1. Close your windows.
It may seem counterintuitive, but on hot summer days, opening the windows will often make your home warmer, not cooler. When night falls, if the air outside is cooler than inside, open windows wide, particularly those oriented toward prevailing winds so you can take advantage of cross ventilation. This will allow cool night air to circulate, and prevent a good deal of the sun’s heat from reaching indoors. Be sure to close them — along with blinds and shades — before the sun hits your house in the morning. Also, put houseplants in front of sunny windows to absorb some of the sun’s energy.
2. Use fans strategically.
Ceiling fans: Make sure your fan is running in the right direction: In the summer, you should feel the breeze from your fan blowing down (you can also use ceiling fans in winter to create an updraft). And remember, ceiling fans cool people, not rooms, so turn it off when you leave the room.
Stand-alone fans: When placed directly in front of you, these fans will, no surprise, help keep you cool. Use a spray bottle to spritz yourself while in front of the fan and you can dramatically change your temperature; as the water evaporates off your skin, your body sheds heat.
DIY wind tunnel: If there’s a cool breeze, particularly at night, set one fan facing in on the side of your home receiving the wind, and another facing out on the opposite end of the house. You’ll maximize the cooling power of a natural breeze.
3. Eat cold meals.
Just as drinking a nice cold cocktail cools your body, eating cold food helps keep your internal temperature lower on a hot day. Try a simple watermelon salad, for instance, or a cold soup. If you do cook, use the grill or the microwave — your oven and stove will only make your kitchen hotter.
4. Shut off the lights.
While modern lightning, like compact fluorescents and LEDs, are more efficient, incandescent light bulbs can produce as much heat as they do light. It’s always a good idea to shut off lights to save energy, but on hot summer days, it’s doubly important to do it so you can keep room temperatures down. The same goes for many electronics. Consider unplugging any device that isn’t needed. Even in standby mode, many electronics remain hot.
5. Take a cold shower or go swimming.
It may sound obvious, but it’s worth saying: If you’re hot, lower your core temperature by immersing yourself in cold water. Unless there’s 100% humidity, the evaporation of water off your skin will further cool you once you emerge from the water. For a shortcut, dab cold water or ice cubes on your wrists. Because your blood vessels are so close to the skin there, you’ll feel the cooling effects sooner.
6. Install attic insulation.
While attic fans may not help to significantly cool your home, attic insulation can by keeping cooler air in your home from escaping through the ceiling. If you have central air, be sure to seal ducts — especially at vents and registers — or else you could lose up to 20% of your cooled air.
7. Plant trees strategically.
Your house gets hot because the sun beats down on it. Let nature help reduce your energy bills by planting deciduous trees on the east and west sides of your home; in the summer, their broad leaves will shade your house, while in the winter, bare branches won’t stop the sun’s warmth from reaching your walls. Also, consider planting trees or shrubs to shade high-heat areas — air conditioning units that emit heat, for instance, and driveways and walkways that absorb it. Of course, sitting under a shady tree on a hot summer day isn’t a bad way to pass the time, wherever the tree stands!
8. Install awnings.
Like trees, awnings can save you money on energy bills by cutting down on the heat your house absorbs.
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Tell us how you keep cool without AC?