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How to Keep Your Home Cool Without an Air Conditioner

If you don't have an air conditioner, check out these creative ways to stay cool all summer long.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

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Bright-morning-sun-in-the-open-window-through-the-curtainsVanoVasaio/Shutterstock

When the summer sun is beating down, it’s nice to be able to retreat into an air conditioned home. But if you live in a part of the country where central air hasn’t typically been included in houses because the climate there used to be cooler, or if you’re having to deal with a power grid strained from extreme energy usage, high temperatures can quickly heat up your house making it uncomfortable and even dangerous. Don’t despair, there are ways you can keep your house cool without an air conditioner.

First we should point out just how serious heat-related illness is. It kills more than 600 people in the United States every year, according to the CDC. So, you need to be aware of the signs of heat-related illness and know how to react to protect your health as well as neighbors and loved ones. If the temperature is in the 90s or higher and your house is hot despite efforts to cool it down, the CDC recommends finding a place that has air conditioning (such as shopping malls, libraries, designated cooling centers, etc.) and spending a few hours there to cool down.

For times when the situation is less extreme but still uncomfortable, the following tips and hints will help you keep your indoor space cool without air conditioning.

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awningYou Touch Pix of EuToch/Shutterstock

Cover Your Windows

Left uncovered and open during the hottest parts of the day, your windows let in a considerable amount of heat, especially if they’re getting direct sunlight, so you want to put something over it to keep the heat out.

An awning or shutters on the outside are great because they block the sun before it hits the glass. Window shades are the next best option. Look for energy efficient options, like cellular shades which hold air inside the honeycomb shapes to create a barrier with the glass. That helps keep the heat from entering and circulating in your house as well as keeping the cool air locked inside. Blackout shades and curtains are another option that help control how much light and heat gets into your home.

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heat reducing window filmFamily Handyman

Insulated Window Film

Window films are a thin laminate that you can apply to the inside or outside of the glass surface.  They offer a ton of benefits, from cutting energy costs  to providing you privacy while still enjoying the view and light of the great outdoors. They can provide up to 98 percent infrared heat reduction compared to unprotected windows and reduce temperature imbalances in your home. You can have them professionally installed, but there are plenty of DIY kits on the market as well.

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Rock and Wasp/Shutterstock

Close Your Windows

It sounds counterintuitive, but if the air outside is hotter than it is inside your house, closing your windows during the hottest part of the day will help keep the heat from seeping into your home. If you can get a breeze going through your house, however, keep the windows open using the tip below to generate air flow. This tip works best if you have window treatments that also keep the heat out, like those mentioned above. Also, keep a fan running to circulate air while you have the windows closed. As the temperatures outside start to cool down in the evening, open your windows again.

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Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock

Put the Wind to Work for You

If your home has a cross breeze, take advantage of it to stimulate airflow. Open the windows on the downwind side (the direction the wind is coming from) of your house, and the bottom section on the upwind side. This will create a cooling pressure current. You can make things even cooler by using a window fan in the upwind side, which also works to generate airflow when the wind isn’t blowing in your direction or if you don’t have windows on that side of the house.

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black metal ventilation fan on wooden floorWisanu Boonrawd/Shutterstock

Position Fans Correctly

Fans don’t actually cool the air. Instead, they circulate air around the room. You feel cool because that air flow makes speeds up the process of evaporation, and as your body transfers heat via sweat, the faster pace of evaporation helps you feel cooler. It’s important to position a fan in a corner, low to the ground, where the less dense cooler air is, so that it can push the cool air around the room. You can also position a fan to pull air in from cooler parts of your house to circulate throughout the warmer rooms.

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whole house fanvia QuietCoolSystems.com

Install a Whole-House Fan

Also called attic fans, these ceiling-mounted fans push hot air out through attic vents while pulling in cooler air from open windows and doors. The rapid air exchange also creates a nice breeze in your house. Whole-house fans also use a fraction of the electricity that an air conditioner does, so it’s a welcome addition to your home even if you do have central AC to help cut down on energy bills in the shoulder seasons.

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fanntoniodiaz/Shutterstock

Set Your Ceiling Fans to Rotate Counter-Clockwise

Ceiling fans are an excellent addition to your home, and installing them is an easy DIY project. In addition to helping keep you cool in the summer, they’ll also keep warm air moving in the winter. But it’s not a set-it-and-forget-it appliance. In the summer, the fan blades should rotate counter-clockwise (as you look up at it) to push the air straight down. Increase the fan speed on really hot days.

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iceSergiy Kuzmin/Shutterstock

Make Your Own Cold Air

With a bowl of ice and a fan, you can create a faux ocean breeze. Simply fill a mixing bowl with ice or an ice pack, and put the bowl in front of a fan. Turn the fan on, and the air will mimic a chilly, misty breeze.

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windowYaroslaf/Shutterstock

Cooling Curtains

Sometimes opening all the windows just doesn’t cut it, in which case, spray a sheet with cold water and cover the window’s opening. The breeze will hit the sheet and pass through the cool, damp fabric, which can help bring the temperature down in your home. Paying extra attention to your windows may get you thinking about window treatments, check out this collection of 10 awesome ideas.

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actab62/Shutterstock

Turn On Your Bathroom Fans

Your bathroom fans, as well as the exhaust fan in your kitchen, drag the hot air that rises and push it out of your home. If you don’t have a bathroom fan, it’s easy to install one.

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windowBOONJAEM/Shutterstock

Plant Vines

Planting vines will work similar to installing an awning. Vines like ivy grow quickly and provide cooling shade. The climbers reduce temperature by blocking the sunlight that heats up exterior walls. Here’s how to build a vine-covered pergola in your backyard to shade a stone patio or wood deck.

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bulbM.a.u/Shutterstock

Get Rid of Incandescent Lights

Incandescent bulbs waste an estimated 90 percent of their energy in the heat they emit, so if you’re trying to keep your home cool without purchasing an air conditioner, small shifts like switching to compact fluorescent lamps can cool your home while also lowering your energy bill! Check out this light bulb guide for replacing incandescent bulbs.

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laundryAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

Do Chores at Night

From running the dishwasher to doing laundry, it’s best not to let hot water and heated air fill up your home during the hottest times of the day. Keep things cooler by doing chores that create heat at night. Another good tip is to regularly clean the dryer vent so the cycle doesn’t take as long. And if you can avoid it, don’t use the oven while it’s hot.

Feeling hot? Check out these 21 air conditioner maintenance and home cooling tips.

Ryan Van Bibber
Ryan is a senior editor at Family Handyman. Prior to that he was a senior editor at Outside and the NFL editor at SB Nation.
Alexa Erickson
Alexa is an experienced lifestyle and news writer, currently working with Reader's Digest, Shape Magazine and various other publications. She loves writing about her travels, health, wellness, home decor, food and drink, fashion, beauty and scientific news. Follow her traveling adventures on Instagram: @living_by_lex, send her a message: [email protected] and check out her website: livingbylex.com

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