I recently lost the use of the air conditioning unit where I live. With temperatures over 95 degrees, I was desperate for a way to cool the house.
I did some research into alternate ways to cool the home and this is what I found.
Keeping the House Cool Without Air Conditioning
Open Windows for Breeze
I know that sounds really obvious but I completely overlooked it at first. The wind is blowing outside at least a little bit almost all the time. You can take advantage of that breeze. Opening a single window in a room really doesn’t seem to make much difference, but if you open two windows, especially two different windows on two different walls, you will create a breeze that goes through the room, in one window and out the other.
If your house is getting full sunlight on the roof, it’s heating up the inside of your home. Sometimes it heats it up more than the air outside! Having a breeze come through window-to-window exhausts that heated-up air and at the same time bring in that outside air that may be cooler. Even if the two air temperatures are the same air that is moving always gives you the impression of being cooler. So it’s almost always beneficial to open your windows and allow that breeze to come through.
Nighttime air is almost always cooler than daytime air. You can take advantage of the nighttime air to bring down the overall temperature of your home so that you start at a lower temperature first thing in the morning. Without mechanical air conditioning, your house is certain to get warmer during the day, but a house that starts at 62 degrees in the morning won’t get nearly as hot as a house that was already at 75 degrees when you woke up.
Start by opening your windows, one on each side of your house; one north and one south, or one east and one west. In one of those windows put a regular box fan and point it so that the fan is blowing outside. This will suck the hot air out of your home and blow it outside during the night. It also creates a vacuum inside your house.
Since you have blown out some of the air it needs to be replaced. It’s going to be replaced through the other window that you left open. Once you turn the fan on in one window go and stand in front of the other window and you will actually feel the cool night air streaming in through that window, helping to cool your house.
If you haven’t bought your house yet, you should definitely be looking for one that has large shade trees on the side of the house that gets the most sun during the day. If you already have your house bought and you weren’t lucky enough to have shade trees in the right place, go ahead and plant some. It may take years for your trees to get big enough to help, but the sooner you start the sooner they’ll grow.
Check with your local nursery for breeds of trees that grow faster than others. You can plant several trees; a quick growing one and a longer growing stronger one to take its place later. That gives you the opportunity of shade fairly quickly but also have your choice of trees on the lot later on.
Shade makes a huge difference. Your house warms up during the day because of the sun beating down on the roof and bearing through the windows. If you can block some of those rays of sun they will never enter your house to start with. If they never come in, they won’t have a chance to heat up your home.
Shades on Windows
Window coverings like mini blinds and curtains are often thought of as decorative. These days, when so many homes have mechanical air conditioning, window coverings are pretty much just decorative, but they were originally designed as a cooling feature. Windows that are covered up to block out the heating rays of the sun.
During the daytime, you need to cover up whichever windows are facing the strongest rays of the sun. In the morning those are going to be your south and east facing windows. In the afternoon, when the sun shifts to the west side of the house you can open the east and south window curtains, but you need to cover up the west and north facing ones. This will allow you to have natural sunlight in the house without having the worst of the suns heating rays.
Using a combination of these methods enabled me to cope with not having mechanical air conditioning for much longer than I thought would be possible. Once the AC was fixed I continued using these methods to help keep my electric bill down even once the air conditioning was running.