How to Keep Your Cool Without Air Conditioning

8 tips to help you beat the heat this summer


Published:

The torrid summer of 2010 capped off the hottest decade ever recorded on our planet. American households responded to the heat by doubling our consumption of electricity for air conditioning, as measured since the mid-1990s. Our A/C use has, in turn, boosted greenhouse gas emissions from power plants — helping to speed global climate change and to ensure that future heat waves will be even more frequent and intense…and that we’ll soon be cranking up the air conditioning yet another notch.

But people are starting to recognize this vicious cycle and trying to put a stop to it. I’ve met many people from across the country who enjoy the non-air conditioned life, even in the heart of the Sunbelt. Here in Salina, Kansas, a place where triple-digit highs are common, my wife Priti and I have lived without air conditioning for ten years.

Air conditioning plays an important role in protecting the more vulnerable segments of our population during heat waves. But that doesn’t warrant its lavish deployment throughout society for much of the year. Whether you live in a house on a shady lot or in a third-floor urban apartment, it’s possible to stay comfortable by reviving and updating simple hot weather strategies that have been cast aside during the age of air conditioning. And it can be done without costly equipment or home renovations.

The key is to focus on is people-cooling, not building-cooling. Your body is constantly converting chemical energy from food into heat; hot and/or humid weather makes it harder to unload that heat. But filling a home with chilled, still, dry air around the clock is only one of the many ways by which we can help our bodies maintain their thermal balance.

Keep air circulating. Air movement is highly effective in helping you evaporate perspiration and shed heat. On a merely warm day, a breeze through an open window is enough to do the job, but in truly hot weather, especially if it’s humid, turn on a fan. Ceiling fans are good, but the direct breeze from a portable or window fan can be more effective. In summer, we have a window fan blowing directly across our bed at night.

Don’t let the morning weather forecast scare you into reaching for the A/C switch. If all of the home’s occupants are away at work or school during the day, midday temperatures are not very relevant. If you are going to be home all day, the predicted high temperature or heat index may sound menacing; however, a naturally ventilated indoor space often remains at least ten degrees cooler than the outdoor maximum, and air movement knocks a few more degrees off the temperature your body is actually sensing. In a closed-up, air conditioned home, a thermostat set in the mid-to-upper eighties would create a suffocating environment — but with open windows and moving air, living in such temperatures is no sweat.

Change your location with the time of day and sun position. If you’re fortunate enough to have a basement, take advantage of the geothermal cooling it provides. A fan enhances the effect. And if things get really tough, there’s no need to be an absolutist. For a few hours’ break, you can quickly and fairly efficiently cool down a one-room refuge with a window air conditioner.

Reserve sedentary activities for the hottest part of the day. When physical work is called for, just accept that you may need to wring out your shirt afterward. Don’t do your running or other exercise at three in the afternoon under a broiling sun, but don’t do it in an air conditioned health club either. Research shows that regular exertion in the heat builds the body’s tolerance, helping you function better in hot weather.

Don’t make extra heat. Remember that any energy-consuming household device releases waste heat. Plan meals that involve less cooking; cut back on boiling and baking, especially. Keep the dishwasher and any unneeded lights turned off. Use solar technology — a clothesline — to dry the laundry. And take cold or lukewarm showers to avoid burdening your indoor atmosphere with a big load of humidity.

Get wet. High humidity may be the enemy, but water in liquid form is an essential ally. When it’s feasible, hit the lake or local swimming pool with your friends and neighbors. When it’s not (and if water supplies are sufficient), nothing cools like the old garden hose or lawn sprinkler.

Stay near plants. Head to the woods, where it always feels cooler. Plants can cool twice — by blocking sunlight and by absorbing heat as they transpire water. If you have a yard, you can further reduce the peak indoor temperature by creating more shade. If possible, have trees, especially to the south and west. If that’s not possible, a dense stand of other kinds of tall plants — giant reed (Arundo donax) or sunflowers, for example — can be tall enough by July to shade the sun-baked sides of the house. We have grapevines covering a couple of windows.

Bring in the night air. If, when the sun starts going down, the outdoor temperature drops below that in the house, it’s a signal to pull in some of that outdoor air. Use a whole-house or attic fan if you have one; otherwise, set up one window fan blowing in and another out.

Meet your neighbors. Especially in the evening, spend time under a shade tree, patio umbrella or screen porch, or head for the neighborhood park. Using natural cooling can help reverse the trend toward isolation from neighbors and nature that has characterized the age of air conditioning.

The most important adjustment to be made is not in the thermostat but in our own view of what constitutes comfort. When people say they couldn’t survive without air conditioning, they tend to be thinking about the last time they dashed from a sun-baked parking lot into a chilled home or business. But focusing on those extremes ignores a wide range of perfectly livable, pleasant environments that come at a much lower cost to you and the planet.

