It's the peak of summer, and while that may mean vacations, sundresses, and fruity cocktails, it also means dealing with the less glamorous side of the season. According to several experts and reports, summers are only touted to get worse with every passing year. While this may mean you can simply tap a button on a thermostat to cool down your home, for others without air conditioning (or with a guilty conscience), you may be in search of environmentally friendly AC alternatives.
Here in Los Angeles, I'm one of the lucky apartment-dwellers with air conditioning. While I've grown accustomed to ticking the dial down to a brisk 72-degrees before bed each night, it's recently come to my attention that this practice is not only wreaking havoc on my energy bill, but it may also have a negative impact on climate change.
While most properly working air-conditioners don't release hydrofluorocarbons (chemical compounds known as HFCs that play a role in climate change in the same way that greenhouse gases do), they still account for about 6% of residential energy use nationwide.
While legislation is put in place to phase out HFCs, there are plenty of ways for you to reduce your individual carbon footprint and stay cool without air-conditioning. For those living without the luxury of air conditioning to begin with, these tips are for you, too. Here are eight ways to beat the heat this summer without cranking up the AC.
1. Close Your Blinds
Windows are responsible for 25%–30% of heating and cooling loss. If it's extremely hot outside, make sure your windows are closed and sealed properly. Be sure to close your blinds or invest in insulated curtains or blackout shades to keep out heat.
2. Buy a Fan
Simple and to the point, a fan is a great alternative to AC, especially if you live in a small space. Find one that you can easily move around your home and take with you from room to room.
3. Invest in Bedding
Trade out heavy bedding for lightweight cotton sheets. You can also find pillows, mattress pads, and sheets specifically designed to keep you cool during the warm summer months from brands like Chili, Cool-jams, and Chillow.
4. Sip on Iced Drinks
Staying cool doesn't have to mean ridding your home of heat. Keep your body cool by drinking iced beverages of your choosing. It's also a great way to ensure that you stay hydrated during the hot weather.
5. Keep a Cold Cloth Handy
Pop a damp hand towel in the freezer and wrap the chilled cloth on the back of your neck or on your wrists to cool down in a pinch.
6. Invite Night Air In
Open up your windows and doors in the evening to allow cool air inside your home.
Just make sure you have proper screens installed so as not to invite in pesky insects along with the cool air.
7. Toss Incandescent Light Bulbs
Incandescent light bulbs waste about 90% of the energy they use in the form of heat. Swap any remaining outdated light bulbs in your home with compact fluorescent lamps or light-emitting diodes to stay cool and save energy.
8. Avoid the Oven
Avoid baking at all costs during the summer. Preheating the oven will heat up your entire home, so take your cooking skills outside and grill up dinner instead. There are also plenty of yummy recipes to try that don't involve turning on the oven. Think no-bake desserts, refreshing salads, and easy sandwiches.
Lundgren-Kownacki K, Hornyanszky ED, Chu TA, Olsson JA, Becker P. Challenges of Using Air Conditioning in an Increasingly Hot Climate. Int J Biometeorol. 2018;62(3):401-412. doi:10.1007/s00484-017-1493-z
Heating and Cooling No Longer Majority of U.S. Home Energy Use. U.S. Energy Information Administration. March 7, 2013.
Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs): EPA and State Actions. Congressional Research Service. May 7, 2020.
Update or Replace Windows. U.S. Department of Energy.
Seven Tips to Keep Cool and Lower Home Energy Bills. Center for Sustainable Energy. August 16, 2016.