The peak of summer is coming, and while it may bring vacations, sundresses, and refreshing cocktails, it also means dealing with the less glamorous side of the season: extreme heat. Though you might be able to simply tap a button on a thermostat to cool down your home, for those without air conditioning, there are several effective and environmentally-friendly AC alternatives to beat the heat.
While many properly working air conditioners don't release hydrofluorocarbons (chemical compounds known as HFCs, which play a role in climate change in the same way that greenhouse gases do), they still account for a decent portion of residential energy use nationwide. Luckily, you can reduce your individual carbon footprint and stay cool in the absence of air-conditioning.
Below, learn eight ways to beat the heat this summer without cranking up the AC.
Draw the Curtains
Windows are responsible for a significant amount of heating and cooling loss in your home. If it's extremely hot outside and you're trying to minimize the use of your home's cooling system, keep your windows closed and sealed if the room you are in is cooler than the temperature of the air outdoors. Also consider closing your blinds or investing in insulated curtains or blackout shades to keep the heat out.
Invest in a Fan
Simple and to the point, a fan is a great alternative to AC, especially if you live in a small space. If you own your home, consider installing a ceiling fan, which is a simple substitute for a window unit or central air. Check the direction your ceiling fan blades are blowing: Set them to counterclockwise in hot weather to create a downdraft during the summer. Otherwise, opt for area fans that can be moved to different spaces as needed, or place a fan in each room to circulate air throughout the home.
Place a bowl of ice on a table behind your fan to act as a DIY air conditioner. This AC hack works by circulating cold air through your room as the ice melts—just be sure to choose a non-oscillating setting to ensure direct air flow from the bowl to the fan.
Swap Your Bedding
Trade out heavy bedding for lightweight summer blankets. 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. The best materials to shop for when it comes to feeling cooler at night are natural fibers like cotton and linen: They're super breathable, making it easier for heat to escape the bed as you sleep.
Sip on Iced Drinks
Staying cool doesn't have to mean ridding your home of heat. Keep your body temperature down by drinking plenty of iced beverages of your choosing. It's also a great way to ensure that you stay hydrated during the hot weather—just be sure to opt for non-alcoholic drinks that won't dehydrate your body, or drink plenty of extra water when you do indulge in a few cocktails.
Keep a Cool 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. Since the human body naturally stays between 97 and 99 degrees for healthy heat regulation, cold towels don't actually change your internal temperature—they help by changing the way you feel in the heat, even when the thermostat climbs close to 100 degrees in the height of summer.
Invite the Night Air Inside
Once the sun goes down, the air outside naturally cools down until dawn—so use the weather to your advantage. Open up your windows and doors in the evening to allow cool air inside your home. Close exterior doors before bed, then let the house air out through the windows overnight before closing them first thing in the morning to trap the lower temperature inside. With the curtains drawn during the day, the exterior of your home will naturally insulate the indoor air.
Toss Incandescent Bulbs
Incandescent light bulbs waste significantly more energy than they use because of their heat-burning design. Swap any remaining outdated light bulbs in your home with compact fluorescent lamps or light-emitting diodes (LED lights) to stay cool and save energy.
If you're feeling really lazy in the height of summer, consider investing in a Lutron system that's not only controlled by remote, but also your smartphone. The company produces both smart systems as well as individual bulbs that turn on and off with remote ease.
Avoid Your Oven
Avoid baking food in your oven 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 dishes to try that don't involve turning on the oven: Think no-bake desserts, refreshing salads, and easy sandwiches. You can also opt for a toaster oven for those times when baking is a necessity for your recipes.