9 Cheap and Easy Ways to Cool Your Home When You Don’t Have AC

Cheap and easy ways to keep your home cool when you don't have AC
credit: Paul Anderson

Did you know that in the U.S., it's more common to have an air conditioning unit than a garage, dishwasher, or even dining room? In fact, six percent of all electricity produced in the U.S. is from residential air conditioning — but like with any luxury, there are costs. Homeowners spend an estimated $29 billion annually on AC costs, plus air conditioners emit 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year averaging out to about two tons per home. Yikes! So, whether you're interested in saving money on energy costs, or you want to help Mother Earth, or quite simply don't have an air conditioner, here are some inexpensive and easy ways to stay cool when the weather gets hot.

1. Install Window Treatments

Chic window shades best for south, west facing windows
credit: Paul Anderson

According to the Family Handyman, roughly 30 percent of unwanted heat comes into your home through windows. To cut the heat, consider installing shades, insulating curtains, or tinted window film on south- and west-facing windows. You could even potentially save up to seven percent, or $45, every year on cooling costs while you're at it. Window treatments are cost-effective, and depending on which one you choose, will virtually pay for themselves in the years to come.

2. Strategically Place Outdoor Trees and Plants

Strategic landscaping for natural home cooling
credit: Paul Anderson

While this tip might take a few years to work, the stealthy combo of window shades and some strategically planted outdoor trees and plants can lower indoor temps by up to 20 degrees on a sticky hot day. Plant trees and vines on horizontal trellises, focusing on the east and west sides, to save average households up to $250 in energy costs annually.

3. Bring Plants Inside, Too

Houseplants do their part to clean the air, add fresh oxygen into your home, and cool off your light-filled living spaces by absorbing the warm afternoon sun. Plus, plants can warm up the feel of your space without adding any actual heat.

4. Cook Outside

Stay cool by cooking outdoors during hotter months
credit: Paul Anderson

Your oven and stove may as well be your mortal enemies during the sweltering summer months. Chances are, if the indoor temp resembles the inside of an oven, the last thing you should do is boil anything, or worse, bake. So, why not get more mileage out of that outdoor furniture while you're at it and cook your evening meals outside?

5. Adjust Ceiling Fans Counter-Clockwise

Ceiling fans should be adjusted seasonally
credit: Stephen Paul for Hunker

Did you know that in order to optimize your ceiling fan, it needs to be adjusted seasonally? Yep! It's a good idea to set ceiling fans in your home to run counter-clockwise (blowing down) and at a higher speed during summer months so that the fan's airflow will create a stronger wind-chill breeze effect. Also, ceiling fans cool people, not rooms, so get in the habit of turning them off when you leave.

6. Make a Portable Bucket AC

We've all been there: a lone oscillating fan blowing stifling hot air around an even hotter room. While one option provides little relief, you can take that same fan and turn it into a portable AC unit with only a few additional supplies. This portable air conditioner can easily (and cheaply) be assembled and serve as a Personal Cooling Device (PCD).

7. Get Down to Sleep

We all know by now that heat indeed rises, so stay cool by sleeping downstairs or better yet, sleep in the basement! There's actually a scientific reason your body sleeps poorly in a hot bedroom: a smaller temperature gradient triggers a sleepless night. If your bedroom is on the third floor, for example, the heat will be trapped there by the time you go to bed. If you don't have a basement, the first floor will do just fine.

8. Choose Breathable Materials for the Bedroom

Choose natural materials, like linen, for sleeping in warmer months
credit: Food52

Stop to reconsider your warm weather bedding material. From the mattress to sheets, even your pajamas could be working to help cool you down. Opt for natural, breathable fabrics across the board, like cotton, hemp and linen. Natural fibers will actually wick moisture away from the body, keeping you cooler as you sleep. Ditch the heat-absorbing foam mattress top or pillow, and instead go for the cooling variety.

9. Take a Cold Shower

If swimming in a nice, refreshing body of water isn't an option where you live, consider taking a good old-fashioned cold shower to bring down the heat. Unless there's 100 percent humidity, as the water evaporates off of your skin, it will cool you down (until you have to take another cold plunge). Or, how about this shortcut: simply wrap ice cubes around your wrists. This way, you'll feel the cooling effects sooner because your blood vessels are closer to the skin.


Lauren McQuade

Lauren McQuade

Lauren McQuade is a writer, editor based in Los Angeles.