How to Ditch Your Air Conditioner Without Melting

During the summer of 2015—one of the hottest summers in recorded history—I went without air conditioning.

I don’t say this to brag: the decision was made mostly out of laziness. At the time, I was living in an apartment with big, beautiful casement windows. Big, beautiful casement windows that required a special air conditioner—one that, at least according to my Google research into the cost—was apparently hand-chiseled from Italian marble and installed by unicorns.

I hemmed and hawed. I spent weeks scouring Craigslist for a used (cheaper) model, finding it hard to justify the cost of a new one when I wasn’t sure how long I’d live in that apartment. I put off the purchase. And every day that I put it off, it got hotter. And every day, I dealt with it—until, out of nowhere, the weather cooled and fall was in full swing. I had survived! I had prevailed! I had done what no one else had done (well, except for about a third of U.S. households).

So how did I do it? Glad you I asked. Here’s how you can survive the summer without air conditioning and be smug about it just like me:

Draw the curtains.

Your plants may enjoy the sunlight streaming through the windows, but if you want to cool off, close your curtains. And make sure you choose the right ones: medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by 33 percent.

Close the blinds.

Yes, between the drawn curtains and the shut blinds, you’ll probably feel a little bit like you’ve been cast in a movie about an old, hunchbacked ghost who lives in an attic. But when closed and lowered, highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gains by 45 percent.


Take a tip from those living in the Arizona desert in the 1920s—to get relief from the heat, people would soak sheets in water and hang them inside the windows, relying on fans to pull air in through the damp fabric, cooling the room.

Stock your freezer.

Shove those bagel bites out of the way, and make room for your undies, pajamas and sheets. Sure, the cooling effect isn’t long-lasting, but it is powerful. Putting them on after a cold shower? Even better.

Pick the right pillow.

Not only do buckwheat hull pillows offer great neck support, the hulls have air space between them that help circulate air without trapping your body heat like regular pillows.

Fan out.

In addition to setting up your fans to create a cross-breeze, some swear by getting creative with ice. The trick? Fill a large bowl with ice cubes or ice packs and place it in front of a powerful fan—the air will whip off the ice for an extra chilly effect.

Check the ceiling.

If you have ceiling fans, a small adjustment can make a big difference: most have a counterclockwise option, which creates more air movement in the center of the room, creating a much-needed breeze effect.

Find your pulse.

“Blood near the surface of your skin can transfer heat into the surrounding atmosphere, and it circulates back a bit cooler than it was before,” Stephen Cheung, Canada Research Chair in environmental ergonomics at Brock University in Ontario, tells CBC News. “The blood vessels open near the skin and that allows us to cool down deeper tissues throughout the body.” Apply ice cubes or ice packs to your head, neck and wrists to cool off in minutes.

Switch out your bulbs.

If you haven’t made the leap from incandescent bulbs to CFLs, now might be a good  time—incandescent light bulbs waste 90 percent of their energy in the heat they give off.

Of course, when you’re forgoing air conditioning, stay aware. If you have pets or live with older family members, keep in mind that they may not have the same tolerance for heat. Happy cooling!



Sue H
Sue H11 days ago

Helpful information, thanks.

Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

Thank you.

Shahbaz A
Shahbaz Anshari4 months ago

Thank you for the great tips to remain cool when not using the air conditioner

Maria P
Past Member 8 months ago

thanks very much

John W
John W9 months ago


Gino C
Past Member 9 months ago

Thank you

Thomas M
Past Member 9 months ago

thanks for posting

Biz M
Past Member 9 months ago

Many thanks noted.

Past Member
Past Member 9 months ago


Past Member
Past Member 9 months ago