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How to beat the heat without using air conditioning

Updated on September 10, 2014
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Living without air conditioning

I've always loved the warm weather - doesn't everyone? Yet people are often surprised that we live in steamy South Florida and very rarely use power-gobbling appliances to cool our home.

There are several reasons why you might choose not to use AC but if you've never lived without it during a hot summer - or if you live in a climate where the sun beats down every day - you might think that it's simply not possible. But there are many ways to live comfortably without this drain on your finances and of course, the drain on our planet's resources.

After all, AC wasn't invented until the middle of the last century. It's only comparatively recently that people have relied on it to keep them cool and it IS possible to live without it. We only use ours at night time when the temperatures are in the nineties - that's maybe for a few days a year and then only when we're sleeping.

Sometimes, we have no choice but to live without air-conditioning. It may be that extreme weather has cut off our power supply (that happens often here in Florida) or maybe you've moved into a home that you plan to restore and AC isn't installed yet.

Whatever the reason, you can do it!


Why choose to live without air conditioning?

Why should you? It makes life more comfortable, after all. But so do a lot of things and foregoing AC could be for the following reasons.

  • MONEY

    It isn't cheap to run. During hot weather it can be the most expensive appliance in your house. Up-to-date units are more efficient of course, but if your AC is more than a few years old, the chances are that it costs you a lot of money that you'd prefer to use for other purposes. Units, filters and other components needs to be regularly serviced - at a cost - to make sure everything is running efficiently. This also adds to the overall cost. Should units break down, the repair bills can be huge.

  • ENVIRONMENT

    Keeping energy usage to a minimum is important to most people today for environmental reasons, as well as financial ones. It is a huge drain on electrical resources. In many cases, the coolants that are used are also damaging to the planet and even though manufacturers are working to solve this, they're not all there yet,

  • ACCLIMATIZATION

    If you use air conditioning daily, there will come a time when you're without it. That could be due to power outages, or because you're traveling in places that don't normally have AC in hotels. This can be unbearable if your body is used to your home's climate control. By not relying on AC at home, you're preparing your body for such eventualities.

  • HEALTH

    So many people today hardly get any fresh air.at all. They move from their cooled home in their cooled car to the office with AC without so much as breathing good fresh air. They insulate their homes so that the expensive cooled air can't escape. Then, they buy purifiers to clean the atmosphere in their sealed homes - who knows what they (and their families) are breathing in. I prefer fresh air.

When the sun beats down ...

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Tips for living in the heat

  • USE FANS

    Fans are inexpensive to buy and are much less costly to run than expensive air conditioning units. They are portable so can be moved from room to room. Fans circulate and move the air around in your home so you won't get that stale feeling in the atmosphere. Let the fresh air come in through open windows and let the fans do their work. We have a retro fan that we bought from a consignment store for just a few dollars and it's been in daily use since. They can be such a bargain and I've never known a fan break down or stop working. Ceiling fans are also wonderful for helping airflow in the home.

  • ICE

    Even if you have a power outage, you can prepare ice in advance. I keep a few glass jars in the fridge with frozen water in them. Placing one in front of a fan blasts a cool breeze into the room. When it's really hot, I keep one on my desk (on a saucer to catch drips) and if you hold your wrists to ice, it makes your whole body feel cooler. Having cool feet makes the whole body feel cooler too.

  • WATER

    When the weather is warm, it's important to drink plenty of water to keep your own body's cooling system in good shape. And it's OK to sweat. Deodorant ads have taught us that sweat is undesirable but it's actually just your body doing its job. It cleanses your pores and skin too - that's why people have saunas. In warm climates, cool showers are delightful - and inexpensive as the water doesn't need to be heated. The cooling effect of the shower lasts for quite a while.

  • MISTING

    Keep a small spray bottle full of water on your desk, in the kitchen when you're working there or on a side table if you're sitting reading or watching TV. If you're feeling warm, spray yourself lightly with the water. Add a couple of ice cubes if you like to make the spray even more refreshing.

