Cooling down your home without an air conditioner

Air conditioners have long been an easy way to beat the summer heat. Whether you have central air conditioning, a window unit, or a portable air conditioner, you can simply press a button and make a hot, stuffy room refreshingly cool.

However, air conditioning systems tend to be bulky, noisy, and expensive, and they also result in a considerably higher electric bill. Even if you have air conditioning in your home, you may want to try some alternate options for keeping your home comfortable.

Blocking the light

Natural light is a great way to illuminate a home, but the solar radiation it brings will also raise the indoor temperature. Blocking this light using curtains or blinds will help keep your home cooler.

You can preserve some natural light by only covering the windows where the sun is most intense. Joseph Truini, writing for Popular Mechanics, says you should block off the windows on the eastern and southern sides of your home in the morning. Later in the day, you remove the coverings on the east windows while blocking off the windows facing to the west.

Window coverings aren't just limited to drapes and blinds. Lisa Kaplan Gordon, writing for home improvement site HouseLogic, says awnings on the windows facing south and west can considerably reduce the amount of solar heat entering your home. You can also use window films on these windows to preserve your view but reflect infrared radiation.

Your landscaping can also play a pivotal role in minimizing interior heat. Dawn Hammon, writing for the sustainability site Inhabit, says trees, shrubs, and vines can be planted as a barrier in areas with intense sunlight.

Creating a breeze

Allowing a cross-breeze to blow through your home can make your rooms feel much more comfortable. You can observe the breezes around your home to see if they consistently blow at a certain time or from a specific direction, allowing you to open windows to take advantage of their cooling qualities.

This method is most effective if you only open the windows when outside temperatures are cooler than the temperature inside your home. You may want to only open the windows overnight and in the early morning, then shut them to trap the cool air in the home. Truini recommends opening the windows on the west and north sides of the home in the morning, then closing them while opening the south and east facing windows in the evening.

Fans can play a crucial role in circulating cool air through the home, especially on days with minimal breezes. Overhead fans will blow air down to create an artificial breeze; they should be turning counterclockwise, not set to the clockwise setting designed to improve heat retention in the winter.

Box fans set up in the windows can also be effective. One useful method is to use fans in the early evening, placing them in the east or south windows to blow air into the home and the west or north facing windows to blow air out, thus creating a cross-breeze.

A whole house fan is a more expensive but potentially more effective solution. This device uses strong fans to exhaust hot air from the home into the attic, where it will escape the home through vents. Alexa Erickson, writing for Family Handyman, says the exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathroom will also vent hot air on a smaller scale.

Since hot air rises, it helps to set any window fans as high up as possible. Dan Seitz, writing for Popular Science, says you should concentrate fans in the upper floor and ideally locate them in the top sash of a window.

For more localized cooling, a bowl of ice can enhance a fan's cooling effect. Victoria Harrison, writing for the home design site Houzz, says air blown over the ice will create a chillier breeze than what the fan alone can accomplish.

On humid days where moisture is in the air, sweat is less likely to evaporate and you'll have a more difficult time finding relief. Seitz says it helps to run a dehumidifier when humidity levels are high to help create drier air inside the home.

Appliances

Several appliances and other items in the home will give off heat, making a room more uncomfortable. Harrison says it helps to keep lights turned off whenever possible, since all bulbs will emit some heat; energy-efficient bulbs will minimize heat production while also saving you money on your electric bill.

Even when turned off, many appliances will remain on standby and emit some heat. Unplug devices such as computers, televisions, and phone chargers when not in use. The refrigerator will throw off more heat when it needs to work harder, so clean its vent and coils to help it operate more efficiently.

Using the oven will release broiling heat into the kitchen, so you may want to find cooking alternatives on hot days. Truini says some options include meals prepared with a microwave, slow cooker, or toaster oven. You can also opt to grill outside or prepare a simple meal such as a salad that doesn't require cooking appliances.

Minimize the use of anything that releases steam as well. Limit your time in the shower, and keep the temperature as cool as possible. Hand wash dishes instead of using the dishwasher.

A clothes dryer will also release a great deal of heat into the home. Hammon says you can hang washed items on a clothesline or run the dryer in the evening when the temperature has cooled.

Insulation

While homeowners tend to associate insulation with preserving heat in the winter, it is also an important factor in keeping homes cool in the winter. Truini says stuffy attics can cause the rooms below to heat up; insulating the floor of the attic can minimize this effect.

Look for any areas where hot air may enter the home from the outside. Hammon says you should feel around the doors and windows for air flow and install weather-stripping as necessary. You should also make sure the fireplace damper is closed.

Other methods

Some strategies won't keep the home itself cooler, but can make you feel more comfortable. Harrison says you can use natural rather than synthetic materials for your bedsheets, since these will breathe better and help you stay cool. One unusual option is to wrap your pillowcase in plastic wrap and freeze it before you go to bed, which gives you a cool place to rest your head at the end of the day.

Hot water bottles can be repurposed for the summer by freezing them and stowing them under the sheets at night to give you a more relaxing sleep. You can also mist clothes and linens with water on hot days with low humidity to create an evaporative effect that will make you feel cooler.

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