Eight Ways to Beat the Heat Without AC

August 1, 2019

Washington is finally starting to see some warmer summer weather – great news for outdoor adventures, pool parties, and suntans, but bad news for our houses! If you’re one of the majority of Washington residents who don’t have air conditioning in their homes, you know that hot weather can make for a stuffy, uncomfortable house and a terrible night’s sleep.

Luckily, there are a lot of things you can do to safely help cool your house (and yourself!) without spending thousands on an air conditioning unit.

Here are eight great ideas to stay cool when things heat up:

Keep your blinds closed. Completely closed blinds can reduce heat gain in your house by up to 45%, according to the Department of Energy. Adding blackout curtains, which reflect sunlight back out of the window, can nearly double the effect. At minimum, make sure that south- and west-facing windows are covered, as they receive the most direct sunlight.

Close the windows, too. In most cases, having windows open on a hot day only lets in hot air that then becomes trapped inside the house. The exception to this is if you place a box fan in a window (preferably north- or east-facing, to avoid the added heat of direct sunlight), turned outwards, forcing hot air out of the house. At night, take full advantage of dropping temperatures and open up as many windows as you like – but be sure that they can’t be entered by unwanted guests (including bugs, critters, and humans). In the morning, close windows again before the outside air heats up.

Switch up your ceiling fans. Did you know that most ceiling fans are designed to be run in different directions seasonally? Summer calls for a counter-clockwise rotation, which creates a downdraft of cooled air; a clockwise-spinning fan will only recirculate the hottest air in the house.

Go (incandescent) lights out. The Center for Sustainable Energy says that incandescent light bulbs, which superheat wire filaments in order to produce light, waste about 90% of their energy in the form of emitted heat. Limit the use of these lights, and maybe take the opportunity to switch to CFLs or LEDs. You’ll stay cooler and save a lot on your energy bills.

Cook outside. There’s a reason summer is grilling season – who wants to add to an already hot house by turning on the oven or stove? If you do have to use one of these appliances, turn on the exhaust fan in your kitchen to pull the hot air up and out of the house. Or just eat ice cream for dinner, we won’t tell anyone.

Make a rudimentary swamp cooler. Evaporative cooling can be hit or miss in Washington, depending on whether we are experiencing dry or humid heat. If it’s a dry heat, set up a fan in front of a metal mixing bowl filled with ice. The air will cool as it passes the ice and help bring down the temperature of your house. However, if it’s already feeling muggy, skip the swamp cooler. It will only add to the moisture in the air and make it feel warmer.

Sleep low. Like, as low as possible. Move downstairs or to the basement if you have one, to avoid the heat that rises to the upper floors during the day. If this isn’t feasible or if you have a single-story home, try moving your mattress to the ground. Even a couple feet can make a significant temperature difference.

Cool yourself. There are lots of little things you can do to make your own body more comfortable, even if your house doesn’t come down to a chill temperature. Wear light, breathable clothes. Go barefoot. Take a cold shower. Drink cold beverages (especially water). Put wet washcloths on pulse points like your neck, wrists or behind your knees. Freeze your sheets, and make sure they’re cotton instead of polyester, satin, or silk. Soak your feet in cool water. Eat more ice cream.