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Picture of Stay Cool Without A/C.
Recently I listened to a podcast from an Air Conditioning expert, which I didn't even know existed . It got my brain going about how to stay cool without using an air conditioner.

I have been trying some of his tips, plus some of my own ideas, and thought I'd share them here.

The results have been very successful, and at my house we now run our air conditioner for only brief periods of time throughout the day while the other tenants in our unit blast theirs almost nonstop.

The most interesting thing I discovered is just how arbitrary the standard 72 degrees F is. I am convinced that this temperature is based on wearing a business suit, which people almost never wear in their own homes in the summer. The truth is that there is no ideal temperature.

These ways to stay cool fit into three categories: Lowering the temperature of your house, lowering your body temperature, and changing your perception so that the heat doesn't bother you so much. Not all of these steps are practical for everyone, but if you can find one or two that you can turn into habit, it can make a difference in comfort and/or in energy consumption.

In addition, I have listed some bonus "green" benefits on each step where they apply.
 
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Step 1: Get naked!

Picture of Get naked!
Or at least closer to naked.

I know this isn't for everyone, but its amazing how much more comfortable 80 degrees Fahrenheit feels if you're shirtless.

If you live on your own then this is no problem.

If you live with close friends or family, then wearing just your underwear is probably not a big deal either.

If you live with roommates, you can wear lighter-weight clothing like shorts, tank tops, etc. Even going barefoot helps your body eliminate heat more effectively.

In any case, you can probably wear as little clothing as you like at nighttime while you're in bed. If it feels strange at first, give it a few nights and see if you don't get used to it. While you're at it, get rid of your blanket and just sleep under a top sheet.

Wear fabrics like jersey cotton, nylon mesh or linen which don't hold onto heat.

BONUS: You will end up doing less laundry.
BONUS: Your clothes will last longer since you are spending less time wearing them and not washing them as often.
BONUS: Being naked is fun.

Step 2: Get Wet

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Take a short (5-10min.), cold shower whenever you feel too hot. It lowers your core temperature which means you'll stay cool long after you get out of the shower. This is great when you come home after work and first walk into the house. Plus you'll be undressing anyway (see step 1) so why not cool off a bit more while you're at it?

This is also great right before you go to sleep since the body must lower its temperature before you can fall asleep at night. I fall asleep much faster this way in the summer.

If you don't like the shock of stepping under cold water, you can try a cool shower (which works just as well but takes a little more time) or you can start off with a moderate temperature and slowly reduce it every minute or so. This has its own relaxing quality, much like if you were slowly raising the temperature.

Make sure to get your hair wet; that will keep you cool even longer.

If you are following step one and do not need to put on a bunch of clothes, then there's no need to dry off. The water on your skin will act like sweat and carry away your body heat as it evaporates.

BONUS: A cold shower uses less electricity than a hot shower. Saves money & carbon emissions!
BONUS: Your house will not get full of hot steam, which raises the temperature.
BONUS: If you like long showers, you won't use up all of the hot water no matter how long your shower is.

EDIT: Several people have suggested getting your clothes wet and then putting them on to stay cool. I don't do this because I don't like having heavy clothes hanging off of me, slowly me down, getting my furniture wet. But if you don't mind these things, then go for it. It will indeed keep you very cool.

Step 3: Get hydrated

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Keep a jar or pitcher of tap water in your fridge and sip it throughout the day. The water will absorb your body's heat as it gets absorbed by your stomach.

Even drinking tepid water will help keep you cool, since being fully hydrated makes it much easier for your body to thermoregulate.

Some people don't like drinking water. Try making some sweet tea or herbal iced tea. You can steep tea iced tea while its in the fridge if you do it for several hours. Sweetened drinks, though not as effective as water, will help keep you hydrated too.

BONUS: Being hydrated improves performance and concentration, prevents fatigue and headaches, and controls hunger.
BONUS: Choosing tap water over bottled water conserves additional money and natural resources. Most tap water is as clean as or cleaner than most bottled water.

Step 4: Fans!

