The hot summer months are upon us. And with longer days and more sunshine comes increased temperatures, both inside and outside.
Keeping your house cool in the summer not only keeps you more comfortable but also decreases the risk of health problems like dehydration and overheating. But not every house or apartment has central air. Even if you have an air conditioner, running it in the summer months can be expensive and it can be difficult to know how to keep your house cool without running up your utility bill.
If air conditioner installation isn’t an option for you, consider these seven alternative ways to keep your home cool:
A fan is one of the best alternative ways to cool your home without air conditioning. Box fans and ceiling fans circulate air inside your home to help you be more comfortable.
Ceiling fans can make an entire room cooler and more pleasant. As a bonus, they are relatively easy to install and low on the electric bill. Ceiling fans move warm air that can get stuck towards the ceiling and push cold air down. But be sure your fan is moving in the correct counter-clockwise direction in the summer instead of clockwise in the winter. Changing the direction of the fan blades impacts if hot or cool air is getting pushed down. Regularly check your ceiling fans to remove any dirt or dust and ensure the motor is working properly so they work better.
Box fans are large fans that can be unplugged and moved throughout the house. Box fans can be set in front of windows to circulate cooler air or used other places to create a cooling breeze. For best results, set your fan up in front of a window or door to move the most air and cool the entire room. To hack a box fan, try putting a bowl of ice cubes behind the fan where it pulls in the air. The fan will take the ice-cold air and move it through the room, imitating the feel of an air conditioner.
Exhaust fans in your bathroom and kitchen are designed to remove rising hot air from the home. But they’re for more than showers or cooking—you can use them to cool your home. Running an exhaust fan in the summer can make a noticeable difference in your home’s temperature as the fan removes the hot air from the house.
Use a Swamp Cooler or Small AC Unit
If your home doesn’t have central air and can’t support a full-home AC system, you may be able to use a smaller alternative.
Single-room air conditioners typically sit in windows and circulate outside air with other features to create a cooler space than just the fan alone. Most people who install these types of systems do it in the most used area of the home, such as the main living space or bedroom. However, these systems tend to be loud and require the right type of window to fit properly and be effective.
A portable AC unit is usually on wheels so it can be moved between rooms in the house, providing cooling wherever you need it. These systems typically use an exhaust hose through the window. The biggest advantage to a portable AC unit is that it can be moved to wherever you need cool air, such as in the kitchen during meals or in bedrooms at night. Although they use more energy than other AC options, they are easy to install and move around, which makes them a great flexible option.
Swamp coolers are similar to air conditioners but run warm air over a water-saturated cooling area. They work best in dry areas like Colorado and can often be moved throughout rooms of the house to provide cool air where you need it most. The downside of a portable swamp cooler is that you will likely have to replace the water and cooling pads to keep it running properly.
Open and Close Windows Strategically
Around 25% of summer heat comes through windows, so using them strategically can prevent unwanted heat and actually make your house cooler.
In the mornings and evenings when the outside temperature is cooler, open your windows to let in cool air and clear out the hot air. This is the best time to use a fan in the window to circulate the cool air or open multiple windows to create a cross-breeze. You can also DIY cooling curtains by spraying lightweight curtains or a sheet with cold water and hanging it in front of an open window. When the breeze comes through, the air will pass through the cold water and act like a makeshift air conditioner. Once the outside temperature is warmer than it is inside, close the windows to shut in the cooler air.
Window treatments also significantly impact a home’s temperature. During peak sun hours, close your window blinds and curtains to block out the sun’s rays, especially for windows that face east or west. Insulated or thermal curtains can absorb the majority of the sun’s rays so that the heat doesn’t extend to other areas of the room.
Window film is also a great option if permanent cooling options are out of the question. Window film reflects heat away from windows and keeps rooms cooler. It’s easy to apply and removable, which makes it a great solution for rental units.
Delay Activities That Create Heat
It’s not just the sun that’s making your home hot—it’s also the appliance and electronics and your everyday activities.
During the summer months, put off activities that create heat like laundry or baking until the cooler parts of the day when you can open a window to offset the heat. Avoid using your stove and oven as much as possible and instead opt for meals that can be served cold or grilled outside.
Appliances and electronics create a lot of heat. Turn off devices and unplug them when they aren’t in use, including the TV, computer, hairdryer, and more.
Light bulbs can also raise a home’s temperature. Incandescent bulbs are known for being incredibly hot, which can make the entire house feel hotter. Instead, switch to LED bulbs that emit less heat and use less energy. The switch is fairly inexpensive and can have a major impact on your electricity bill and the temperature of your home. And of course, turn off lights when you aren’t in the room.
Update Your Home’s Exterior
Shade significantly lowers the sun’s impacts and decreases the temperature, so create a cooler interior by adding more shade to your home’s exterior. Cover large windows with awnings or exterior window coverings to block out the sun.
Plant trees and bushes around your home to prevent the heat from creeping in. Although you likely won’t have substantial shade for a few years, planting things now can help your home down the road.
Check Your Insulation
Quality insulation in the ceiling and walls keeps hot air out in the summer and cold air out in the winter. Plus, it can significantly impact your energy bills by ensuring you aren’t paying for air and energy that just escapes from your home. Check that all exterior walls of your home have good insulation, as well as the attic or crawl space. If needed, repair any damaged or fallen insulation to create a cooler interior temperature.
Similarly, weather stripping can keep the hot air out during the summer. Installing a thin layer of foam around doors and windows is easy and inexpensive but can be incredibly effective in stopping hot air from entering your house, especially if you live in an older home that tends to be drafty.
Even if you can’t keep your entire house cool, you can dress the part. In the summer months, opt for light, breezy clothing instead of thicker fabrics and layers. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially if you are sweating from hotter temperatures. Switch your sheets for breathable linens made from cotton with a lower thread count instead of thicker fabrics that can keep heat trapped to your body.
Keep yourself cool by applying a cool wet washcloth to your neck or taking a cool shower, especially after exercising or before going to bed to cool your body down. You can also change your habits to embrace the cooler areas of your home, such as spending the hottest hours of the day in the basement or on your home’s main level instead of upstairs, where it tends to be hotter.
Just because your home doesn’t have central air conditioning doesn’t mean you can’t stay cool in the summer. These seven alternatives to air conditioning can keep you comfortable and cool all summer long.