How We Keep Cool Without Air Conditioning
Maybe the Title Should be, "Can We Keep Cool Without Air Conditioning?"
It's summer in Kentucky. Hazy, hot and humid are the weatherman's favorite words. And our family is living without air condiitoning.
Our a/c compressor sprung a leak on the hottest day of 2011 and I simply do not have the money right now to replace it. So, we are living an adventure in austerity: Life Without Central Air!
I was born in the late 1950s, and I do not remember living anyplace my entire childhood that had central air conditioning. For a while we had a window a/c unit in the kitchen, but it must have been costly to run, because it seems like it was only there a few weeks.
My grandmother did not have central air conditioning at all until I was in college. She lived in an upstairs apartment in a two-story house, and it must have been scorching hot up there in the summer. I remember when she got an a/c unit in her bedroom when I was a young teenager. I think eventually she got window units in most of the rooms, but when I was a child she just had fans.
I think if previous generations lived without air conditioning, and people all over the world live without it, even in very hot places like Cambodia, then my family and I can surely tough out life without air conditioning.
Furthermore, I am certain we are not the only family that cannot afford to get the air conditioner fixed in today's economy. Then there are families who are trying to cut costs and leaving the air off as long as they can. I have noticed my neighbor across the street always has his windows open too. Hmm....
I am not fooling myself. It gets very hot in Kentucky. Last year it got up over 100 degrees quite a few days. Our summer weather is also very humid and the air gets hung up over the Ohio Valley and just stagnates for what seems like weeks, getting thicker and thicker. It is muggy and awful.
I am not looking forward to that, but we are taking the summer one day at a time. Hot weather, for us, is temporary and we will get through it.
I am still exploring ways we can keep cool without air conditioning, and I will report them here as I discover them!
Photo property of author, copyright 2008. All rights reserved! (May not be reused without permission)*
*This is a photo of my daughters and me at my parents' farm in Simpsonville, KY, on a hot summer day in 2008.
Summer 2013 Update!
It is now May 2013, and the central air is still not working. I do not foresee having the resources available to get it repaired soon.
Last summer the whole house fan also broke. The ceiling fan in the kitchen died as well. The electrician said probably the motors burned out in both of these appliances.
I think I will be able to get my ceiling fan replaced, along with installing one in my home office. I probably won't be able to replace the whole house fan this summer, unfortunately.
Trying to Keep Cool in Summer Without Air Conditioning! Oh Boy!!!
Powerful Little Fans - Set of Four
These personal fans look like they would be worth trying. Although several reviewers complain they are noisy, everyone indicates they work well other than that. I am not concerned about the sound they make as long as they cool us off.
I am going to be ordering a set of these little hand-held fans and I will let you know how they do. Hopefully they will keep us comfortable through the hot summer months! They look like they would definitely be convenient to have on hand, not only in the house, but for many summer events. Not to mention... HOT FLASHES!
Could You Keep Cool Without Air Conditioning?
Do you think you could live without air conditioning?
Tips to Keep Cool Without Air Conditioning!
- Saving Big Bucks on Your Energy Bill In The Summer
I found this webpage years ago & it helped me learn how to cool my house without air conditioning. Highly recommended! You are sure to learn at least one tip here you can use right away!
- Cool Your House Without AC
How to use the natural ventilation in your older home to keep it cool without air conditioning.
- How to Keep Cool Without Air Conditioning
Lists some alternatives to air conditioning to help you stay cool this summer.
- 8 Ways to Keep Cool Without Air Conditioning | Huffington Post
8 Tips for Keeping Cool Without A/C!
- Cool Yourself Without Air Conditioning | WikiHow
A bunch of ideas for cooling yourself off, as well as some helpful hints for keeping your house as cool as possible.
- Natural Cooling Strategies | Mother Earth News
Design ideas to keep your house cool naturally, without a/c.
Fans Help You Keep Cool Without Air Conditioning
I could not live without my fans! I have them everywhere. I have three ceiling fans: In the kitchen and two bedrooms. I have a window fan in the kitchen. I have two fans in the living room. I have a tower fan in my daughter's bedroom.
Without our fans we could not live without air conditioning. I think they are a necessity for our family in this situation.
Here are some of the fans we are using and my personal reviews!
This is the fan I use in my kitchen window. I bought 8 years ago and it is still going strong. I previously used it in my bedroom window most of the summer. To use it as an exhaust fan you have to take it out of the window & turn it around, but it is not hard to do. It is perfect over my kitchen sink!
Lasko Box Fan
I bought this fan at the drug store to put in my living room window. It works as a window fan blowing in, but it won't balance if I turn it around to use as exhaust fan. It moves a lot of air and works better than I thought it would. I am more than satisfied with it.
