How to Beat the Summer Heat Without Air Conditioning (How to Keep Cool)

by Merissa on July 15, 2012

in Featured, Thrifty Living

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How to Keep Cool

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It's over 90F outside today and yet I'm feeling nice and cool inside the house, but I don't have any air conditioning. When we were looking for a house, air conditioning was a non-negotiable requirement for me. Didn't think I could make it without it. I'd still love a house with air someday but until that day comes I make the best with what I have. Here's how I beat the summer heat and how to keep cool:

  1. Leave the oven off. No more being tempted to make cookies in the middle of the day, baking is reserved for when the sun goes down and the temps drop. It will require a little more planning ahead but at least your house won't have to feel as warm as the inside of that oven! You could also use a crockpot or a toaster oven instead of an oven, less electricity and you won't heat up the house. And while you are at it, skip running the dryer or any other appliance that puts off heat during the day. Wait til it cools down in the evening. Also, plan to make "cooler" meals. When it's 100F outside no one wants to eat a bowl of chili. Stick to a big slice of watermelon and a salad with all the fixin's.
  2. Think cool treats. Make homemade pop-sickles, freeze fruit, have plenty of ice on hand to make iced tea or ice water when you need it. If you need inspiration you can try these Strawberry Yogurt Frozen Pops or Homemade Fudgesicles. I also like to freeze grapes when they are in season (just wash and freeze) and you can make frozen banana pops buy sticking a stick in a peeled banana, dipping in chocolate and freezing. Or you can just do the frozen juice. Anything cool works!
  3. Invest in dark shades or curtains. I found heat blocking curtains on clearance at Shopko. They work great for my windows that face the north in the afternoon when the sun in beating in. Even a dark brown shade will work, anything to keep the hot sun out and keep the inside dark and cool.
  4. Fans, fans, fans. Fans are inexpensive to run and they provide relief from the sticky stiffness that summer brings. I have a ceiling fan in every single room in the house to move the air around and keep it from being still.
  5. Think about a window air. We have a window air conditioner but it only fits in the bathroom window because of how the windows are in my house so it does do alot of good but if you have a house where a window air will fit, try Craigslist or Freecycle to find a cheap or free window air conditioner.
  6. Get a pool. No, you don't have to spend a couple hundred dollars on a pool that shoots glitter and fireworks. Last year we just got one of those little kiddie pools. It was supposed to be for my puppies but we ended up all in there together when it was over 100F out.
  7. Make your own air conditioner. Put a bowl of ice in front of you and put a fan behind it. Instant cool down while the ice melts away.
  8. Get a spray bottle or a water spritzing fan. Fill them with cold water and spray on to cool down.
  9. Dress the part. If you are staying home for the day, try and wear whatever will keep you cool. Go for loose, light fabrics. Also try and still with natural fabrics instead of artificial, they are more breathable and will keep you cooler. I find tank tops for less than $1 at rummage sales and stick to those most of the summer. If all else fails, pretend you are all the beach all day and hang out in a swimsuit.
  10. Stay hydrated. When your body is correctly hydrated you will stay cooler. Stay away from sugar summer time drinks and stick with good old ice water.
  11. Wear a necklace. No, not a regular fancy jewelry necklace. I'm sure you've seen those gel feeling things you wrap around your neck to stay cool. If you don't want to buy one you can make one by sewing a long skinny tube, filling it with rice and freezing it until you need it.

Keep cool and stay frugal with some yummy Frugal Ice Cream! You don't even need a special ice cream maker to make it, you can make your own Homemade Ice Cream Freezer!

How do you beat the summer heat? Share your tips on how to keep cool!

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{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mel June 7, 2011 at 8:30 am

I keep cool by waking up extra early in the morning & opening all of the windows to the house & let in all of the early morning chill. I also turn on all of the ceiling fans to high. Once I feel the temperature start to climb, at all, I close up the windows & pull down the shades on the windows where the sun is hitting..for me, that would be my East facing windows. When the sun starts to hit the West side of my house, I go around & pull all of the shades down on that side. Believe it or not, I can keep my house about 20 degrees cooler than the outside temperature, by doing this. If it is humid, then I don’t open the windows that day. I have found that it is worse to let the humidity into the house than to cool it off. We have 3 small window air conditioners that we use when it is humid. It keeps this Old House surprisingly cool, all summer. I do live in a brick house, though. We also have deciduous trees planted on the West side of our house, to shade it from the hot afternoon sun. I think before air-conditioning, people used to know how to cool a house off better than we do, now. All houses had shade trees & a nice front porch to retreat to in the heat of the day, with a nice cold glass of either lemonade or iced tea..sounds good, huh?

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2 Merissa June 7, 2011 at 9:19 am

Oh that does sound nice! Taking a little cat nap in the shade of the porch in a comfy rocking chair with a big glass of sun tea…..

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3 Lana June 7, 2011 at 10:11 am

I am cracking up about the hang out in your bathing suit thing! If I did that someone like our pastor would surely come to the door! But we do have central A/C so I’ll keep my clothes on!

