September 10, 2022 Steve Shinn, CR

6 Ways to Cool Off Without Air Conditioning

Having an air conditioner is a near-must in climates where months-long heat waves are a summer norm. And with that comes an equally scorching energy bill. Even in regions with gentler climates, homeowners can still experience enough hot days in a row to nearly go mad. It doesn’t have to be so hard. Whether you want to save money by running your air conditioner less or brave the heat without one, here are six ways to cool off without air conditioning.

6 Ways to Cool Off Without Air Conditioning

SALA Architects

  1. Block the Sun From Reaching Your Windows  Energy-efficient houses depend on well-designed shading systems because the best way to avoid summer heat is by blocking the sun’s rays from ever reaching the windows. It’s a simple concept that we regularly employ with beach umbrellas to protect our skin and carports to shade our cars. Yet when it comes to houses, for some reason people tend to believe that interior drapes are as effective as exterior shading. It’s simply not true.

6 Ways to Cool Off Without Air Conditioning

The Landing Company

The more shading you can include on the outside, the better. If you can’t afford a new matching set of shutters, consider a simple overhang made with brackets and timber slats to block your windows from the intense summer sun.

6 Ways to Cool Off Without Air Conditioning

Sun Control of Minnesota

Solar-control window films can offer UV protection and reduce the amount of heat gained from solar radiation. Compared with some elaborate shading systems, these could be a less expensive alternative.

6 Ways to Cool Off Without Air Conditioning

CMB Construction

Even simple and very inexpensive bamboo blinds can block a good portion of sunlight without completely sacrificing daylight.

6 Ways to Cool Off Without Air Conditioning
Charles Di Piazza Architecture

I can’t stress enough that the best way to beat the heat is to block the sunlight before it reaches your house. Whether you do that by hanging shades, installing awnings, or even planting trees, the most effective use of the funds in your home-cooling budget is in this first step.

When you’re planting trees for shade (or installing any kind of shading), think about the sun’s path through the sky. It may help you to check out an app called Sun Surveyor (or a similar one) that can help you track the sun’s path and how its rays hit your house.

Sarah Dippold Design

  1. Add Interior Drapes, Blinds, or Shades  Once the heat from the sun’s rays passes through the glass of a window, that heat is in the house and will need to be ventilated to escape. To keep your floors and walls from soaking up that heat from direct rays and emitting it throughout the day, it can help to add another layer of protection between the window and the main thermal mass of your home. Sheer window treatments are a nice way to mitigate direct sun rays to the floor but maintain soft, natural daylight. Plus, white reflects sunlight better than colors.

6 Ways to Cool Off Without Air Conditioning

MSiegel Design

There are a couple of tricks that you can employ with sheer drapes that you can’t pull off with interior blinds or shades.

My favorite thing to do is throw my sheer drapes in with my laundry the night before a really hot day. (They don’t take up much room, because they are super thin, but you could just as easily dunk them in a bucket of water and ring them out.) I set my machine to finish about the time I get up in the morning, and I put four or five drops of tea tree oil in with the load. When I get up in the morning, I take the drapes directly from the washer (still damp) to the rod and clip them in place. The open windows let the morning breeze pass through the drapes, cooling the air before it reaches me and filling it with the fresh smell of tea tree oil.

By the time the drapes have dried out, it’s about time to shut my windows anyway, before the intense heat of the day starts. You could do the same routine in the evening, but I wouldn’t recommend the washing machine version because of the heat it generates (see No. 4).

Allen Construction

  1. Get the Air Circulating  Air will flow only if it is forced (via a fan of some sort) or if there is a large temperature difference with a neighboring body of air. Night cooling is a great way to naturally decrease the temperature in your house and exchange hot interior air for cooler outdoor air. As I mentioned before, I have my windows open only in the early morning, at night, or late in the evening when it is cooler outside than my ideal temperature indoors. You may need to do some testing to see what works best for you, depending on your climate and the orientation of your house toward the sun. For this to work, there needs to be a substantial difference in temperature between the inside of your house and the outside. Once the outdoor air starts to heat up, I close my windows to try and keep as much of that heat out as possible.

6 Ways to Cool Off Without Air Conditioning

Jette Creative

Ceiling fans and standing fans placed near windows at night can help force air movement when there is no breeze and a small temperature difference. During the day the added air movement from fans can help the perception of heat, which is tied to humidity.

Peter Dolkas

The reason everyone loves misters in the summer is not for the humidity of the water in the air, but for the evaporative cooling effect of water being lifted off the skin. In fact, I always keep a couple of plant misters around the house, hidden near the fans, for a quick spritz as I pass by (our dog loves it too).

Another evaporative cooling tip, borrowed from history, is to set a big chunk of ice (or ice packs) in front of a fan with a tray underneath to catch the water as it melts. It makes for a really cheap and fairly effective DIY air conditioner for small rooms. I recommend closing off the space as much as possible, so you don’t lose that great cool air.

6 Ways to Cool Off Without Air Conditioning

Adams + Beasley Associates

  1. Turn Off Major Appliances During the Day  To help maintain those cooler temperatures during the day, reduce anything that generates heat in your house or apartment. For example, don’t use the dryer or oven and try not to open the fridge too often. The more you open it, the more the motor has to work to cool it down again, and the heat generated from that work will be released back into your apartment.

6 Ways to Cool Off Without Air Conditioning

Steve Masley Consulting and Design

Try fresh summer salads to avoid using your oven and stovetop.

6 Ways to Cool Off Without Air Conditioning

Kasha Paris

  1. Transition Your Bed Into Summer Mode  I don’t know about you, but I feel summer heat the most when I’m trying to sleep. Reduce the amount of bedding you have and stick to natural fabrics like linen or 100 percent cotton. Synthetic blends don’t breathe enough to release all the heat we generate during the night.

6 Ways to Cool Off Without Air Conditioning

Michael McKinley and Associates, LLC

Sleep on the porch or balcony. “Outdoor sleeping has come to stay, so let us recognize the fact and build our houses accordingly.” This declaration appeared in the magazine Decorative Homes of Moderate Costs in 1921, responding to the widespread fad of sleeping on screened porches. Sleeping al fresco was considered, in the time of diseases like tuberculosis, to be a reasonable health measure. As such, for many years, sleeping porches were an integral part of home designs.

Depending on your home or apartment and security concerns, you may have a little exterior screened-in space that can be used like a sleeping porch. You could have a little daybed with light linens for nights when it’s comfortable enough to sleep in the open air.

6 Ways to Cool Off Without Air Conditioning

Phi Builders + Architects

Or, hey, forgo the linens altogether and sleep in a hammock for the summer!

Beckwith Interiors

  1. Stay Hydrated  Everyone knows that staying hydrated in summer is extremely important. But did you know that drinking water also helps regulate your body temperature?

by Mariana Pickering  July 27, 2022, Houzz Contributor; Owner/CEO of Emu Building Science; LEED AP BD+C. After spending many years as an architectural designer in the high-efficiency residential Italian market, I now run a company that specializes in advanced construction science and Passive House design. We are located in Denver, Colorado, and Northern Italy, and we work internationally with builders, designers, and manufacturers of high-performance projects and products.

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