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How to Keep Your House Cool Without Air Conditioning

Use no- and low-cost methods and energy-efficiency enhancements to stay comfortable this summer without soaring energy bills.

| July/August 2012

  • When outdoor air is cooler than indoor air, just opening windows and doors to let air flow through our houses can have a natural cooling effect.
    Photo By Ken Hayden
  • To help keep the indoors cool, open windows in the cooler evening and morning, then close them when the afternoon heats up. Avoid cooking during the hottest part of the day to prevent adding heat to your home.
    Photo By Simon McBride
  • Covered porches help shade homes’ interiors, providing a barrier to the heat of the sun.
    Photo By Sophie Munro
  • The Shade Store ( offers a wide array of light-filtering, energy-enhancing shades and blinds including cellular shades (pictured), and roller and solar shades, some of which are available in Greenguard-certified materials.
    Photo Courtesy The Shade Store
  • Ceiling fans are an effective way to help keep room occupants cool, but they don’t cool spaces so turn them off when you leave the room.
    Photo By Deborah Whitlaw-Llewellyn
  • Well-placed awnings and plants can help shade your home’s exterior, lightening the load on your air conditioner.
    Photo By iStock
  • Smart ventilation and whole-house fans rely on the stack effect, in which cool air is pulled in through open windows on the lower level and hot air is forced out through the top of the house.
    Illustration By Nate Skow

Most of us who live where summers are hot have been through it: As temperatures rise into the triple digits, we crank the AC—then feel the anxiety as we open our electric bills. Americans want to feel comfortable indoors when outdoor temperatures climb—so much so that we collectively spend more than $15 billion each year on air conditioning (the equivalent of about 140 million tons of CO2 emissions). But the irony is that, while draining our wallets to keep our houses cool, we’re burning enough fossil fuels to help make the world a warmer place. Fortunately, by taking advantage of advances in energy-efficient technology and borrowing some natural cooling wisdom from the days before air conditioning was widely available, you can learn how to keep your house cool without racking up huge energy bills or carbon footprints.

Lessen the Load

The less heat that builds up inside our homes, the less we have to rely on our AC units. Begin with a few simple no- to low-budget changes:

• Close windows and window coverings in the morning before the day heats up, then open them in the evening to flush your house with cooler air.

• Turn off lights when not in use—especially incandescents, which give off a lot of heat. Replace incandescent bulbs with cooler light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or compact fluorescents (CFLs).

• Unplug electronic equipment when not in use, or use a “smart” power strip to completely power off electronics; most electronics use electricity—and generate heat—even when they are turned off.

• Do your laundry, ironing and cooking during the cooler parts of day—or use a clothesline, cook outdoors and opt for meals that don’t require cooking. Precooking large quantities of grains or vegetables in the evening can reduce daytime cooking needs and save time throughout the week.

Sally Jo
6/21/2018 9:38:15 AM

I'm 81 yrs old, have air condition I never use but once or twice if I have company coming. I open my north door at night and all the windows upstairs about 2 hrs befor I go to bed. My last excell month excell bill was $52.00😌

9/28/2015 2:43:15 AM

There are a lot of ways to keep the temperature of your house cool, one is getting an AC, if you don't have a natural source of ventilation. Just make though that you couple it with a reliable AC company that will be there anytime you need some fix and tweaks, like Cooling For Less in here in Phoenix.

8/26/2015 8:20:54 AM

I am a student of architecture and house designs. There are lots of methods to build house and office airy and cool. I am also a certified. I am sharing some knowledge to you all. Build basement in your house the area of basement is very cool in basement you no need any air conditioner in basement. I always design basement in house design and office design.

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