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Fans are much cheaper to run than most A/C units and moving air feels cooler even when it isn't. This is because it blows your body heat away as soon as the heat exits the body. It also helps to evaporate any sweat that might be on your skin or any dampness still in your hair from your cold shower, which will cool you through evaporative cooling

If the outside temp is cooler than the inside temp, you can position a fan in your window to bring in air from the outside.

To take it a step further, place a fan in the window on each side of the house, but point one fan toward the outside so that it is sucking air out of the room. This will create an air current through the entire house. If you have two floors, put the "outside" fan upstairs and the "inside" fan downstairs or in the basement. This is similar in principle to a whole house fan.

Finally, make a paper fan or a cardboard fan. Get in the habit of fanning yourself while you're just sitting watching TV or browsing instructables.

BONUS: You can make funny voices by speaking into your fan!

Step 5: Windows

Picture of Windows

Speaking of windows, open them! Keep them open all night and then close them as soon as the outside temp exceeds the inside temp. In the evening, when your house has heated up, open them again.

If the sun is shining in your windows, close your blinds or shades but leave your windows open.

Step 6: Home Improvements

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There are lots of improvements you can make to your house to make it cooler. Here are the easiest ones:

-Paint your house white. If your house is cinderblock or brick this can make a difference since white reflects more heat than darker colors.

As we saw earlier, you can install a whole house fan.

-Get some shades above your windows and blinds that will let in air but not light. This way the sun won't shine into your room making it warmer. Plus you can have the windows open without the neighbors seeing you walk around in your briefs.

-Plant trees near your house, especially by windows. This is yet another layer of protection from the suns rays.

BONUS: Trees!
BONUS: Some home improvements, such as improving your insulation or installing heat-reflecting roof tiles make you eligible for tax deductions.

Step 7: Turn off the lights.

Picture of Turn off the lights.

In the daytime there should be plenty of light coming into the house through the windows. Light bulbs not only emit heat; they also make it seem warmer.

This means that, believe it or not, turning off lights will make it seem cooler. Try it and see if it works for you.

BONUS: Less electricity spent on lighting.

Step 8: Turn off everything else.

Picture of Turn off everything else.
Turn off your dryer and hang your clothes to dry instead. Turn off your stove and have a cold salami salad or a bowl of gazpacho. Turn off all of your large and medium appliances when not using them and find alternatives.

All of these appliances emit heat, which you're trying to get rid of. If you don't use them, you won't have them dumping more heat into your house.

With your fan on, you can hang up your wet clothes inside the house instead of outside. As the fan circulates air through your wet clothes, it will cool the air through evaporative cooling. Your clothes get dry, and your house gets cooler. Win-win! (Note that this works much better in dry climates than in humid climates.) Thanks to javandyck for this tip!

BONUS: It will save even more electricity, money, and carbon emissions.

Step 9: Speaking of perception...

Picture of Speaking of perception...
Hide or get rid of any thermometers in your house. Unless you're a weatherman, there is no need to know the "number" for the temperature.

Your skin is covered in thermoreceptors, and those are the only thermometers that matter. When you feel hot, turn up the fan, take a cold shower or, if needed, turn on the A/C for a little while. But thermostats and thermometers breed discontent. You might be feeling perfectly comfortable but see that its 80 degrees in your house and it will convince you that you're supposed to feel hot. So of course, you will start to feel hot. If you have a thermostat that insists on displaying the temperature, cover it with a piece of tape.

This is a silly little trick, but its also easy to do and works very well for most people.

Step 10: Just be cool

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As you're trying out these steps, keep in mind that for most of human history there has been no air conditioning. People who lived 100 years ago were not unhappy, unproductive, or miserable without it. Simply keeping this in mind will help you realize that it's not that hot.

Another thing to remember is that if its summertime, its okay to feel hot. Isn't that what we spend all winter wishing for? Let it be summertime and be a bit warmer. Eat some melon. Take a nap. Swim. Go to a BBQ. Its supposed to be warm!

Humans have lived in every climate for thousands of years. When did we get so fragile that we had to always be at a constant temperature of 72 degrees? Who came up with that number anyway?

Well that's the end of my rant and my instructable. Just remember that its okay to feel hot when its hot.