Lasko Adjustable Pedestal Fan
I have had this fan 8 years. My aunt gave it to me. Someone else had given it to her. Who knows how old it really is? After 8 years it still runs, but no longer tilts, and the oscillation feature is random. Sometimes it oscillates. Sometimes it stays still. You can't really control it. You just have to roll with it. I am okay with whatever it decides to do. After all, it was free 8 years ago so I definitely got my money's worth! I think this fan was a good investment for whoever originally bought it.
Westinghouse Ceiling Fan
I installed this fan over my kitchen table about 6 years ago. It is fine. It is not really big enough to serve a room this size, but it keeps us comfortable in the eating area of the kitchen. I have been pleased with it.
I Recommend a Whole House Fan - Cools Your Home Without Air Conditioning!
A whole house fan can go a long way toward keeping your house cool, even if you do not have air conditioning. Instead of blowing air around in your home like a ceiling fan, a whole house fan is a giant exhaust fan, blowing hot air out of your home and pulling cooler air in.
These fans are designed to be installed either in the ceiling of your home or in a window. Turn it on whenever the air temperature outside is cooler than the air inside your house. Open the windows and exterior doors, as well as all interior doors in your home. The fan will pull the hot air out of your house and replace it with cool air from outside.
To work properly, this fan needs plenty of open windows and doors to pull in fresh air. You will not necessarily feel a breeze. You will see the interior temperature of your home drop over time to the same temperature as outside.
If you have a two-story home, put your whole house fan upstairs for best results.
For the past 8 years I have had a fan like this one in my home. This spring the motor burnt out and I will be replacing it as soon as I can. Having lived with both central air and a whole house fan, I feel like I can live without the a/c as long as I have this. It makes it possible to cool the house down at night, which is crucial to getting a good night's sleep. Being able to pull in the cool morning air makes a huge difference as well. If I can cool the house down to 73 vs. 79 by 7 am, then the rest of the day is going to be that much more comfortable!
Whole House Window Fan
This fan is a good choice for renters or anyone who may have problems installing a fan in the their ceiling. This fan remains mounted in the window all summer, with a storm guard feature that allows you to close the window as needed.
My grandmother had a fan like this in the window in the back bedroom of her upstairs apartment when I was a kid.
Lasko Reversible Window Fan
Here's a smaller fan that works well for a few rooms, and costs well under $100.
How Ladies Keep Cool Without Air Conditioning - You Need a Beautiful Fan!
Carry a beautiful fan with you, and you can stay cool wherever you go! Back in the olden days, a lady would never be caught without her fan.
I remember receiving these as gifts and favors as a child. It was nice to have a pretty fan to take to church.
Keep one in your purse, one in the car. Keep one by your bed and stash them near your favorite seats around the house.
Because a lady can never have too many beautiful fans!
Stash one wherever it might be needed! Hand out to company! Share with friends!
Watch This Quick Clip to See How Marilyn Monroe Kept Cool Without Air Conditioning in 1955!
Back in the day, city officials used to allow fire hydrants to be opened to cool children off during a summer heat wave.
When I was a child, every municipality operated a public swimming pool. When we got old enough, my sister and I would escape to the city pool to splash away the afternoon heat.
When we were little, my mother would set up a wading pool for us, or let us play under the lawn sprinkler. Sometimes we and our playmates could get someone's dad to spray us with a hose for a few minutes to cool us off.
No question about it! Getting in touch with some cold water can really cool kids off a hot day, and water play tires them out and helps them sleep better at night too. A boon to hot parents who could use a little down time after sunset!
My children and their friends enjoyed this pool every summer for years. We always found this pool to be an excellent investment. My daughters were even happy with this as teenagers, when they would lounge there and sunbathe. It is very spacious and holds lots of kids.
My grandmother always kept a big glass bottle filled with water in her refrigerator. It was a great way to get a cold drink!
Staying hydrated is essential & water is best to drink for staying cool.
Sleep Outside to Keep Cool Without Air Conditioning
This is a photo of people sleeping outside during a heatwave in the 1930s. Sleeping outside was a strategy that was often employed for surviving the summer heat in the days before air conditioning.
Many houses were built with sleeping porches. We stayed several summers in a house with a sleeping porch. The walls to about waist level and the rest was screens up to the ceiling. Some of my best childhood memories are of taking naps on this porch with my great-grandmother.
My friend who grew up in the 1950s, the son of a tenant farmer with 17 children, told me about how his family used to take quilts and go down to sleep by the creek on the hottest summer nights. It was similar to camping, but without tents, and everyone would get up and go to work the next morning as usual.
My Secret Weapon for Surviving Without Central Air Conditioning - How I keep cool at night, now that I am of a certain age!
I must confess! I have really great friends! One of them, upon hearing my central air was broken and would not be replaced or repaired in the foreseeable future donated a couple of window a/c units to my menopausal self. Am I ever grateful to these wonderful people!
