How to Keep Cool Without the AC

Never underestimate the power of a fan. Whether you use a small tabletop fan or a ceiling fan, it will consume far less energy than an air conditioner. Photo: Flickr/kiera-anne

According to Energy Star, as much as half of the energy used in your home goes to heating and cooling.

So, as summer is just on the horizon and the temperature begins to rise from coast to coast, how do you combat the costs and avoid kicking up the AC? Here are some simple tips to keep you cool:

1. Invest in a fan. We know this was the first thing you thought about, but you may not realize just how big of a difference a small, inexpensive fan can make. Place one fan by the window where air is coming into your home. Use another fan at an opposite window positioned to blow warm air out. This can create a nice “wind tunnel” effect in pulling air through the house.

2. Abandon the kitchen. Your oven and stove generate a lot of heat. That heat causes your AC to turn on more frequently. Consider cooking outside on the grill to help keep the heat where it belongs, outside. If you must cook indoors, either choose to cook in a microwave which produces less heat or turn on the over-the-range hood to vent the heat. Another big heat generator in your home? Your refrigerator. Use the thermometer inside the refrigerator and freezer to make sure the temperature stays at the ideal levels

3. Pull the shades. Closing your blinds on your house can make a world of difference during the day. Furthermore, having insulated windows and blinds helps keep the cold air out in the winter, but it also helps keep out the heat in the summer.

4. Be aware of the lighting around your home. Switch out those standard incandescent bulbs for compact florescent bulbs (CFL). Not only will this save you energy, but CFLs burn cooler, helping you keep the temperature in the house down. Another great way to reduce heat in the house is to turn off your computers. You might even want to consider opting for hang drying your clothes outside instead of using the dryer.

5. Do a little roof maintenance. This is a great tip from MetaEfficient, who explains that "the roof and attic can be your best friend or your worst enemy when it comes to keeping the heat outside and cutting your energy consumption." Consider roof materials and colors that efficiently reflect heat from the sun’s rays, or even use them to provide solar power. Also, be sure that your roofline and attic are well insulated, and use an exhaust fan to draw collected heat out of your home.

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  • Joan

    Plant trees on the south and west side of your home.These trees need to be ones that lose their leaves in the winter. You want to plant the trees close enough so that they shade your house. Make sure you have the branches high enough so that you can cut the grass under them and they go [over] your roof.Also, hanging your clothes outside not only saves energy but they last longer and smell so good. I have been using CFL bulbs for several years and do love them. Yes they do cost more but sometimes the electric companies send them out for free. If you want ones with stronger lighting get the ones equivalent to 100 watts. You don’t have to change them as often and they definately sve on the power bill. I have used all these things for several years and my power bill is 3 times less than my neighbors. Good luck.

  • Danr

    “having insulted windows and blinds helps keep the cold air out”

    Insulting your windows and blinds will reduce their efficiency… be NICE to your home and it will return the favor!!! :)

  • Tom Harrison

    Amanda — great post!

    Coming from the frigid North (Boston) I know anyone south or east of Rhode Island will scoff when I say: Ceiling Fans!

    I have been to Phoenix in the summer. Yes, it’s hot. One time our plane was diverted because the runway would have melted tires. So, I defer to your hotness … er, awareness of heat :-)

    But ceiling fans are awesome. They use almost no electricity (especially some of the new ones — I wrote recently about them on and are silent, and can either augment or replace air conditioning. I far prefer ceiling fans to standing or window fans for a number of reasons.


    Tom Harrison

  • Angel

    The fans really work! Our a.c broke and we don’t want to pay to get it fixed b/c it will cost so much. You just have the fans blowing and boom! In no time you can feel the cool air, and if your really hot and want to cool down really fast you can just stand infront of the fan. Also if you wet your arms and face with cold water it really helps too. You could also take a cold water shower but keep it under 7 minutes, all showers should be under 7 minutes because after that your just waisting water that poor kids in Africa really need.