How to Stay Cool Without AC

Summer heat is upon us and it’s important to stay cool. With heat waves rolling across the United States, it’s essential to not get overheated and dehydrated. Many deaths have even been connected to power outages during the heat wave.

These tips will help you and your family stay safe in a power outage situation but might also help you save some money during the summer months.

Close Your Windows. Your first instinct might be to open your windows but often this will make your home hotter instead of cooler. Close your windows, blinds and shades during the day to keep the sun and heat out and trapping the cool in. Open your windows at night if it gets cooler outside.

Eat Cold Foods. Keep your body temperature down by consuming colder foods that will lower the temperature inside of you. This will also prevent you from using stoves and ovens that will raise the temperature in your house.

Install Attic Insulation. This is a great way to keep that cool air in your home and not escaping through the ceiling. This will allow you to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Plant Trees Strategically. Everyone loves sitting in the cool shade on a nice hot day. Where you plant your trees can have a large effect on where that shade is. Be sure to plant deciduous trees on the east and west sides of your home. During the winter, the sun won’t be blocked from getting to your home. You can also plant trees near sides of your house that have a lot of windows.

- Stay prepared with enough emergency water for your family -

Stay hydrated during the summerInstall Awnings. Just like a tree works to block the sun’s rays and provide you with shade, an awning can do the same thing.

Wear Light-Colored, Loose-Fitting Clothing. This will keep your body cool and breezy. Wearing dark or black clothing will absorb the sun and make you hotter. Wear light colors like white and tan.

Food and Refrigeration. If the power goes out for an extended amount of time, the food in your fridge might begin to go bad. You can use a cooler with ice to keep perishable foods good. You should also begin to eat the foods that won’t keep. If you have freeze-dried foods, you don’t need to worry, they won’t spoil!

Avoid Alcohol. To prevent dehydration, avoid drinking alcoholic drinks. Instead, stick to the water bottles and juices.

Drink Water. To avoid dehydration, continue to drink water. It’s recommended that you have about eight glasses of water per day.

Stay Out Of The Sun. This seems pretty intuitive but, to avoid the heat stay out of the sun!

What Ideas Do You Have? What methods have you used to stay cool during this heat wave?

48 thoughts on “How to Stay Cool Without AC”

  • Robin

    I don't turn the AC on till about 2 pm. to save on electricity, no matter how hot it gets, I am extremely hot natured and have hot flashes so its miserable sometimes. I wet a bandana with cold water and wear it around my neck and head (my head is hottest) but this helps. Also I will take a quick cool shower. Like the article said I drink lots of cold water and wipe my face and arms reg with cold cloth, stay out of sun when I can. If I have electricity I position fans to form a draft we have ceiling fans in every room and floor fans. lol

  • Linda Jarsky

    I sit in front of computer, TV, or read a book with my feet in a tub of room temp water - it is amazing how cool you feel with wet feet. I also use a wet cloth around my neck and wear as few clothes as possible. I keep a couple cans of pork and beans and veggie soup in fridge and pretend I'm camping and eat them right out of the can. Cold food keeps my internal temp cool and then I try to see humor in it all so I don't get upset and stressed and heat up gain - lol.

  • Adrian

    After a few a few hurricanes, a fertile imagenation has proved fruitful. Durring our 100° days and 80,90° nights we found thay putting our 10" portable battery operated fans do great when sat between or infront of ice coolers. Making for a great ice box effect. For those that experience respitory issues this has proved to be a life saver. One one set of batteries yoi can easily get 12- 18hrs of breeze depending in fan setting. For extended seasons like the months after hurricane rita, a small solar charger is a must. Using coat hangers you can also hang the small hand held dollar store fans in the window you sleep near and get a breezy nights sleep. Which was a great help to my mother whos health was very fragile durring those days. We madw it almist 3 months

  • Adrian

    After a few a few hurricanes, a fertile imagenation has proved fruitful. Durring our 100° days and 80,90° nights we found thay putting our 10" portable battery operated fans do great when sat between or infront of ice coolers. Making for a great ice box effect. For those that experience respitory issues this has proved to be a life saver. One one set of batteries yoi can easily get 12- 18hrs of breeze depending in fan setting. For extended seasons like the months after hurricane rita, a small solar charger is a must. Using coat hangers you can also hang the small hand held dollar store fans in the window you sleep near and get a breezy nights sleep.
    Which was a great help to my mother
    whos health was very fragile durring those days. We made it almost 3 months with out power and this really made thing a bit more tolerable.

  • derek

    They sell a yellow towel on "as seen on tv" that cools
    you down just by adding tap water (but it's way
    Better with cold water).wrap it around your neck.