If you just cannot get through the night, and like me, really must have your sleep, consider investing in a window unit that will cool just your bedroom. These are much less expensive than central air, and cost less to operate.
I turn mine off during the day and only run it at night. Some of these modern units come with thermostats which will only switch on if your room gets hotter than a certain temperature. These can help save money as well!
This is the unit that my friends gave me. It works great and cools my small bedroom (about 10 x 12 feet) during the time it takes me to take a shower. It has gotten rave reviews on Amazon too. This window unit is a terrific buy for this price!
How to Install a Window Air Conditioner
I did not have a clue about how to install a window a/c unit when my friends gave me theirs. I found this instructional video helpful and you might too.
After all, when I priced the cost of a new unit at the big box hardware store near my home, the price of a new unit equaled the cost of installation. Being able to install it myself with the help of a buddy can save a lot of money! And it is not as hard as I thought. In fact, it is pretty simple!
Homemade Air Conditioner
I just ran across this design today, and I think I may give it a try. It seems like it would work.
I would not want to buy bags of ice for it everyday though. I would think if you freeze jugs of water and then submerge them in some water in the cooler, you would get the same effect. I believe ice water would work better than just ice, but I could be wrong.
If anyone tries this homemade air conditioner, I hope you will drop me a line and let me know if it works or not!
Find Some Shade!
Do You Think We Will Be Able to Keep Cool Without Air Conditioning? - Or Will We Cave & Have it Replaced?
Will we survive without a/c this summer? Or will we cave & find a way to fix or replace our central air?
Keeping Cool Without Air Conditioning - Our Summer Diary
- June 14, 2012 - I have come up with a system to use with the fans, and so far it seems to be working. I get up early in the morning, open all the windows and turn on the fans. I position the fans to blow the cool morning air into the house. When the sun pops over the trees on the east, I turn the fans off & I close all the windows & curtains on the eastern side of the house. I try not to let the sun shine directly into the house at any time.
I keep the house closed up all day. It is staying about 10 degrees cooler than the outdoors by this method. By the late afternoon I am feeling the heat.
After the sun sinks over the trees in the west, there comes a moment when you can feel the temperature drop. When this happens I open all the windows again. The patio on the south side of my house is radiating heat into my house, so I position fans on that side to blow the heat out of the house, and I pull cool air in on the north side. By bedtime the inside of the house is the same temperature as the outdoors.
Since it is still dropping into the 60's at night, this makes the house comfortable for sleeping.
- June 15, 2012 - This weekend my daughter and I created a sitting porch in the rear of our carport. This is a nice place to sit most of the day, and after the sun sets. But, from about 3 in the afternoon until around 9, the sun beats down on us and turns our sweet porch into an oven!
I hung a sun shade on the western side, and this helped quite a bit. But, we still had the afternoon sun pounding us on the south.
Today we bought some cotton curtains and hung them on that side and they do a pretty good job of filtering a lot of the sun. It at least made it possible to sit out there a few hours this afternoon when previously it would have been too hot.
When a tree takes too long to grow, do the next best thing and hang some fabric!
- June 19, 2012 - The a/c unit in my bedroom is not working well. It cools for about 3 hours, then starts blowing warm air. I have been turning it off around 11 pm, but I wake up with my room hotter than the rest of the house. I am exploring my options. I could buy a new one, but installation is the same price as the unit. Getting a repairman out is probably going to cost almost as much as a new one. Thinking about what to do.
The good news is that we are getting adjusted to the heat. I did not think it would happen this quickly! Anything under about 85 feels cool-ish. My daughter was reaching for a jacket this morning when it was in the mid-70's. Amazing that we would adjust this quickly! I am suspicious that sleeping in a warm room has promoted this adjustment. This makes me think my broken window air conditioner might actually be serving me better than it might first appear!
- June 22, 2012 - As we have been getting adjusted to the heat, the mornings are not bad. Things start to get mildly uncomfortable around midday. It is the late afternoon and early evening that are truly miserable and difficult. This is when the sun beats down on my kitchen.
I find it is important to get my work done early in the day. If there is yard work to be done, do it as early in the morning as possible. Same with housework. I try to get my chores done as early as I can, while the house and yard are cool. Then I can spend the afternoon in the shade.
If there is something to be done away from the house, schedule it in those late afternoon hours. Need to go to the store, the doctor, the library, visit a friend? Do it in the late afternoon, so you can enjoy the air conditioning!
It is also a good time of day for cool break. I take a cool shower or soak in a tub of cool water with a good book. Take the kids to buy an ice cream, or freeze popsicles in the morning to enjoy in the afternoon. Sit under a big tree and sip a tall glass of ice water or lemonade.
When I was a child we would go to the movies on summer afternoons and evenings, and one reason was to get out of the heat. Find a cheap movie and soak up the a/c!