See you at the swimmin' hole!
It's supposed to be hot, but it's not supposed to be a blast oven every single day, over 102, and up to 110 for months on end! That was never a problem before now. I do very much love your suggestions; they make lots of sense in an average summer. Texas isn't having an average anything; colder and snowiest winter EVER in 2010-2011, second hottest summer EVER this year (so far; it's only mid August), the first was in 1980. Our forbearers didn't deal with THIS. We would certainly, many of us, die without A/C, and some have already, But I do applaud your ingenuity!
I agree! TX had it worst then OK, but still...a 120 heat index was a bit much to bear. Lost everything in my garden due to the heat, and July no rain. I save on electric in the spring, fall, and winter months. My electric bill is high four months out of twelve...so I fell I am not doing too bad in saving.
sgutperl3 years ago
Thanks for the ideas. We didn't have much of a summer this year but since A/C isn't quite as common around here as it is in the US your ideas about doing without sure are appreciated. Thinking back to my last visit to the United States I'm still shocked how people living through a hot, hot summer (not humid, really dry heat) would put their laundry in the dryer instead of hanging it outside and let the sun do the work. All that wasted energy and extra heat!
squtperl,
I don't have a dryer. I hang my laundry outside in the summer, and inside in the winter if it's too cold or overcast. But in answer to your statement of why American use dryers instead of hanging them outside is due to people, in cities and towns, stealing your clothes of the lines. Had a friend that this happen to in a small town. I don't have this problem as I live out in the country.
Boowiggins3 years ago
We've had over 40 days of 100+ F degree weather & very little rain. It is TOO that hot! But thankfully not inside here.
In humid parts of the continent, a dehumidifier will help the house feel cooler at much lower operating cost than an air conditioner.

If the house has a forced-air furnace, and especially if it has a basement, remove the door to the furnace air filter and run just the furnace fan. Do this during the part of the day when it is so much hotter outside than inside that the house stays cooler by keeping doors and windows shut. The idea is to pull cooler air out of the basement and up through the house. If you are using a smallish portable dehumidifier, place it in the basement near the open furnace filter door to draw dry air up into the house.

In sunny parts of the continent, those canvas window shades that people used to use before mechanical air conditioners became working-class will help reduce solar gain through windows. Remember to take them down at the end of the hot season, so they last longer.

If your house is brick, stucco, stone or concrete, English ivy vines will reduce the thermal loading on the house structure. Once the vines really start to grow, remember to clip them back from the wooden parts about once a year.

Shade trees are mentioned in the article. To expand on this topic, plant deciduous trees on the south and west sides, and maybe on the east side as well. Also plant deciduous trees where they will shade paved areas like driveways and the street. Conifers work best as wind breaks on the north side.

Hang an open trellis from the soffit on the east, south and west sides of the house, with the bottoms of the trellises a few inches above dirt. Use cup hooks and eyes to fasten them to the soffit. Plant fast growing annuals like sweetpeas beneath the trellises and encourage the stems to grow into the trellises. Put the trellises away at the end of the hot season, so they last longer.

In those few urban areas that are not yet faced with water shortages, lay a soaker hose along the roofline and turn the tap on just enough so that you can't hear water in the eavestrough. Don't use sprinklers on the roof as any water in the air does not cool the house as it evaporates, so it is just wasted. Turn the water off every day by about 4:00 PM.

For those blessed with a Saws-All in their toolbox. try renovating the kitchen wall so that your refrigerator dumps its waste heat out of doors during the hot season. Clever application of adjustable dampers could allow this same waste heat to be directed into the house during the cooler seasons.

mblake73 years ago
I would suggest adding another step, which is "Dehumidify!" If you live in a humid climate, it's much harder for your body to thermoregulate by sweating, since the sweat on your skin just plain won't evaporate. Also, humid air tends to lose less heat at night than dry air, so it doesn't cool down as much at night in humid climates. If you keep a dehumidifier in your bedroom while keeping the windows closed, you'll sleep much more comfortably than if you're exposed to cooler-than-daytime but humid air. IIRC, dehumidifiers use substantially less energy than air conditioning, and the water they collect is graywater suitable for watering houseplants and non-edible garden plants.
Lady Vania3 years ago
Oh genius! I do most of these things anyway. However, I am very prone to heat sickness, so I really need to be careful about my body temperature. Thanks for the tips!!!
nmanning3 years ago
These are some good tips- not for everybody, but still good tips.

