Staying Cool Without A/C

Oregon summers are warmer by the year. For those of us who don’t have an air conditioning system in the house, here are some clever inexpensive ways to cool off the house. 


Regular indoor fans, like all motorized equipment, disperse heat in the surroundings when operated while simultaneously providing a breeze directed ahead. The breeze speeds evaporation of the moisture from skin and thus cools it off.  

Keeping in mind that the fan cools only those in front of it, while heating the ambient air it may be wise to keep the fan off when no human or animal benefits from the localized draft.   

However, there is a benefit to having an indoor fan blowing air across a tub of ice. Here, fast moving air speeds the melting and evaporation. Both require heat, which is obtained from the room and therefore reduce the room temperature. If no ice is available, a tub of cold water or hanging wet towels or sheets in the breeze path will provide a partial benefit.

Ceiling fans, if operated in the summer, should be set so the blades rotate counterclockwise when seen from below in order to push the air down. Exhaust fans installed in the bathroom or above a cooking stove will remove hot, stuffy indoor air.  

But a whole house fan will remove the hot air from the whole house and the attic when operated at night. It will drag the air from the house replacing it with the outside air coming from windows and doors left ajar.  

After a particularly hot day, wait to start evacuating the heat until very late at night, so the temperature outside drops below the temperature indoors.  The greater temperature difference between indoor and outdoor, the faster the cooling proceeds. Exhausting the hot air to the point that the house is cold — say when the outside temperature drops to 65 F — will delay the heat accumulation the next day. 


Refrigerators yield a substantial amount of heat when operating. Reducing the time the fridge door is open will reduce the heat generated by the system.  In fact, any household appliance, mechanical or electrical, will exude heat to the environment so cooking, washing, toasting, brewing is best done when the excess heat can be ventilated.  

Computers, television sets, and other electronic devices do not emit substantial heat; incandescent bulbs, however, generate more heat than fluorescent bulbs, so turn the lights off unless you need them. 

Cooling Windows and Walls Amidst the Heat 

Good quality windows are a good insulating barrier. However, any window’s performance can be improved when an outside blind or mesh is installed. With this partition, the pocket of air near the window is cooler than the bulk of outside air and thus the pane doesn’t heat up as much. Insulated window films placed directly on the window panes will substantially reduce infrared heat transfer. 

If a window must be open for fresh air, fabric curtains or cloths blocking the direct sun will lower the heat entering the house. 

A patio cover attached to the house will provide a wall cooling effect as well. It needs not to be permanent or expensive; it can even be made of fabric. Outside walls screened by vegetation, shrubs or vines will also reduce the heat intake.  

Hosing off the outside walls, patio or roof will aid as well, but increased water usage may not be an option in some cases. 

Unpopular… Yet Cool 

In North American culture, ice drinks reign supreme. However, as experiments show, to cool off one’s body a warm drink makes for a better option.  

Besides the fact that the intake of ice-cold substance will shock the body and may result in a spasm, the cool feel in the mouth doesn’t translate to the overall heat reduction of the body. With minimal clothing — meaning a lot of skin exposed facilitating sweating — a warm drink of water increases the cooling effect. Research shows that drinking water at about 80-100 F is likely to cool you off by 2-4 F. 

Light meals are also better suited for hot days as high caloric intake will raise the body temperature. 

So stay cool however you can, because the summer has just begun. 

By Joanna Rosińska