5 Ways to Cool Your Home Without Air Conditioning
Whether you are looking to save money by using your air conditioner less or going without it completely, here are six cheap and eco-friendly ways to help you stay cool.
1. Shade Your Windows From the Sun
The number one way to avoid summer heat is by blocking the sun from reaching your windows. That’s why homes that are energy efficient depend on well-developed exterior shading systems.
A relatively simple concept that is used frequently in other areas (think carports to shade cars and beach umbrellas to protect our skin), exterior shading is often overlooked when it comes to our homes. Interior drapes tend to be the norm, but aren’t nearly as effective.
The truth is that the more shading you can incorporate on the outside of your home, the better. In addition to elaborate shading systems, options like window shutters, planting trees, simple overhangs made from brackets and timber slats that shield windows from the sun, and solar-control window films that reduce heat and offer UV protection are all viable alternatives.
It cannot be stressed enough — the most effective way to beat the heat is to block the sunlight before it gets to your home. However you choose to do that (awnings, planting trees, hanging shades, etc.) will be the most important use of the money in your home-cooling budget.
Tip: When developing your exterior shading strategy, remember to consider the sun’s path through the sky and how its rays hit your home.
2. Incorporate Interior Blinds, Shades or Drapes
Once the heat from the sun makes its way into your home through the glass of a window, the only way for it to escape is through ventilation. To help prevent floors and walls from absorbing that heat and radiating it throughout the day, consider installing an additional layer of protection between the window and the internal mass of your home.
One inexpensive option to think about is basic bamboo blinds. They can block a large portion of sunlight without doing away with daylight altogether. Another option is sheer window treatments. Not only are they a nice way to diffuse direct sun rays, they also allow you to maintain soft, natural daylight. White is better than other colors at reflecting sunlight.
Sheer drapes might actually be a better option than interior shades or blinds because they can provide additional cooling properties. For instance, try throwing them in the washer the night before or morning of a really hot day (or dampen them in the bathtub). Add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil to the water for added effect. Then, take the drapes directly from the washer to the curtain rod and hang them up damp. Open your windows and allow the cool morning breeze to pass through the drapes. Doing so will cool the air as it enters the home, and fill it with the comforting smell of your chosen essential oil.
By the time your drapes are dry, it’s time to close the windows anyway since the intense heat of the day is beginning to set in. This same technique can be used in the evening, but without using the washing machine since it generates heat (see #4 below).
3. Optimize Air Flow
Air will not circulate on its own. It needs to be forced, either by a fan of some sort or by there being a big difference in temperature with an adjacent body of air.
A great way to naturally lower the temperature in your home is night cooling, which swaps hot interior air for the cooler outdoor air. Simply choose strategic times of the day to have your windows open, such as early morning or late in the evening when it is cooler outside than indoors.
Depending on your climate and the position of your home toward the sun, you may need to experiment to see what works best for you. In order for it to work, there must be a considerable difference in temperature between the inside and outside of your house. Once the outdoor air begins to warm up, it’s time to close the windows and block as much heat from outside as possible.
Ceiling fans and portable fans situated near windows at night can aid in forcing air movement when there is no breeze or when there is only a slight temperature difference. Fans also provide air movement during the day, which can help the perception of heat, which is tied to humidity.
Misters are another great way to help cool things down. As the water droplets evaporate, they provide a cooling effect. Consider keeping a couple plant misters around the house near fans for a quick cooling spritz during the day.
Similarly, chunks of ice (or ice packs) placed in a tray in front of a fan will also provide evaporative cooling. In fact, it makes for a really inexpensive and surprisingly effective DIY air conditioner for compact rooms.
4. Avoid Using Major Appliances During the Day
Reducing the use of anything that emits heat will help maintain cooler temperatures during the day. For instance, try not to use the oven or clothes dryer, and refrain from opening the refrigerator too often. Every time you open the fridge, the motor has to engage to cool it down again, which generates heat.
5. Update Your Bed for Summer
Getting a good night’s sleep in the heat of the summer can be a big problem for some. If that’s the case for you, consider minimizing the amount of bedding you have and stick with natural fabrics like cotton or linen. Synthetic blends don’t breath well and are unable to release the heat we create at night.
Another option is to move your bed altogether — try sleeping outside on the balcony or porch. This trend actually goes back a century, when sleeping porches were an essential part of home designs and considered a reasonable health measure.
Depending on your specific situation, you may have some screened-in exterior space that can be converted into a sleeping porch. Simply add a small daybed and lightweight linens for warm nights when it’s comfortable enough for open air sleeping. Or if you’re feeling really adventurous, string up a hammock for the summer!