Stan Cox is the author of Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer). His website is www.LosingOurCool.com. This article originally appeared in YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Visit www.yesmagazine.org.

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

February 24, 2020

The time has come to put faith to the test. The Pisces Moon is conjunct Neptune while both stars also sextile Jupiter. Creative work is inspired. People feel confident. Dreams seem to be within reach. Communities of artists and business people, as well…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

February 2020

With Kacey O’Donnell  Start Date: February 23, 2020   Come explore the spiritual path of Wicca! Discover more about nature, energy, magick and yourself. This 12-month course...

Cost: $1195 (Early Bird $1095)

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

The Basics Of Using Essential Oils Presenter: Kay Judge CCA Are you curious about how essential oils work and how to use them safely? This class will provide a basic understanding of the...

Cost: $25

Where:
Center for Inner Wellness
26B Main Street
Chester, MA  01011
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Inner Wellness
Telephone: 413-242-4069
Contact Name: Kay Judge
Website »

More information

Come shine with us! Join us in harmony and in our goal to bring the light of Spiritualism forward to all those who are searching.

Where:
VFW Post 2597
775 Boston Rd, Rt 3A
Billerica, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Spiritualist Fellowship Church Of New England
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

A Fundraiser for Lucy’s Love Bus Monday February 24th at 5:30pm (Snow date: March 2nd) Join us for complimentary appetizers, free door prizes, drinks, fun music, a raffle and auction with...

Where:
Crave Restaurant
10 Water Street
Amesbury, MA
View map »


Telephone: 857-277-1984
Contact Name: Kerry
Website »

More information

With Anna DeWitte Mondays—starts 1/27 Our next new class! Join Anna (one of our recent grads) for her mild heat class! The temperature will hover around 80 degrees which helps to loosen...

Cost: $17

Where:
State of Grace Yoga & Wellness Center
104 East Hartford Ave.
Uxbridge, MA  01569
View map »


Sponsor: State of Grace Yoga and Wellness Center
Telephone: 508-278-2818
Website »

More information

Discover Beauty. Discover Goodness. Discover Yourself. Your soul’s gifts are waiting. Breathe. Find stillness. The spark you need to ignite your life is here, within. Max Meditation...

Cost: $15

Where:
Modern Mystery School Boston
132 Charles St
3rd Floor
Auburndale, MA  02466
View map »


Sponsor: Modern Mystery School Boston
Telephone: 617-694-0994
Contact Name: Jordan Bain
Website »

More information

2nd and 4th Monday of every month This psychic message circle is for anyone wishing to raise their connection using their psychic centers known as the “clairs.” Learn how to use...

Cost: $20

Where:
Messages From Heaven Healing and Learning Center
646 Central Street
Suite 3
Leominster, MA
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Automatic & Channel Writing — Class 2 of 3 Discussion of the process of writing and channeling. Continued writing practice and connecting practice and exercises. Discussion of...

Cost: At door $20; online reg. $15

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers — Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd, Unit A
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

Join Life Coach Cheryl Richardson and her husband, Michael Gerrish, a psychotherapist and gifted intuitive, for a special evening designed to help you upgrade your life!  During this event,...

Cost: $35

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
386 Merrimack Street, #1A
Methuen, MA  01844
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

February 27–29 Annie Appleseed Project: all-volunteer cancer nonprofit helps people make informed decisions on lifestyle issues, complementary therapies and holistic treatments....

Where:
West Palm Beach, FL


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

15 minutes for only $25 with some of our most popular readers! Plus, all merchandise will be 10% off too! Genevieve Hackett - Tarot or Mediumship Readings Renee Walsh - Destiny Divination...

Cost: $25

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
386 Merrimack Street, #1A
Methuen, MA  01844
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

Kundalini yoga and Naad yoga (the yoga of sound), are powerful tools that help us to cope with challenges, change our state, and lift us into an elevated experience. We all know what it is like...

Cost: $35, $40 at the door

Where:
Yoga At The Ashram
368 Village St.
Millis, MA  02054
View map »


Telephone: 508-376-4525
Website »

More information

Get a personal teaching for Brother Granite's new Visionary Shamanism Tarot. This class includes the new Visionary Shamanism Tarot deck as well a 90 minute one on one class with Brother Granite...

Cost: $80

Where:
407 Deans Plaza
407 Rte 44
The Enchanted Forest Taunton
Raynham, MA  02767
View map »


Sponsor: Brother Granite
Telephone: 774-208-6195
Contact Name: Granite
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags