I grew up in Minnesota, and anyone who’s been there in August can tell you it’s not always about the cold! We didn’t have a lot of money in my younger years, so we didn’t even know what air conditioning was. I remember some of the ways we kept cool and have found some new ones too.
How to Stay Cool Without Central Air
Here are some ways to stay cool in the summer if you don’t have air conditioning, or you just want to keep energy bills low:
Windows and Doors
Keep your windows, doors, and drapes shut until late in the day. This will help keep the warm air out. My house stays nice and cool, even when it hits near 90°.
Install blackout curtains, especially on south-facing windows. These curtains are made with a thicker backing to help keep sunlight and heat out. Some are made with a plastic backing. If you don’t want to use that, go to a fabric store and buy some cotton quilt backing. It’s thicker than most other fabrics and will have the same effect.
Open windows and doors (with screens) in the evening and night time. Most areas cool down at night and there are nice cool evening breezes. While the humidity may be higher, the cool air will offset any discomfort.
Install ceiling fans, and have them turned on properly. Ceiling fans have a switch that controls the air flow. In the winter, it should be set to force warm air downward to heat the home. Flip the switch and it pulls the cool air up to the higher levels.
Fans are an indispensable item in the summer. Along with ceiling fans, they get the air moving. Choose from box fans, oscillating fans, or small desk fans. They all work in much the same way.
If you have central air and heat, you may be able to pull cool air from your basement. Check for a “fan only” option on your thermostat. If the basement has a mildewy odor, add a few drops of an essential oil (like lavender) on the filter. It will help kill mildew spores, the number one cause of “basement” smell.
Check your light bulbs. Old incandescent bulbs throw off a lot more heat than the newer LED or CFL bulbs.
Using Plants & Trees
Get some plants! Certain plants naturally cool the air. Some good choices are palms, aloe vera, ficus, snake plant, dracaena, pothos, ferns, spider plants, and begonias. The larger the leaf, the more cooling action the plant has. Adding drip trays underneath the plants will prevent the plant from becoming waterlogged if too much watering is done, and the excess moisture collected in them will cool the room.
If space and local regulations allow, plant a shade tree outside your home on the west side. This will help block the worst of the sun’s rays.
Clothing & Bedding
Having trouble sleeping at night because of the heat? Go with all cotton sheets. I use flannel sheets even in the summer. The top sheet doubles as a really light blanket.
Your blankets should also be made of cotton. If nothing else, use a thin cotton blanket closest to your body, and blankets made from other materials on top of that.
Dress in cotton night clothes to keep cooler at night. I sleep in a cotton tank and shorts, and it’s very comfortable.
You can put a plastic bag filled with ice under the sheets at the foot of your bed. It can cause a lot of dampness unless wrapped well. I made a pouch from diaper cloth, the kind that has a plastic coating on one side to keep it waterproof. I try to avoid plastics, but since I won’t be wearing it or eating from it, I made an exception.
Water & Ice
Damp towels in doorways work well to help hot, dry air become cooler. If you’re trying to keep humidity out, this probably won’t work for you. I raised rabbits in high school and when it got really hot, we put wet towels over the hutches to keep them cool.
Pour some ice water into a basin and soak your feet. Your feet help regulate body temperature, so cooling them off will help the rest of your body cool off.
Eat spicy foods! Heating your core with spicy foods (and those hot in temperature too) can help make you sweat, thereby helping cool you off.
Grill your food outdoors. Turning on your oven and stove only adds to heat in the house. Take your meals outside for a change.
Do you have any tips for keeping cool in the summer? Share them with us!