attic CX30BD2SPD Belt Drive 2-Speed Whole House Attic Fan with Shutter may not be the cheapest way to cool down your home, but they’re certainly one of the most effective.
Usually installed in a hallway ceiling, they suck hot air out of your home and draw it into the loft, where it disappears through the vents in your roof.
16: Buy a Cool Mist Humidifier
Don’t have a few hundred to throw down on a whole house fan?
Here’s a more affordable option:
Buy a low-cost cool-mist humidifier like this $40 model from Homasy.
These handy devices spray a cool mist throughout your home which can be incredibly refreshing on a muggy day.
You can even fill some humidifiers with your favorite essential oils to make your home smell lovely and improve your wellbeing.
17: Freeze Your Sheets
We all know that one of the absolute worst things about a heatwave is the way it affects our sleep.
Somewhere between the sweat-soaked comforter and the stifling air, getting a good night’s rest amidst scorching temperatures seems nigh on impossible.
If long, hot, sleepless nights are getting you down then here’s a suggestion which -though it might sound strange at first is undoubtedly effective:
Stick your sheets in the freezer.
Obviously, you’ll want to put them in a plastic bag first to stop them from being covered in those random bits of frozen vegetables that always seem to spill out in your freezer, but with that done, put them in there and leave them for a few hours before bed.
Trust us, on a sweltering summer’s evening, few things feel better than curling up on lovely, cold sheets.
You can also do the same with your favorite PJs to help keep you cool and comfortable throughout the night.
18: Turn Out the Lights
Turning your light bulbs off is a quick and simple way to reduce heat .
It’s no secret that light equals heat, so the more artificial lighting you have in your home, the hotter it’s going to get.
Incandescent light bulbs are the worst offenders, emitting some 85 British Thermal Units (BTU) of heat compared to just 30 BTUs generated by Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs).
So, if you do need the lights on, consider using energy-efficient CFL light bulbs. Otherwise, consider switching them off entirely to reduce heat.
19: Go Screenless
Light bulbs aren’t the only things emitting heat in your home.
Your desktop computer, laptop, and even your tablet devices will give off heat.
Think about it:
This is why the server room at your office needs so much air conditioning, and why there’s always a fan built into your computer to cool it down.
So, while it may be convenient to leave them switched on in a low-power state when not in use, you’ll be better off switching them off completely.
Better yet, consider going screenless for a day or even an entire weekend to further reduce the amount of heat you generate in your home.
20: Create a Cross-Breeze
Here’s another simple technique to help you optimize the effectiveness of a free-standing fan.
Take your fan and position it opposite an open window so that the natural breeze from outside meets the air blown by your fan to create a wonderfully refreshing cross-breeze.
If you have several standing fans, position them at different points in the room to further improve the airflow.
21: Plant Trees
Surrounding your home with the shade of a few trees can have a tremendous cooling effect
This one may take a little more work but in our experience, it’s well worth the effort.
Head out into your garden and plant a few trees.
Sure, the pay off may take a while, but eventually, you’ll benefit from the cooling effect of those trees, which absorb water through their roots and evaporate it out through their leaves in a process known as evapotranspiration.
In summer, this can cool the surrounding air by as much as 9°F (12°C).
Tall trees can also block the sunlight from your windows, walls, and roof, reducing the temperature even further.
For this to work, it’s important to plant trees in the right location. Keep in mind that the hottest part of the day is mid-afternoon, so think about where the sun is at that point of the day and plant trees on that side of the house.
22: Add an Awning
If you don’t want to go to all the trouble of planting trees then there is a much faster way to add some permanent shade.
Buy a simple window awning which can reduce the amount of direct sunlight hitting your windows and thus prevent excess heat entering your home.
23: Get Creative with Box Fans
Rather than using box fans to blow cold air into your home, place them in a strategic location facing out of your window so that they can blow that hot, heavy air out of the house.
24: Freeze a Hot Water Bottle
Freeze a hot water bottle and add it to your bed to keep it nice and cool
When summer turns to fall and eventually to winter, there’s few better ways to stay warm than by bringing a lovely hot water bottle under the covers with us.
Yet there’s no reason why that same hot water bottle can’t prove equally as comforting in the blistering heat.
Fill it with water and freeze then, then take your make-shift ice pack and stick it at the end of your bed where your feet are.
Thanks to the kind of material hot water bottles are made from, it will retain the water that comes from the melted ice so that it doesn’t make a mess of your bed while at the same time making that bed a much cooler place to be.
25: Build a Covered Porch
The more you can do to prevent sunlight directly hitting your home, the less you have to worry about excessive heat.
Along with those aforementioned window awnings, one way to shield your home from the sun is to grab some landscaping timber and build a covered porch.
This will provide plenty of shade while at the same time adding a charming look to the outside of your property.
26: Sleep in a Hammock
A suspended hammock has air flowing all around it, making it a much more comfortable place to sleep in the heat.