- June 23, 2012 - When I got up this morning, the house was 74 degrees. I had to turn off the fans, because it felt too chilly.
This afternoon I was sitting at my writing table in the kitchen, thinking about how nice it is to have a cool day for a change. It feels very refreshing and comfortable to me. The inside of my house is 78 degrees. Then my friend calls me and mentions how hot it is today. She says when she passed the bank the thermometer read 91. Wow! We really have adjusted!
Update: I think this thermometer must have been in the sun. I think it is only around 88, not 91. Still, everyone else is complaining about being hot, but we are comfortable. I am starting to feel like this could be doable.
- June 27, 2012 - We have had a couple of nice days, but the weatherman is calling for about a week of 100 degree temperatures starting tomorrow. I have put up two pop-up shelters over my patio in hopes this will keep my kitchen somewhat cooler. It gets all of the afternoon sun, which heats us up more than we would like. I will let you know tomorrow whether or not this worked well.
- June 29, 2012 - We broke the record of 102 yesterday. I think the official high was 103, but I saw my friend's thermometer yesterday afternoon and it read 104.5 F. Now that's hot!
We stayed pretty comfortable at our house. I got the house cooled off in the morning to the low 70's. Then I closed all the windows and shut the blinds. The house got up to 88 by sunset.
We were comfortable because I set up fans to blow on our bodies. I put a bowl of ice in front of my fan. I think it helped. The ice was melting fast, especially by the afternoon. Even if it was psychological, I'll take it!
It is supposed to be even hotter today. Oh joy!
- July 1, 2012 - It was hotter here yesterday. Our house broke the record for interior temperature. It got up to 96 degrees in here. It was a strange thing, because around 95 degrees it stopped feeling hot. I stopped sweating. It felt quite comfortable. I may have felt a little lightheaded, but it was a buzz similar to having had a drink. The only thing I had been drinking was water, no alcohol was involved.
I had a sense that it probably was not a healthy situation, but it felt a bit dreamlike and calm. It was a pleasant state I did not want to leave.
My daughter and I had a snack other than supper, because we were not hungry but I believed we needed to replace something in our bodies. Then we took cool showers before going to bed. This seemed to have taken care of the problem.
I had to let some of the cool air out of my air conditioned bedroom before going to bed. It was far too cold in there to sleep! When I woke up this morning, my first thought was that I was in the refrigerator. Hey! I was mostly still asleep! But, it was way too cold to me. Some internal thermostat has shifted to a higher setting inside my body.
The other thing that happened yesterday is that I wrestled the very heavy 10,000 BTU window air conditioner out of my carport and up the steps into my kitchen. Then I managed to hoist it up into the window. It is much too heavy for me to lift, so I never thought I could do this by myself. But, I was determined my family was not going to be hot!
The joke was on me, because once I finally got it installed, I learned that it has to "rest" for 24 hours to let all the freon and oil inside to settle back into its proper place. Otherwise, the machine can burn itself out. That would be terrible! I do not need another non-functioning machine around here!
So, that is how my house got up to 96 degrees yesterday, but today we will be cooler, even though they are calling for the high today to be 102 and the heat index to be around 105.
If you are dealing with this heat wave today without air conditioning, please seek shade, drink plenty of fluids, and if you stop sweating take action fast. Judging from my experience last night, it is probably a good idea to hang out with a buddy, or at least have someone checking on you. The heat seems to affect judgement about taking care of yourself, because you feel cool and a little confused, you don't want to go back to being hot. Have a friend nearby who can talk sense into you!
- July 2, 2012 - The window unit is a life saver! This zone cooling seems like it will work for us. I shut off the rooms we are not using. I am only trying to cool the kitchen, living room and two bedrooms. I am placing rolled up towels at the bottoms of doorways. The cool air just rolls right under those doors without something to block it. I also put a barrier over the cold air return. I don't want all my nice, cool air falling down into the furnace room!
We barely knew there was a heat wave yesterday. I think I heard the heat index got to 110. We were comfortable.
- July 6, 2012 - We are now in the ninth day of this heat wave. I am grateful for my window units. I cannot imagine going through this with no a/c at all!
I still plan to get one more 5,000 unit for my daughter's bedroom. I think this will make the house very comfortable. Correction... I am not trying to cool the entire house, just the rooms we use.
Right now I am using fans to direct the cool air into her bedroom from the kitchen. It does not work as well as I had hoped.
Cool Off With a Little Menthol
This is a new idea to me and I confess I have not tried it. I am thinking if a culture where it stays in the hundreds for days and weeks at a time uses menthol to cool off, maybe we should give it a try.
My friend says they take a shower then rub some of the menthol oil on their skin, and this keeps them cool for some time.
It looks like it is good for all kinds of ailments, so if you have a summer cold, dizziness, insect bites or aches and pains, you might find some relief from those as well. It is cheap stuff, so worth a try!