We live in a high humidity area, where the nights are in the mid to high 80's and the heat index feels like it's in the mid 90's. :c I really wish we can do half of these, but we do need to utilize AC for a few months. I do a lot of these already to run it less though- and I think our neighbors think we're vampire freaks who never open our curtains or turn on the upstairs lights. Lol
What is wrong with the glass at the end0_0
Dorien3 years ago
I enjoyed your Instructable. It was a good reminder to people of things some know and others would never have thought of without your words. You did a good job of clarity and making it curiously interesting. Thank you. Yours in Christ, Dorien, in hot Zuni VA
Great write up, I try to run my a/c less, keeping the temp between 75 and 80. Already implemented many of these steps. Naked...check, fans.....check, hydrated.....check. Besides, a/c makes the house smell funny
wgarcia3 years ago
I have two suggestions too keep cool as well.

With windows, if you are allowed to, tint them with window tint used on cars, it actually cools your room down a bit, although it might make your room a little bit darker.

Limit yourself to using your desktop computer (or having it on) because sometimes the exhaust from the fans tends to heat up your bedroom which will make you uncomfortable as well.
tlami3 years ago
totally agree with all your suggestions. I HATE to be cold in the summer! I do all your suggestions and haven't turned our ac on in 2 years. A few years ago it was broken and we didn' t fix it for about 3 years. Once in a while the house gets a little musty smelling and I'll run it for a day or two but haven't this year or last. the dehumidifier does help with that....
davedoc3 years ago
Maybe I missed it, but I'm surprised that you did not suggest a dehumidifier. For those that have AC and have the unit in the basement, adding a dehumidifier to your basement makes the AC in the house work better.
sb4 davedoc3 years ago
Good point about dehumidifier -- we had one in a basement and it felt like air conditioning.

Just watch out for mold growing in the dehumidifier .. they have ways to ward it off.
I have a glass just like that. DAS BOOT!
mslaynie3 years ago
As someone with chronic illnesses that are exacerbated by the heat, no... it really is bad to get to 110° every day for hours on end, even if that 110° is just the heat index. I don't long for summer in the winter, and frankly, people like me died in previous years. That's why you didn't hear us complaining.

I don't mean to be a downer, but perhaps you could add some disclaimers stating that this works best in certain climates, or that people with medical conditions should be safe, etc. Unfortunately, these tips just don't help all that much everywhere.
onemoroni13 years ago
Years ago at another location in So Cal I had a hand me down above ground pool. It was fantastic not only to cool off during the day, but a dip before bedtime took the body temperature down where you would be comfortable to fall asleep most of the night. Kinda of like the cold shower idea, but more enjoyable as a swim.
GaryGary3 years ago
Great list -- thanks!

For a lot of homes, a large fraction of the heat gain (one study showed 47%) is sun through windows, so reducing heat gain through windows can be very helpful. Shading on the outside of the window is much more effective than blinds on the inside. We use a set of exterior rollup shades to shade our large east facing windows -- they have helped to keep the house much cooler. They still let in plenty of light and offer filtered view:
http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Cooling/passive_cooling.htm#Shading

Gary
jj.inc3 years ago
I recommend putting your refrigerator in an enclosed space and using a fan to blow the air outside. They create a tremendous amount of heat you normally wouldn't notice. Our deep freeze is in a small closet space right beside a small room with an evaporative cooler. The room gets very hot usually dwelling in the 80's so if you do close it off at least you aren't running a theoretical heater.
stubbsonic3 years ago
These are great tips and ideas! Well done.

Here's a couple more:

My friend showed me that a hand towel (the smaller sized towel), wet with cold tap water, wrung out, and draped around the neck is cooling-- especially with a room fan on.

If you have to be outside, and under the sun, a light colored umbrella can make a difference. Do they make them with foil or something that can really block the light?
Dark colored clothing absorbs more heat and thus makes you warmer so it makes sense to wear light colored clothing next to the skin.

However, an umbrella is not touching the body so it will not make you warmer. I find that a dark colored umbrella makes more shade and thus keep you cooler.

Good Instructable.

Thanks!