  • DRAW WARMTH OUT

    Use your fan to draw the warmth out of your home. Put the fan near an open door or window facing outwards and the heat in your room will be directed out into the open. You fan isn't just for sending a cooling breeze around inside your home. This is a simple trick but can be very effective indeed in warm weather.

  • HOT TEA

    Drinking hot tea, bizarrely, cools you down. This is why it's so popular in warm countries. If you're not a tea lover, experiment with different varieties, and flavorings such as lemon or lime, until you find a drink you love. Cold or iced tea doesn't have the same cooling effect on your body.

  • COLD WATER BOTTLE

    Many people can live without AC during the day but want to be cooler when they are in bed at night. Make a simple reverse hot water bottle. Freeze water in a plastic container (like a large soda bottle) and wrap it in a towel. Take this to bed with you and snuggle up as you would to a teddy bear.

  • CLOTHING

    Wear loose clothing to let the airflow circulate around your body. Soak a bandana in cold water and wrap it around your neck.And keep your feet cool - this makes your whole body feel cooler. This is why so many homes in warm climates have marble tiles. If you have long hair, keeping it away from the back of your neck will help you to keep your cool.

Fans

Fans are available that work with electricity or batteries - the latter being a bonus in power outages. Remember, that although fans cool you down by blowing air at you, they also remove warm and stale air from your home if you point them out of your home, through a door or window. In addition to our retro fan, we have a tower fan because it takes up so little room in our tiny apartment. Another huge advantage of fans is that mosquitoes hate moving air. A couple of these in your home can keep bugs at bay.

Lasko 2521 16" Oscillating Stand Fan
Lasko 2521 16" Oscillating Stand Fan

Fans come in so many shapes and sizes so you're bound to find the ideal fan to match your decor and your own needs.

 

For the best results - hand fans

Hand fans are not only beautiful items in themselves, they really work by cooling you down with a lovely cool breeze. They are so much more environmentally friendly that electric fans. The electric versions are much better than expensive AC but still a drain on resources, and an unwelcome addition to the power bill. Using hand fans is a great solution and when they're not in use they are delightful as home decor items.

Leegoal Set of 12, Chinese Fans Sandalwood Scented Wooden Open-Work Folding Fan
Leegoal Set of 12, Chinese Fans Sandalwood Scented Wooden Open-Work Folding Fan

Inexpensive enough to buy in bulk, these hand fans are the ideal environmentally-friendly cooling method.

 

Cooling bandanas

I first came across these when I used to go to auto racing tracks. Being at a racetrack all day, in Florida, can be pretty warm, even in the shade. Racecar drivers use these bandanas a lot. The headband style is also a great idea because it prevents sweating from the forehead. They're very inexpensive and believe me, they work brilliantly.

Cool Wrap 303 BLK Cooling Scarfs, Black
Cool Wrap 303 BLK Cooling Scarfs, Black

Another cooling option. Wear these indoors or out.

 

Don't forget your pets!

What must it be like to wear a fur coat when the temperatures are soaring? Fortunately, I see a lot of these products in Florida and my friends who have dogs swear by them. The dogs are a lot more comfortable and even the most Floridian dog, who has grown up here, appreciates these thoughtful products.

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The South Florida climate

It's unusual for temperatures to reach above 100° but not unknown. During the summer, which is the rainy season, temperatures are at their hottest and humidity is high. Usually, August and September are the warmest months.

It's also rare for winter temperatures to dip below 60° - if they do, that is usually in the middle of the night. There are usually only a couple of weeks where temperatures are cool enough to need a pair of socks and a sweater.

Because of this, we have no heat in our tiny home. Maybe once or twice a year, it gets cold enough for me to switch on the oven and open the door just for a few minutes to warm the house up. So we have very little cooling and very infrequent warming in our tiny apartment - by choice - and I'm sure this saves us so much money. It's good for the planet too.

© 2013 Jackie Jackson

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    • grannyann lm profile image

      Ann Scaling Tucker 3 years ago from Enid, OK

      I grew up when there was no ac. We played outside all day anyway. Today I don't like the cold from ac and I prefer a window ac which I only run during the hotest part of the day. In summer I keep my drapes closed and my house stays cool on its own.

