There’s no doubt that the invention of air conditioning has literally changed the world. Places that were once too uncomfortable to live for most folks — Texas, Florida, and much of the deep south — are now among the most popular places to live.
Meanwhile, head to these sorts of places and you’ll notice that air conditioning is ubiquitous. It’s not just a comfort factor, it’s often a matter of life safety. Vulnerable groups like children or the elderly can be overcome by the heat without sufficient ways to cool things down.
But even outside of well-known hotspots there are times when heat waves can cause soaring temperatures where air conditioning isn’t near as common.
So what do you do if you have a house that’s hot but don’t have air conditioning? Or what if you live in a house with air conditioning but it happens to break and can’t be counted on to cool things down?
While nothing will match the cooling power and convenience of a whole-house A/C unit, there are a few ways to keep things more comfortable in your home until things cool down or your air conditioning is repaired.
Look to Cross Ventilate
By far the biggest issue about summer heat without air conditioning is that the whole house can heat up and seemingly refuse to cool down even when temperatures outside drop for the night.
The reason for homes staying warm is that the hot air inside gets trapped without any place to go. You can help cool things down by creating cross ventilation through the house. Look to open windows in the direction of the strongest breezes and also open windows on the opposite side of the house. This way, outside air makes its way through the home, taking the hot inside air with it.
Keep in mind that this only works when it’s cooler outside the house than inside. So while it might not help cool things down during the hot afternoon, it will make a different during the night and make it more comfortable to sleep.
Turn Up the Fans
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “a ceiling fan will allow you to raise the thermostat setting about 4°F with no reduction in comfort. In temperate climates, or during moderately hot weather, ceiling fans may allow you to avoid using your air conditioner altogether.”
In other words, you should crank up the fans in your home. And for further comfort, you can look to supplement any ceiling fans with portable fans (box fans move a lot of air and can be bought for less than $20). Not only do these fans help to move more air to make you feel cooler, but they are also great for sticking in windows to help exhaust hot air inside the home.
Ice Is a Cheap Way to Cool Temporarily
At some point, simply turning on fans is only likely to move hot air around the house and not provide much relief. That’s where ice can be a reasonably cheap way to cool things down. Grab some bags of ice and place them in a leakproof container. Then you can use the fans to blow air over them. While this will add humidity to the surrounding air, it will also cool it down.
Truth be told, bags of ice likely aren’t your best way to cool things down if you have an extended period of high heat. However, in an emergency it can cool things down if you just can’t take the heat any more.
Keep the Heat Out in the First Place
One of your best ways to keep your home cool without air conditioning is to not let things heat up in the first place. Doing as much as possible to keep heat outside goes a long way in making things more comfortable inside the home.
This means ensuring your have proper insulation levels in the attic and walls, as well as keeping doors and windows closed when it’s hotter outside the home than inside. You should also look to have heavy curtains that block the sun and heat from getting inside and keep them closed during the heat of the day. Finally, reflective films for windows can add another layer of protection and keep things from getting as warm when the sun hits.
Use a Portable Air Conditioning Unit
These days you have a lot more options than central air or a window unit when it comes to air conditioning. Devices come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, including small portable units that can be used to cool down smaller spaces like bedrooms. If you can afford it, used one of these portable units to cool down the room where you will be spending the most time, such as the bedroom at night. While it won’t cool down the entire home, it can make it comfortable for you until your air conditioner is repaired or the heat has passed. You can grab one of these units for $200-300 that is large enough to cool a bedroom.
Focus on Keeping Yourself Cool
While it would be ideal to be able to cool down an entire house, sometimes that’s just not possible. In these cases, focus on keeping yourself cool. Things like taking a shower or visiting a mall or movie theater where there is air conditioning can help to cool you down while you wait for the situation at home to ease. There are also a number of personal cooling products like gel packs that can provide more relief should you need it.
Just remember that heat can be dangerous. There’s no sense in trying to simply “tough it out.” Keep yourself cool… even if your home isn’t.