We Get Greener Kit Cassingham & her Bigger Half

Stay Cool Without AC

Kay asked me via my website about staying cool this summer without having to turn on the AC.

I don't know where Kay lives, or what kind of home she's in, so the answer is a bit challenging. The basic reply, the best information, is keep the sun and its heat out and the cool air in.

Great! How?

Keep the sun out:
- Ideally block the sun on the outside of your windows to keep the heat from even getting into your home. A solar or bamboo shade would be good. My Bigger Half and I even hung greenhouse fabric on the west side of our house when we lived in Boulder in an older, less insulated home. That not only kept the heat from coming through the windows, but also the wall.
- Heavy curtains or blinds/shades on the inside of your windows also works fine.

Keep the cool air in:
- Open the house and suck as much cool air in at night as you can. Then shut the windows and curtains, at least the curtains on the sun-side of your home, before the temperatures rise much. We close up before the outside temperature exceeds the inside temperature.

I also then use a fan in the room I'm working/sitting in to give me an extra touch of cooling. I especially like ceiling fans for that, but floor or desk-top fans have been helpful too.

Now, if you own your own home and have money to play with, consider:
- Having additional insulation blown into your attic and walls. That will help in the winter with warming too.
- Planting trees along the south and west sides of your building, or planting vines on a trellis on the same sides of the house. Be sure to have a shade for your patio too.
- Overhangs help keep the summer sun out so are excellent ways of managing your cooling. At the 40th Parallel a 4' overhang will keep an 8' wall in shade quite nicely. But, as August roles around the sun is starting to drop on the horizon again so you still want shades from either plants or shades. A covered patio or porch works the same way, and gives you additional living space.
- Install an exhaust fan to help eject hot air from your attic and living space when the outside air is cooler than the inside air. Do that not only for your house but any attached structures, like a garage, too. The fan could be a whole house fan, attic fan, or even exhaust fans like used in bathrooms.


Kit, it's important to note that if you go the "planting trees on the south side of the house" route that you plant the correct type of trees. You need to plant deciduous tree. They provide the needed shade in the summer when their leaves are full on. But during those low sun days of the winter you want the sun's rays to warm the house and it's interior via the windows. Evergreen trees, if used, will block that important heat source.

Mark Gagermeier at June 29, 2010 8:40 AM

Mark, you make an excellent point. And to further qualify the "trees on the south side of the house" pointer I want to point out that if you are in hot parts of the country planting evergreens on the south side of the house is the correct way to go.

A living wall is another managing your home's climate. The extra mass insulates and the plants shade the wall.

I find it exciting to learn the myriad ways to keep a house cool. Thanks for expanding on my point.


Kit Cassingham at June 29, 2010 11:24 AM

An evaporative cooler, also known as a swamp cooler, is a good way to chill the air. They just don't work well in humid climates, like the Gulf coast.

Having having had a whole house fan, one downside is having to clean the widow screens frequently.

Paul Griffith at July 3, 2010 7:22 AM

So why not plant trees on the north, where the sun is leaning in the summer, when you want the most shade? My neighbors have a big old ash tree that is slowly dying/shedding branches, and I can notice the heat gain now after it lost a big branch. The sun is 'in' the north during summer. In winter it is in the south and deciduous trees work fine. I suppose evergreens would work the best on the north, huh? But any tree would be shade.

Kathy Highstreet at July 4, 2010 10:46 AM


I guess you're right about needing to clean screens more often, but maybe that's a good thing. Maybe that helps reduce allergens in that have access to the house. But they do move a lot of air through the house quickly, saving energy by their short operation time.

My concern with swamp coolers is that most people don't clean them often enough, and that can lead to mold and mildew being spewed around the house. They also consume electricity, something my post was trying to minimize. At least you can keep your windows open with a swamp cooler!


Kit Cassingham at July 5, 2010 6:17 PM

Those little hand held spray fan/misters help, too. It's not for everyone, but I put gel cooler packs in my bra (it's a good idea to remove before leaving the house) or in the waistband at the back of my pants. Try to leave "energetic" chores--like vacuuming--until the evening hours; run the dishwasher in the evening, too, even if you don't use the "dry" cycle. Prepare meals in bulk and just re-heat in the microwave (and eat food that doesn't require cooking). I like to stick my feet in a tub of cool water, adding a few ice cubes now and then. You'd be surprised how cool the rest of your body feels when your feet are cool. When I hand wash items, I hang them on a drying rack and put it in front of the fan... dries the clothes and cools the air.

Casey at July 5, 2010 7:55 PM

Kathy, north-side trees are a good idea too. They are shading the roof, and that's good. Depending on your climate, sometimes evergreens are the best choice for the north side because that's where the cold winds come from. The trees create a little pocket to help protect the house from the cold.

A house My Bigger Half and I bought years ago had a locust-type tree on the north side of the house. The home inspector urged us to cut it so we wouldn't have to dig the leaf litter out of the rain gutters. No way!

Our wind comes from the southwest most of the time, but we don't have trees protecting us because we are reducing our fire hazard by not having trees close to the house. It's always something! So, overhangs, window coverings, and good insulation are our defenses against hot weather. And the insulation works well for cold weather too. :~>


Kit Cassingham at July 5, 2010 8:53 PM

Casey, I love your ideas! Eating cool/cold foods on hot days helps me feel cooler.

I also have a bandanna filled with gel beads. I soak it in water (not for too long though) and wear it around my neck or forehead to help stave off heat. Hhhm, maybe I'll make one with lavender buds in it.


Kit Cassingham at July 5, 2010 9:06 PM

Good ideas all.

I'll add 2 ideas to the list

1) And my favorite! Get a lightweight, long sleeved shirt (think flyfishing shirt), get it wet, wring it out so it doesn't drip and 'ah, instant cooling' (as long as you don't live in super high humidity!) This is and has been my trick to surviving outdoor physical labour jobs in the summertime but it works equally well in the car with the windows rolled down or in the office when it just gets too warm.

2) ice packs. Some days it's just to hot. So I throw an ice pack on my belly while I'm sitting on the couch using the computer or even tuck one down the back of my shirt while I walk the dog. Who care it it looks funny! I'm not sweating so bad which mean my dog will get a better walk out of the deal too!

Ruth Stewart at July 31, 2010 10:30 PM

I think that this is a very informative site.

(Note to Randy) Please include this into the "This is True" site, because this article is how to live without A/C and there is an ad for Sears home service showing an Air conditioner there. I know that you gotta eat...;-)

Larry Richardson at August 1, 2010 5:23 AM
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