    • Seasons Greetings profile image

      Laura Brown 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I do not love the warm weather. I live in Ontario and I'm happy with the weather most of the year. In summer it can be miserable with heat and humidity. I have fans but sometimes I need the air conditioner because I have trouble breathing.

    • Adventuretravels profile image

      Giovanna Sanguinetti 3 years ago from Perth UK

      I'm going to Italy next week where it's much hotter than the UK. We hate the heat! But we can cope with our fan. It certainly make a difference and putting ice in front of it works really well. We have a very old car with no AC - any tips for keeping that cool?? Great lens.

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 3 years ago from Colorado

      Excellent tips. I live without air conditioning in my current home, so I appreciate green living ways to beat the heat. Thank you!

    • profile image

      ColettaTeske 3 years ago

      Perfect tips for those of us that live in warm climates and want to stay cool without the AC. I live in the sunny south and this is how I stay cool in the hot and muggy summers.

    • MelanieKaren profile image

      Melanie Wilcox 3 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      I really like this article. It's filled with good points and tips that do work well. I particularly like to put ice in front of a fan. It's amazing how much that alone really does work. I've also used the ice bandanas around my neck. That works great too. I've been to South Florida 3 times, and I know how hot and humid it gets down there. I am amazed at how intense the sun is there compared to here in Pennsylvania. I can't imagine the intensity of the sun at the equator (but hope to someday :) ) -also just crescent the crescent moon is there -kay, I'm rambling now. ehehe -great article!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Elsie Hagley: Nice to meet another fresh air fanatic :)

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      Great lens. No I never use air conditioning. On a really hot day I go out in the shade of the trees and doing some gardening were there usually is a breeze. I try to save the power bill and keep it as low as possible. At night I leave the windows open cool breeze also.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 3 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Great tips - I didn't know drinking hot tea would help cool me down. I try to go as long as possible in May before I give in and turn on the a/c. We love fresh air and use ceiling fans and keep the windows open if the breeze isn't too hot (our house is very well insulated so opening the windows on a hot day usually makes it worse, not better), but often it's the humidity that's the killer. We've had times when the a/c went out for a day or two and I've found that to be very hard on the computers and even the refrigerator as the humidity climbs. I think modern homes are designed to work best with a/c and not without, which actually is a shame. Call me spoiled, but I thank God for our furnace in the winter and central air in the summer and hope I never have to be without them!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @AlleyCatLane: Noooooooo :) Tallahassee is chilly compared to Fort Lauderdale :)

    • profile image

      AlleyCatLane 3 years ago

      No way I would live without air conditioning!!!! I hate the heat. I live in Tallahassee which has very hot and humid summers. Air conditioning is a must for me.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Wednesday-Elf: Oh, I love your comments. I think that the fresh air aspect is something that's so important to me. It was to my mum, back in England. Even when it was really cold, she would have windows open. She hated what she called 'artificial heat'. So many people's lives seem to be lived without ANY fresh air all,these days. Like you, I love hot weather. As for humidity, I really don't understand what that is - I'm never aware of it at all.

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image

      Wednesday-Elf 3 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      I grew up without air conditioning in homes (back before homes HAD air conditioning - albeit in New York State where it's never really hot even in the summer months) and never thought about it one way or another. I like hot weather AND humidity. We lived in south Florida for 3 years and purchased a new home with central air. We were near the Gulf coast and had large jalousie windows and sliding glass doors and the sea breezes were almost always comfortable blowing through the house. In three years the only time we turned on our air conditioner was when my mother would come south to visit and once when we took our one-year-old baby to the pediatrician due to being concerned about his rash and were told it was 'heat rash' and that we needed to turn on the air for the baby! :) Since Florida I've lived all over the country and am once again back in the South (Georgia) and very seldom turn on the air. I LIKE fresh air and have my windows open most of the Spring, Summer and Fall. I can literally feel the difference between 70 degrees and 69 degrees (69 is too cool). :) My favorite days are high humidity and 85-90 degrees. My kids think I'm crazy (none of them like the heat), but it's all what you get used to and what you prefer. Guess I've been environmentally conscious even before it was 'the thing to do'. :). So I fully agree with you.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Brite-Ideas: Hi Barbara, I think it's because I spent the first forty years of my life shivering in England :) I'm a total wuss in the cold. Normally, I sit here working in jeans and t-shirt but if the temperature dips below 70 I quickly add socks and a sweater!