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4 Merissa June 7, 2011 at 10:14 am

Haha, lucky! Well, I can mostly find something cool to wear but when it’s 100F and we head up to the river to fish you better believe I’ve got my swimsuit on to stay cool and in case I feel the need to jump in!

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5 Judy June 13, 2011 at 7:44 pm

We have good air conditioning but during peak hours (2-7 pm) electricity costs a ton more so I try to use as little electricity as possible…today I had my boys play out back with a shallow container of water and they were perfectly content for over an hour :).

I wish we could take advantage of cooler weather at night, but once summer hits, many nights it doesn’t go below 90 here and we sweat no matter what time of day or night here :(.

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6 Merissa June 13, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Wow, 90F at night? It usually cools down to the 60′s here so we are lucky.

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7 Becca @ Sweet Swan Songs April 12, 2012 at 12:52 pm

We have the same problem here in Tennessee. In the middle of the summer, we’re lucky if it gets below 89 at night, so we can’t even open the windows to let the cool air in because it doesn’t cool down! Air is kind of a must-have for night time at least. I sure wish it cooled down a bit more! I love spring and fall because we can have our windows open 24/7 and take advantage of the beautiful weather. :)

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8 Marcie June 18, 2011 at 7:26 pm

Great ideas, we do a lot of grilling outside so we don’t heat the house. It doesn’t get below 90 degrees where I live either, 60′s would be very refreshing :).

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9 Merissa June 18, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Yes, grilling outside would be a great alternative to oven cooking! Plus it’s fun ;)

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10 Kimberly March 19, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Great advice. Thank you .

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11 kevin w. March 19, 2012 at 8:17 pm

This is a really great post and I might link to it on a similar post on the Amish Cook site (we REALLY should NOT have to be discussing this in March) in the near future. Quite relevant post because, as I’m sure you know, most Amish don’t have air-conditioning…So they actually employ a lot of tactics to stay cool…I’ve visited the most heat-soaked Amish settlements but have been amazed by their “stay cool” tactics. By the way, what part of the Dakotas are you in? There is an Amish settlement now – only one – in the Dakotas in the far SE part of the state.

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12 Merissa March 19, 2012 at 8:23 pm

I agree, we shouldn’t have to be talking about this in March! That sounds like a good post…I’ll be interested to read it! And we are in the Black Hills:)

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13 kevin w. March 19, 2012 at 8:34 pm

I have not checked out the new settlement, just founded last year.let me know if you ever get to the SE part of the state…the community is near the town of Tripp, we might have to have a “Little House” goes on assignment project for amishcookonline if you are ever going to be near there!:)

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14 Merissa March 19, 2012 at 9:04 pm

I have family near there and we plan on heading that way again later this year. (I was just there in February:) )

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15 laura b April 12, 2012 at 10:53 am

we live in the desert so there’s no getting around needing an a/c. even so, i don’t like to run the oven and run up our electric bill. last year, i set up a kitchen in the garage. i moved the toaster oven from the kitchen and used the camping stove.

also, i hang my clothes. in the summer, my clothes dry faster on the rack outside than in the dryer inside!

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16 Carolyn Roberson April 12, 2012 at 2:25 pm

I was my towels early and pin them on hangers. Then, i hang them in a few doorways and on the shower rod. The cool moisture evaporating keeps the house cool and smaells wonderful.

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17 Christopher April 14, 2012 at 7:41 pm

I have actually found that white or the lighter colored shades refelect the heat back outside, where the darker colors ABSORD the heat from the sun. Same goes for clothing.
In a home that that has a North facing wall with windows, I put a fan in there that draws the cooler (shaded) air in and a fan on the South side to push the air out! On a two story home I put the South fan on the South or West window to push the air out!
Works good!

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18 Christopher April 14, 2012 at 8:31 pm

On the second floor! LOL

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19 Sharon L. Rose April 15, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Just found your page & love it! This is great Beat-The-Heat stuff. Hope you’ll post it again when it’s closer to summer.
And your tips for saving money, etc. (e.g. Homemade Cleaner) are invaluable! Hope to see many more of them.
Gratefully
Sharon

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20 A non E Mouse May 14, 2012 at 2:17 pm

HOT summer nights? We wet the sheets and wrap them around ourselves to at least get to sleep. WARM summer nights? I wet a washrag with cold water and ring it out then lay it on my chest to get the same cooling effect. BLISTERING summer nights? wet sheets, wet towels, ceiling fan, air conditioner, ice packs, whatever it takes.

A nice thing not mentioned here is a whole house attic fan. If you live in a non-secure place this wouldn’t work for you as you have to have some windows open, but in a place where you could leave upstairs windows open or something? A great way to cool a house down.

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21 Merissa May 14, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Great idea! I never thought to wet the sheets before!

