According to the U.S. Department of Energy, three-quarters of homes in our country have air conditioning units, and we spend more than $29 billion each year to run them. In fact, a full 6% of all electricity produced in the United States goes to keeping us cool. That number won’t surprise homeowners, who are accustomed to seeing their utility bills start to go up when they turn on the air conditioner each year.
What if you could get some of that money back this summer?
How To Live Without Air Conditioning
Life without air conditioning is entirely possible and can be quite comfortable. It’s a matter of planning ahead, using the natural resources you have at your disposal and getting creative when things heat up. Here are a few great ways to keep your cool and save some cash as summer ramps up.
Open the Windows
It sounds simple, but the idea of funneling cool air through your home requires a bit more thought than just throwing open a window or two. Start by paying attention to the direction the wind is blowing, and open up a window that will take a direct hit of that cool air. Then open another window on the opposite side of the room to create cross-ventilation. Got a skylight? Opening it up can create a ‘stack effect’ that pulls hot air up and out.
To get more of that air into the house, use a window fan. An oscillating fan placed near the window will work as well. Ceiling fans are great if you have them; make sure they are turning counterclockwise during the summer for the greatest benefit.
Close the Curtains
When the sun beats down, close the curtains to prevent the heat from radiating into your home and increasing the temperature. Follow the sun through the day and close the curtains of windows that take a direct hit, and open the others to provide indirect light with less heat.
Use Cooler Appliances
Summer is the perfect time to use the slow cooker instead of the oven or to grill outside rather than using the stove. Not only do these alternatives help prevent heat buildup, but they also force you to get more creative with meals — a win-win situation for anyone who loves to cook.
Buy (or Create) an Evaporative Cooler
If you live in an area of low humidity, look into an evaporative cooler: They cost about half of what a typical air conditioning unit does and use only a quarter of the energy. Still too rich for your budget? Make a simple “swamp cooler” by placing a block of ice in a bowl and positioning the bowl in front of a fan. It’s a temporary setup for those impossibly hot days.
Plan for the Future
For serious money savings, install awnings on the windows that take on the most sun, invest in UV-fighting coatings on the windows and plant trees that will eventually tower over your home and help block the sun.
More Tips To Keep Yourself Cool
Cooling the house down is great, but cooling down the body can make you even more comfortable. Here’s how to make that happen without spending too much cash.
Cool From the Inside Out
Cooling yourself might be more helpful than cooling the room. Have plenty of water and ice on hand at all times, and let the kids (and adults!) indulge in popsicles, frozen juice bars and the like.
Stay Cool at Night
Most people enjoy sleeping in a room that is a little on the cool side, but that’s almost impossible when you are choosing not to use the air conditioning. However, there are a few tricks to try.
Start by putting your sheets and pillowcases in the refrigerator for an hour or so before bed. You can also use the old pulse point trick: wrap an ice pack in a washcloth and place it against your wrist, the side of your neck or the bend of your knee. It will make your whole body feel cooler.
Play in the Water
When things get too hot to stand, head outside. Wash the car, fill up the kiddie pool, get out the slip-and-slide and splash to your heart’s content. If you choose to stay inside, take a cool shower to lower your body temperature and make the heat more tolerable.
These ideas can help a great deal, but you might not want to part with your air conditioning unit just yet. Instead, make sure it’s energy-efficient and current on maintenance. Take the time to seal the house with good weather-stripping, too, so that when you do break down and turn on the air conditioning, you can rest assured that it’s using as little energy as possible to create that blissfully cool breeze.