    • Brite-Ideas profile image

      Barbara Tremblay Cipak 3 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Jackie, I'm such a baby about the heat - honestly I hate it! (it's the Canadian in me I'm sure..in fact I'm OK with an extended winter <---I've just caused a big upset with that comment! lol - it's FREEZING here today, mind you a little warmer would be nice - I've tried the fan and all of it here in the summer, to me it's too hot - I'm impressed that you can do this in Florida!

    • cdhops profile image

      cdhops 4 years ago

      Your suggestions are great. I do not live in an area where I need or would use a/c all of the time. I do have it in my house. But I use it very sparingly. I find I get a sore throat from it and one of my sons gets stuffed up from it. So thanx for all the great suggestions

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @othellos: Thank you! I do think that good fresh air is more healthy for us.

    • profile image

      othellos 4 years ago

      Living in a Mediterranean country facing summer heat is a part of our life. Your suggestions are excellent and I know a lot of people who try to reduce air-conditioning and follow some of them. I spotted some that I didn't know and I must try them asap! Very well investigated topic:=)

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Rosanna Grace: Glad you agree :) Fresh air is so much better than being in a sealed environment, even hot fresh air.

    • Rosanna Grace profile image

      Rosanna Grace 4 years ago

      With you all the way on this one and it gets HOT in my part of the world.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @adammuller003 lm: What a good idea! It's only 8.30 in the morning here but it's in the nineties already - nevertheless, I'm saving electricity :)

    • adammuller003 lm profile image

      adammuller003 lm 4 years ago

      I dig your lens!Your acclimatization point made me smile. When I was young, I'd forgo the mattress bed and setup on my bedroom floor for the exact reason that someday, if I found myself in a position where a bed weren't available, I'd still get to sleep just fine...Hope this finds you well!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @mcspocky lm: And I imagine you save a lot of money :) Trees are great for shade, aren't they?

    • mcspocky lm profile image

      mcspocky lm 4 years ago

      We have a lot of trees that I've planted over the years shading our house, so our house stays pretty cool in the summer just using fans. There are days when air-conditioning would be nice, but we do okay without it.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @jimporsche86: I was just like that in England. I'd get cold in October and not warm up until at least April! I think that the cold gets into your bones.

    • profile image

      jimporsche86 4 years ago

      @BritFlorida: Yes same here. If I am hot I can cool down in a matter of minutes, if I am cold seems I can never warm up until spring.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @jimporsche86: I'm much the same Jim - I'd rather be too hot than too cold. It's a lot easier to cool down than it is to warm up - that's why I'm a Brit in Florida :)

    • profile image

      jimporsche86 4 years ago

      We do not use our a/c until we absolutely have to, I'm talking almost 90 degrees with 90% humidity. You would be surprised at how cool you can feel sitting right in front of a fan even when it is 85 in the room. Why do I choose not to run the a/c, I am Very cold natured so 85 feels good to me. :)

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @nifwlseirff: Some stores here go much too far in the opposite direction. At our local convenience store, the AC is so cold that the staff always wear anoraks! Thanks for visiting!

    • profile image

      nifwlseirff 4 years ago

      After being used to a/c in Australia, it was quite a shock to move to a country where a/c is rare, even in shopping centers! It's certainly cheaper, much more environmentally friendly, and probably healthier, although I do struggle on the hottest days!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @RuralFloridaLiving: It does - and after all, people lived in Florida (and other hot places) for many years before AC was invented.

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      RuralFloridaLiving 4 years ago

      Great ideas. And you're right. Shutting off the a/c does safe a lot of money.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @greatwriters lm: Thank you so much for visiting. No AC saves a lot of money!

    • profile image

      greatwriters lm 4 years ago

      Some great original tips on how to keep cool in expensively!