At the beginning of the summer, I made a challenge to myself to see how long I could go without turning on the air conditioning. Now it’s mid-September, summer is winding down, and I’ve only turned on the air conditioning twice. Once was to create some intermittent air movement in the house while I was on vacation for a week (I set the thermostat to 82 so it wouldn’t come on very often), and the other time was this past weekend when I had six houseguests and it was 90 degrees (it seemed like the courteous thing to do).
This lifestyle change was surprisingly easy for me to adapt to. I’m the kind of person who’s always cold, and I tend to think most places are over-air-conditioned in the summer. (I always feel relief when I get to leave a cold building and thaw out in my hot car.) I also live in a one-story house in a climate where the high temperature rarely get above the low 90’s, and I live alone, so I don’t have to balance the temperature preferences of multiple people.
If you find yourself a similarly viable candidate, here are my tips for living comfortably without air conditioning:
Open your windows.
During the day when I’m at work, I keep my windows and blinds closed to keep out the heat. Every evening when I get home, I open the four windows in my living room and two windows in my kitchen, the two rooms I spend the most time in. If I’m working in my office I open the window in there too. Having multiple windows open creates air movement in the house and lets in cooler air as the temperature drops throughout the evening. I keep the windows open until I go to bed. Since my house is one-story, I close the windows at night for safety, but if you have a two-story house you could definitely leave the upstairs windows open to keep the cool night air circulating.
Fans, fans, fans.
I’m fortunate to have a ceiling fan in my bedroom and another in my kitchen. Sleeping in a hot house can be uncomfortable, so having the ceiling fan on at night is key to keeping the air conditioning off. If you don’t have a ceiling fan, a large oscillating fan would probably work well. I use the ceiling fan in the kitchen to help dissipate hot air from cooking, and to keep me cool while I sit at the table and eat.
I realized midway through the summer that the ceiling fans alone are not enough to keep the house comfortable. I got a box fan at Goodwill to move between the living room and the office, and that helped a lot, but what I really needed was a large oscillating fan. I looked for a used oscillating fan for a couple of months with no luck, but I finally found one on a curb alert a couple of weeks ago. I don’t really need it at this point in the season, but it will make next year much more comfortable.
Dress for success.
This is an obvious one: If your house is hot, wear cool clothing. When I come home from work on warm days, I change into shorts and a t-shirt or tank top, and I walk around barefoot or in sandals.
Have a cold one.
A cold drink, that is. I keep a pitcher of chilled water in the refrigerator to help me stay hydrated and cool down when I feel warm. This is especially helpful after I run or ride my bike—I used to rely on air conditioning to cool me down after exercising, but now I drink cold water and hang out by a fan or in one of the cooler areas of the house.
Take advantage of subterranean spaces.
Speaking of cooler areas of the house, my basement is definitely the best one. On the hottest days of the summer, I spent my leisure time in the basement, where it feels at least 10 degrees cooler than the main level of the house. If I didn’t have a basement with a finished room to hang out in, I admit that I probably would have turned on the air a few more times over the summer.
I chose to forego air conditioning to reduce my energy consumption and lower my environmental impact, but doing so had financial benefits too. My electric bill didn’t rise at all compared to my bills over the winter; it has been about $40 consistently for the last seven months.
Living without air conditioning isn’t practical for everyone, depending on the climate you live in, your age, your health, or other factors. But for those in good health living in a moderate climate, I challenge you to push the boundaries of your temperature comfort zone. You may find it’s easier than you think!