Stay Cool … Simply

If you want to cut back on air conditioning, or if you live or want to live without air conditioning altogether, you can keep your house cooler by doing a few simple things.

Simple common sense: seeking out shady places to beat the heat can make a difference of up to 20 degrees.

Draw the shades. First, shade windows that get sunshine. Watch during the day and as soon as (or before) the sun begins to shine through the windows, close the blinds or drapes. If you’re not going to be home all day, keep the windows covered until you get home.

Find shade outside. The temperature is from 10 to 20 degrees cooler in the shade of a tree, so if you don’t have a tree that shades your home, think about planting one. Look at the area where the sun hits the house during the hottest part of the season, then plant a tree that will shade it. If you can’t plant a tree, plant vines that you can train to cover the place where the sun shines the hottest. Many vines will grow in containers if you can’t dig up the yard for them.

If you can’t do anything to the outside, do it to the inside. Vines trained to grow in a window will shade a room, too, and breathe out cool air. You will still need to close the blinds or drapes, but the vine will provide added shade and will shade the room at those times when you forget or are late.  Houseplants all expire cooler air than the room temperature, so adding other houseplants will help, too.

How to beat the heat? Cool down with some homemade lemonade!

Lighten up. Summertime colors are traditionally white and pastel for a reason. These light colors reflect the light rather than absorb it. We wear them; why not let your home wear them? Put light colored slip covers on upholstered furniture and replace throw or area rugs with lighter colors. While the colors will not retain heat, it could be that their greatest value is in our perception. Lighter colors look cooler than darker ones.

Close the door! Don’t leave the refrigerator door open longer than it takes to get what you need, no matter how good that cold air feels! If the inside of the refrigerator gets warm, of course, the refrigerator turns on to cool it – and warms the air around it as it runs.

Unplug it. Unplug your tv and and computer when they’re not in use. Both the tv and computer generate a lot of heat and they waste a lot of electricity just sitting there waiting to come on when the button is pushed. If you keep them on a power strip, you can turn the power strip off instead of having to unplug them.

Light up smartly. Switch to flourescent light bulbs instead of incandescent bulbs. They’re a lot cooler.

Don’t cook indoors. That’s probably what they call a no-brainer, but even a quick meal can put out quite a bit of heat and even the microwave emits warm air.

Not many houses have summer kitchens any more, but you can take advantage of the garage or any other area

Frozen to perfection: enjoy homemade ice cream any time for a cool, sweet treat.

away from your living quarters. Use an electric oven, skillet, slow cooker or toaster oven out there. You can grill outdoors, of course, and solar ovensare the perfect solution for sunny days.

Move air. Use a fan before you turn on the air conditioner. Circulating air will make you feel cooler whether the temperature drops or not.

Solar attic fans, while not the cheapest route, are a solid investment in keeping your home cooler and reducing heating and cooling costs throughout the year.

Air conditioning is a relatively recent invention that we’ve come to rely on, but if you want to cut back on electricity or live without it, you can keep your house cooler with a little thought and effort.

Note: This article was first published in Aug. 2010.

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Mary Walker
12 years ago

I just love the tip y’all give…and i implement a good lot of them.I don’t run an air conditioner can’t afford to being on a fixed income…so many of your suggestion i see are going to come in handy as have others,please keep giving them out. thank you so much :-)

J Diane Oliver-Jensen
J Diane Oliver-Jensen
12 years ago

We do all of these things, but also do 2 things that you don’t mention… 1) using exterior shades, awnings or anti-solar gain window cling films on south & west facing windows (east too if you get a lot of intense AM sun) does wonders to keep heat down. 2) after dark, open up as much as possible & use a window fan, set to “exhaust” on an upper level window to work with convection currents and send hot air out while drawing cool air in. These work wonders!!

Deborah Devney
Deborah Devney
12 years ago

Florescent bulbs first throw the wrong spectrum, so there are those who get migraines from them. Second, mercury inside. If you break it, you have to leave the house and call hazmat,

J Diane Oliver-Jensen
J Diane Oliver-Jensen
12 years ago

@ Deb Devney… No! NO! You do NOT need to call hazmat! Not sure where you got such grossly exaggerated info… here is the EPA’s guidelines for dealing with a broken CFL.

J Diane Oliver-Jensen
J Diane Oliver-Jensen
12 years ago

and as for you other claims, also either blatantly false (migraines) or exaggerated to the point as to be deemed insignificant overall and so, false

12 years ago

As the owner/operator (along with my husband) of our waste management/trash pickup service, I can tell you this – as of Jan. 1, 2010 in our state of Arkansas, we are no longer ALLOWED to pick up CFL’s and put them in our trucks with the trash. The day before that, Dec. 31, it was ok and legal and no one was telling us it was BAD to have them breaking in our trucks. We were told that if they break in our truck, we have a hazardous waste situation and we have to call hazmat. Of course, it is impossible for us to know if someone put one of those screwy little pots of poison in their trash bags so we know they *are* going into our truck and into the landfill. We just don’t see them. The bigger CFL bulbs we see and leave them as long as the owners don’t bust them up into a bag or box and put them inside something where we can’t see. We KNOW our truck has mercury in it and we can thank our all-knowing “god” – I mean GOV – for that lovely situation. And yes, we were told by state solid waste authorities that if someone has one of these bulbs break in their home, they have a hazardous situation and need to vacate the premise immediately. The manager of the local Dollar General store told us that if one of these breaks in their store, they have to get everyone out of the building right away and let it air out. Later a person who is appropriately dressed and protected (face mask, etc.) goes back in to CAREFULLY sweep up the mess, put it in an enclosed box and it has to go 100 miles to the closest place to RECYCLE it. In fact, we were told that ALL of these bulbs are supposed to be taken to the recyclers (the owners, not *us*). Oh, SURE, people are going to do that…drive all that way for a couple of burned out light bulbs. !! No, of course, they aren’t – they put them in their trash and make sure that we can’t see them and they ARE going to our landfills (along with the mercury they contain) by the millions. We had them in our home until we learned about them. Now we don’t have them anymore. We are stocking up on the old bulbs and moving to solar elec. so our lighting needs will be minimal.

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