No, seriously. Since a hammock is suspended on all sides, the airflow around it is much better than around a typical bed, making for a much cooler experience.
If you can’t sleep comfortably in a hammock, consider setting up a cot suspended above the ground as this will produce the same result.
27: Try ‘The Egyptian Method’
Here’s another one that might seem a bit out there, but some people swear by it.
Named after a technique used back in the days of the Ancient Egyptians, ‘The Egyptian Method‘ involves wetting a bed sheet or bath towel then ringing it out into it is damp but not soaking wet.
Then -and here comes the interesting part- you can either wrap this damp sheet around your body or lay it on your bed and lie on top of it.
Though it might feel a bit strange, this does genuinely work to keep you cool as you drift off to sleep.
28: Create Some Space
Yes, you love your partner dearly and enjoy being as close as possible to them as often as you can, but look:
All that close proximity is going to make both of you feel much hotter.
Whether you’re sitting on the sofa watching TV or drifting off to sleep, put some space between you. Otherwise, you’ll only end up radiating heat into one each other, making an otherwise romantic occasion into a roasting hot nightmare.
29: Use a Bamboo Mat
Bamboo mats hold much less heat than a traditional mattress
When temperatures rise, a lot of heat is absorbed into your bedroom mattress. Not only does this make the room as a whole feel that much warmer, but it also contributes to an uncomfortable night’s rest.
With that in mind, consider swapping out your mattress for a natural bamboo mat.
Though they may not be quite as soft and cozy as your mattress, they do hold far less heat, and on those insufferably hot nights, that’s just what you need most.
30: Hang a Wet Sheet
If you started to try out The Egyptian Method but balked at the idea of wrapping that wet sheet around your body, here’s another use for it:
Hang it up in front of an open window.
The natural breeze will blow in from the outside, through your sheet, creating a much-welcomed coolness.
If that isn’t an option, consider placing a free-standing fan in front of that sheet to create a similar effect.
31: Rest on Buckwheat Pillows
Buckwheat isn’t just a pantry staple. It can also prove hugely beneficial in keeping your room cool.
Specialist buckwheat pillows absorb nowhere near as much eat as their traditional down and cotton counterparts, so consider making the switch.
While you’re at it, head back to the pantry and dig out any rice you may have lying around.
Stuff it into a sock, freeze the whole thing for a while, and voilà: a DIY icepack.
32: Keep it Easy and Breezy
Light dresses and other summer clothes will help you feel cooler no matter how hot the room gets
Sometimes, you’ll find that it’s much easier to cool yourself down than the actual room.
While that’s a perfect excuse to treat yourself to some ice cream and delicious cold drinks, you may prefer to simply dress for the season instead.
Wear light, loose clothing like summer dresses, shorts and tank tops.
Whites and other lighter colors will absorb less heat than darker ones, so you may want to leave your goth ensemble in the wardrobe until winter comes.
33: Compress Your Pulse Points
Another quick and easy method to keep yourself cool regardless of the temperature is to apply a cold, damp cloth or ice pack to your skin.
While putting them anywhere on your body will help, they’ll be most effective on your pulse points, which are your wrists, elbows, ankles, neck, feet and behind the knees.
34: Reverse Your Ceiling Fans
We’ve already talked about the benefits of installing a ceiling fan, but here’s one top tip we forgot to mention:
Set your fan to spin in reverse so that the blades move in a counter-clockwise motion.
This pulls the hot air up and out, rather than just milling it around the room.
35: Insulate Your Windows
For rooms with lots of windows, adding window insulation film can make a big difference
You already know that your windows are a big source of heat, but you also love watching the birds in your garden so much that you don’t want to block out the view with curtains and shades.
So here’s another option:
Invest in low-cost window insulation film.
On warmer days, this transparent film will prevent excess heat from seeping into your house, while in winter, it works just as well at keeping out the cold.
If you have a lot of windows in one particular room, this may prove to be a more cost effective method than using blinds.
If ever you needed a good excuse to declutter and have a good tidy up, here it is:
Heat rises through the floor and is absorbed by whatever is lying around on that floor, so the more clutter you have, the hotter it’s going to get.
What’s more, clutter can make a room feel confining and restrictive, blocking the flow of air.
So, before you do anything else on this list, get to work on having a good tidy up.
37: Invest in a Window Unit
If all else fails then you could always use a window unit.
Though some models cost hundreds of dollars, it’s possible to buy a more affordable option for under $50 and they’re generally much cheaper to run, maintain, and repair than that super expensive air conditioning unit.
Final Thought: Focus on Your Body
If there’s one thing we want you to take away from today’s guide, it’s this:
While there a lot of unique and clever hacks you can use to lower the temperature of a room, it is often much quicker, easier, and more affordable, to focus instead on lowering your own body temperature.
By keeping clothing light and loose, making good use of ice packs and damp clothes, and ensuring you’re always well hydrated, you’ll be able to finally enjoy those long, hot summer days even when the AC is on the fritz.