Cool your home without air conditioning

Air conditioning makes it much easier to work through the summer. In fact, it's an important tool for public health. But running your AC also increases your utility bill, drives up pollution by forcing power plants to burn more fossil fuels, and makes hot nights even hotter.

If you’re ecologically minded, you can look into installing renewable power for your house or buying energy from renewable sources. But whether you care about the environment or just hate the giant bill at the end of the month, one easy fix is to use less air conditioning.

Outside the house, regulate your body temperature and drink lots of water. Inside, you can do a lot to drive down the temperature before you flip on the AC.

Heat and humidity

When going without air conditioning, you need to consider two factors: the overall heat and the humidity. On a hot day, sweating is a surprisingly effective method of returning your body to its core temperature. As the droplets on your skin transition from liquid to gas, their evaporation pulls warmth away from your body, cooling the blood underneath your skin, which goes back to your body's core, reducing your overall temperature.

Moisture in the air, however, stalls this process. In meteorological terms, humidity is the amount of water vapor the atmosphere can hold. The more humid it is, the less space there is for your sweat to evaporate. And without your body’s natural chilling system, everything feels hotter. (Just to rub it in, humidity is likely be higher in warmer months, so as the temperature is reaching its highest pitch, your sweat will be at its least effective.)

What this boils down to is that keeping cool is a matter of getting as much sweat as possible to evaporate off your skin. To do that, you need to keep relatively dry air moving across your body. And your home’s setup can help you do that.

Take advantage of your architecture

Chilling out your environment is largely a matter of working with convection, the tendency of hot air to rise. The best way to cool off a room is to pull heat up and out. As a bonus, proper ventilation also controls humidity, so that gross sticky feeling can fly away too.

First, take a look at the construction of your house. Hot summers aren’t a new problem for housebuilders, and older houses may have design features you can use.

For example, “shotgun” houses, which are one room wide and extend back, create cross breezes through screen doors and open windows. A cross breeze helps pull away hot air, making a home feel more comfortable. You can enhance these breezes with electric fans (more on that later).

Houses with large wraparound porches also maintain lower temperatures. That’s because the external structure absorbs the direct sunlight, allowing the inner rooms to avoid overheating.

In some cases, cooling features might be blocked off. Cupolas, for example, were originally designed to give hot air a place to escape a home. But when builders installed central air in older homes, they might have turned those chimneys into attics. If you clear any blocked vents or spaces in your attic, you may notice (and enjoy) better air circulation.

Keep out sunlight

A lot of warmth comes into your home via sunlight. In individual rooms, you should control these rays with blackout curtains or shades. If you still want sunlight, o