Staying Cool Without Air Conditioning
My grandparents didn’t have air conditioning and my parents didn't have it until I was 14. So, how did we stay cool during the Summer? Here are some basic things to consider when the temperatures and humidity increase to uncomfortable levels and the lack, or limted use, of air conditioning is caused by an outage or a choice.
Stay informed of the weather forecast. Before a warm front approaches, make preparations for these quick "cool ideas":
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water
- Avoid or limit the intake of caffeinated and alcoholic drinks which cause dehydration
- Limit OUTside physical activities to early morning & evening (before 11am or after 6pm) - do INside projects in the meantime
- Schedule OUTside projects that are located in the shade at various times of day (Shade Schedule)
- Apply damp, cool cloths or ice to the head, back of neck, stomach, forehead, wrists, lower back, backs of knees or upper chest
- Wear wet clothing or clothing placed in the freezer or refrigerator
- Run a window box fan (blowing outside) with one open window located in a cooler area of the house [cross-ventilation]
- Run a ceiling fan rotating counter-clockwise
- Run a floor fan angled slighly upward (because cool air sinks)
- Use a hand-fan but some say the physical body movement may make you warmer
- Use a fan to blow across a bowl of ice or through a damp towel (refer to "swamp cooler" below)
- Use bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans to draw out the heat from nearby rooms
- Soak feet in a pan of cool water
- Take an occasional cool shower, dip in a pool, pond, lake, stream, river or ocean or spray with a hose or spray bottle
- Seek shade often and avoid direct sunlight
- Wear natural fiber (cotton), lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and headcover (wide-brim hat to keep sun off scalp, face, neck)
- Women - wear skirts instead of pants and non-padded bra
- Avoid wearing a backpack to carry things. Consider using a bag with handles instead.
- Limit your intake of food types (fat & protein) - Consume fruits, veggies, spicy foods & astringent (mouth-puckering) food & wines
- Consume refrigerated or frozen foods
- Some medications can raise body temperature. Research your prescription & off-the-shelf medications for this possible side effect
- Take an occasional trip to air-conditioned public places like the mall, store, library, movies, car or bus to hang out in a cool place for a while
- Don't be offended by Sweat/Perspiration to get the skin's natural evaporative cooling effect
- Avoid cooking, cook outside, use a slow cooker to minimize ambient heat or cook meals ahead of time
- Close windows & blinds/curtains (room-darkening and/or reflective) during the heat of the day & direct sunlight - open after the sun goes down
- Use awnings or other external window shading that lets light through but blocks direct sun heat
- When the sun goes down opening windows at both ends of the house, for cross-ventilation, to let air move freely throughout the whole structure
- Avoid using heat-generating appliances like a hair dryer, stove/oven, clothes dryer (hang laundry outside, in the AM, to dry)
- Unplug any appliances that still use electric even when not in use (read Killing My Electrical Vampires)
- Use natural light or minimize the use of, or replace (with LEDs), hot incandescent light bulbs
- Keep cooler areas of the house closed off from warmer areas - shut doors
- Retreat to cooler areas in the house (basement) or well-shaded, breezy areas outside
- Put smooth white fabric covers on your furniture to reflect heat and light
- At night, place an icepack in the bed or under the pillow
- Sleeping in a Hanging Hammock, indoors or out, provides air circulation around the body. Because hot air rises, hang as low as possible.
- Use breathable bed sheets (cotton or bamboo) that keep you cool while sleeping
- If living in a motor vehicle (RV, etc.) park near water (lake, ocean) & in shaded areas, use sun shades on windows & 12v fan when AC isn't running
- Know the symptoms of, and treatment for, Heat Stroke
- Don't forget plans and provisions for the pets and livestock - they get hot too
- Refer to the "Other Considerations" section, below, for more ideas
Consider addressing these other factors which may cause additional discomfort during hot & humid conditions:
- Humidity - Lowering the humidity will help you feel cooler. Run a dehumidifier.
- Allergies - Stock up on allergy medications or products to reduce in-home allergens like air filters & pollen-reducing window screen material
- Insects are annoying - apply Insect Repellent to clothing (including hat) when outdoors - apply methods to prevent them from entering the home (porch screen) or dispose of them if they do (inside bug-zapper or hanging glue traps). Consider wearing bug clothing to allow air in a keep bugs away from the body.
- Physical or Medical Conditions that may be exacerbated by high heat or humidity
- Direct Sunlight on Exposed Skin - is harmful & may be uncomfortable. Cover all exposed skin with light weight/colored clothing. Absorbed sweat on clothing can give an evaporative (wicking) cooling effect.
Invest in better windows, doors and insulation
Install a Cool Roof - Cheapest method is to paint a light color
Install a Green Roof
Strategically Plant Trees for Shade - Keep Trimmed to Prevent Property Damage
Install Awnings and Solar Screens to Shade a House - Be Careful of High Winds
Use Fans to Move Cool Air From Window AC to Other parts of the House
17 Ways to Keep Your House Cool and Save Money
Keeping Your Cool – When There's No Air Conditioning
Stay Cool with a Misting Fan
Zero-Electricity Air Cooler From Plastic Bottles
Emergency DIY "Air Conditioner"
[Video - Fan & Ice]
[Video - Fan & Wet Towel]
No-Ice Swamp Cooler* (did not work well for me but you may have a better design)
* For DIY Swamp Coolers, use wicking filter material (example), used in humidfiers, to avoid having to pump water to the top of the cooler.
Evaporation Cooling Products
DC Air Conditioner Systems (All-DC, for off-grid use)