Keeping your home comfortable during the summer without air conditioning may seem impossible. But if you have an air conditioner -- or, luxury of luxuries, central air -- blasting the AC can bring eye-popping energy bills. Instead, try some of these simple tricks for staying cool without air conditioning.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT BEDDING
Put away dense comforters and those made with heavier fabrics, such as satin and silk. Ditto for sheets with high thread counts, which trap heat and moisture and leave you feeling hot and muggy. Choose thin, lightweight sheets and blankets to help you stay cool at night without resorting to air conditioning. Comforters with minimal or no filling absorb less heat and allow air to pass through, as do sheets made of cotton or a cotton blend, preferably in a light color.
USE CEILING FANS PROPERLY
Ceiling fans don't blast arctic air, but they can help keep you cool at a fraction of the cost of air conditioning. In the summer, set ceiling fans to spin counter-clockwise to circulate cooler air. According to the federal government's Energy Star program, a counter-clockwise rotation creates a "wind-chill effect" that makes you feel cooler. (Blades turning clockwise push warm air down.)
TURN OFF THE OVEN
Using the oven can increase your home's interior temperature and tempt you to turn on the air conditioner. Avoid this trap by choosing recipes that don't require an oven. Rely on the stove top, a slow cooker, a microwave, Instant Pot, or an outdoor grill when preparing meals -- or throw together dishes that don't require any cooking at all.
TURN OFF THE LIGHTS
To keep a home cool, remove or reduce all unnecessary sources of heat, including lights. Incandescent and fluorescent bulbs emit not just light but also heat -- enough to bump up the temperature in a room. (About 90 percent of the energy released by incandescent lights is heat, according to the Energy Star program.) It's no surprise that you instantly feel warmer when standing under or next to these bulbs. Some experts advise switching to LED lights to reduce energy costs and heat emission, but you can avoid the cost and simply rely on natural light during the day.
Just like cool air seeps through cracks during the winter, warm air makes its way into your home along the same path. Sealing cracks is a relatively small and affordable DIY project that can help reduce utility bills, regardless of the season. (The U.S. Department of Energy offers a handy how-to guide on its website.) For small projects all you need is caulk or weather stripping, supplies that cost less than $5 at Home Depot or Lowe's. Larger jobs might require the services of a professional, but the investment should pay off over time.
USE APPLIANCES AT NIGHT
Stoves and dryers can quickly increase the surrounding temperature while in operation. You can minimize demand for air conditioning by restricting use of these heat-emitting appliances during the heat of the day. Save cooking and laundry until the sun goes down and the outside air is cooler.
OPEN THE WINDOWS
Even in the thick of summer, don't be afraid to open the windows. Opening doors and windows might seem counterintuitive when the goal is to keep hot air from entering the house -- and you should keep things closed down during the hottest hours of the day. But opening the windows at night lets cool breezes waft through your home.
BLOCK OUT THE SUN
As the sun's heat seeps in through the windows, the room temperature rises. You can lessen the impact by closing shades and curtains in the morning, or whenever the room gets direct sunlight, and reopening them in the evening. Additionally, try adding light-colored, sun-blocking curtain liners to window treatments. They're inexpensive and widely available online and at big-box stores.
WEAR COOL CLOTHING
Wearing clothing that repels heat and permits airflow can help you stay cool without running the air conditioner. Avoid tight-fitting clothes and fabrics that attract and trap heat and moisture. Choose loose, light-colored clothing, preferably made of linen or cotton, for indoors and out.