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22 Elizabeth Winkelmeyer Payne July 2, 2012 at 11:19 am

We’ve also been known to hang lightweight wet sheets in front of shady windows or fans, too — makes the air a bit cooler as it evaporates (and the kids think it’s funny….good distraction). ;)

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23 Mardesia Bullock Chauvin July 2, 2012 at 11:32 am

Very interesting ideas that I might have to try out even with air conditioning.

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24 Barb July 2, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Here’s a great idea for homemade neck coolers:
http://theessentialherbal.blogspot.com/
Whenever I wash my hands, I use cold water to rinse, and then splash some up my arms and on my temples for extra cooling.

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25 G'ma Neise July 17, 2012 at 9:39 am

@Kevin where is the Amish cook site I would love to check it out. We live in Iowa and have AMish about 20 miles from us we go shopping there once a month at there bulk food store. It is so cheap to get spices. I loved all the cooling ideas as we don;t have a/c either. And it is hot this summer Thanks

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26 Jenn February 20, 2013 at 7:50 pm

G’ma Neise, I assume you mean Stringtown? I love to go there!

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27 janean April 17, 2013 at 12:10 pm

lol,,,you guys talk about 90 degrees,,,,,,i just moved to a place called Show Low Arizona and right now at this exact moment it is…………….SNOWING,,,,,but we also dont have air conditioning ( we was told we probably wont need one , we will see,,,,90 degrees is oretty warm for me) so,,,will defantly remember some of thise tricks.

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28 beckygaston July 31, 2013 at 11:47 am

I think I’d have to move. last year we had a record breaking number of days over 100. this summer has been much better, but still too hot to do without ac.

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29 Vanda February 5, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Just found your site and reading some of the comments.
We live in a regional part of South Australia, and at the moment it is in the middle of our summer, the temperature later this week will be hitting 43C (109.40) and although we have an air conditioner, trying to get the costs down on electricity is really priority.
Hope you don’t mind messages from out of the USA. I like learning new hints and things, keeping cool is similar around the world.

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30 Merissa February 6, 2014 at 7:09 am

Of course not, thanks for sharing!

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31 Becky April 17, 2014 at 11:17 pm

I spent a summer in El Paso, TX without AC. Oh, and I was pregnant, very pregnant! When it got so hot I couldn’t take it, I would step in the shower with all my clothes on. After a cold spray down, I toweled off enough so I wasn’t dripping and went about my day in wet clothes with wet hair, but plenty cool.

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32 Megan May 1, 2014 at 7:10 pm

When I use the crock pot in the summer, I put it out in the garage to cook. We do have central air but I still try to not stress it out in the heat of the summer. I too pull the shades on the sunny side of the house. I try to cook outside and I am even going to be water bath canning outside with the turkey fryer (filled with water and insulated with a towel) and propane this summer. Sometimes, when it is really humid, we will run the dehumidifier to take the water out of the air so that the A/C is less stressed and we spend less.

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33 Glue Girl May 2, 2014 at 11:17 am

We also try to stay cool without using high electric Air conditioning. We use fans and A friend gave me this video and I thought this was silly, but I tried one in my daughters room which is the hottest room in the house and we had to turn it off after a few hours because it was TOO COLD. and all it uses is the power from a small fan! i hope you like this idea too because I love the dark shades idea. blinds just keep the light out not the heat.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3YvF4eVQO0

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34 Heather May 22, 2014 at 5:04 pm

We in PA are blessed with normal temps in the evenings that drop in the mid-70s, or lower. My sister, who lives in FL and has all her life (I grew up there) visited one July and asked for a sweater — the temp was about 65 and she said, “you didn’t tell me it was going to be cold!” I was running around in shorts, Tshirt and flipflops!!

But having this blessing lets you use God’s cooling — with the assistance of a whole-house fan. I have one from Tamarack, a company located on Cape Cod. These are probably twice as expensive to buy as a normal 24″ whole house fan, but the installing is much easier. It also has the benefit of motorised doors, which are insulated to R38 minimum. This fan fits between the joists (typically 16″ between) and the installation requires you cut a rectangular hole in the drywall ceiling, cut two pieces of lumber the same size as your joists to go crosswise to make a “plenum” to block in the area where the fan fits. And you would of course want to caulk the joints between the crosswise lumber and the joists. You place a whole-house fan in the upstairs hallway (of a 2 story home) or in the centre of a one-story. You close most of the windows except the one or two farthest away, typically downstairs, and you open them only about 5 to 6″. It starts bringing in the cooler air from outside through the entire house. When we retire for the evening, we leave the fan on, but close the downstairs windows and open the one in the bedrooms that are occupied, maintaining the flow of cool air. I think over the 10 summers we have lived in this house, we may have used the A/C for probably 20 to 30 24 hour days cumulatively. Pretty much if the A/C is on, it is only on for the few hours in the late afternoon. Once the outdoor temps are 78 or below, off it goes (because that’s the lowest setting we make on our thermostat for the A/C, and that only when my husband’s home, I have a higher heat tolerance and work from home, so generally it is set at 83).

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