  • Laura Cohen

    I worked in the desert for years and now live in the semi tropical heat and humidity of southwest Florida, While out in the desert 100+ degree sun we wet our shirt and hat or bandana. At night I would run cool clean water on a top sheet and wring it out as not to soak the bedding. Lay this over you and if possible add a fan to get the air moving around you to carry away your body heat. This works great with those accidental sunburns also combined with the cooling relief of aloe.

  • Robin

    We keep our claw-foot tub filled with cold water, like a mini-pool. Everyone has access to it. No washing, just cooling. Then when you wake up in the middle of the night baking hot, unable to sleep, you take a quick, cool dip.

  • Dom

    When I am feeling hot and miserable I cool down by thinking about our young men and women fighting a war, carrying 60-80 pound packs, in 110+ temperatures or remembering our Vietnam vets that "hiked" though the wet, steamy jungle. Imagine that, I feel cooler already. God Bless the USA.

  • mary

    keep half gallon cartons of water in the freezer. when it gets too hot place the frozen carton into a tray of water (cooking pan or aluminum ) that is at least 2 inches deep. Thats it ,and it will lower the temp. in your room at least 10 degrees.... really works.

  • mrs julie a neary

    ive kept cool by your methods and put my ways on facebook

    our 40degrees is lower with a breeze today in middlesex
    with some cloudcover and expected some rain by this evening

  • LiberalPrepper
    LiberalPrepper July 30, 2012 at 7:33 am

    A spray bottle (for water only) is good for misting down exposed skin; you lose heat through the evaporation.

  • Mike

    I installed a "Whole House" Fan years ago. In the summer when the days are 100+, I get up at 4:30am. I open all the windows and run the fan until 7 am. This pulls all the cool outside air into the house and pushes it through the attic. From 7am on, the house is closed up tight. Stays nice and cool. I also cook outside using a Coleman stove and a crock pot. Keeps all that heat where it should be ... Outside!

  • kaytee

    Having fans on will circulate the air so it doesn't get "stuffy", thus making it seem cooler even without AC.

    One of the biggest helps, though was getting a tile roof installed. Part of the process was first installing two layers of plywood... then roofing paper, and when the tile itself was installed, we had vents and some special "risers" put in so that air circulates under the tile (this is cement tile-- much lighter weight than clay tiles).

    Double paned windows installed in the west-facing living room, and a new, solid patio roof (with skylights) to replace clear corrugated panels also helped a lot.

  • sandy

    I went to Texas in August a few years ago and knew I would be miserable because of how hot it gets there. So I did a search on the internet for personal cooling systems and found something called Black Ice. With Black Ice I could get into my hot rental car in the Texas heat and be comfortable until the Air Conditioning kicked in. I also bought the soft ice bag cooler and kept it in the trunk so that I could always have a Black ice charging which takes about 20 minutes in ice water. Plus the hotel had an endless supply of Ice for me to keep my Black Ice charged. I understand it works great for hot flashes too!
    Here is their website:

  • Linda

    Here's what we did, when we lost power after a hurricane in Biloxi, Ms in 1985. Prior to the hurricane I had frozen a bunch of the rectangular milk and ice cream buckets I had saved. 1 gallon icream buckets are great; because they will stay frozen a lot longer. Anyway, we put that ice in the fridge and it kept pretty well for a couple of days. But, we also had blocks stored in our upright freezer to help keep that stuff frozen for as long as possible. It was miserable without cool air. but I had filled our bathtub and our washing machine with water, prior to the hurricane, for washing, bathing, and flushing, (and also some other large containers.) It was great to be able to take some of the wash water and put it in a bowl of ice and wash with wash cloths. It helped to keep us cool. There are lots of things you can do to prepare and have a few things to make life a little easier after a power outage,and these are just some. Get creative about how you can help alleviate the discomfort of a situation like this, you will be surprised at the things you might innovate. And don't forget to store drinking water.

  • anita

    Battery powered fans really help.
    Keep blinds on the windows closed.
    We had an attic fan installed and it really helps on a daily basis, but if we don't have electricity I plan to open the door to the attic and hope the heat will rise into the attic and out the fan, even if it isn't running.
    You might also look at solar attic fans.
    I've also read that you should open the windows at the top so the hot air flows out.

  • Gil McDonald, Sr.

    If I had three votes I would give them all to the WET TOWELL: Folded, wrap it around the back of the neck to the chest and tuck the ends under the arm pit to each side. Use the ends to wash your face and forehead. Place the middle part of the unfolded wet towell over the top of the head and use a head band or ear warmer band to hold it in place. Then pour a cup of cold faucet water on the top of the head. Warning: If you are wearning the wet towell and band on top of your head do not go to airport while wearing the wet towell in this manner.

  • Mona

    We survived 5 days of no power in the recent outage with a generator to run the AC. Until then the basement was the only cool place in the 100* temps. It was 105* the day the storm hit.

  • Dottie

    All of the above comments are terrific and will be used in my arsenal for heat survival! We drink iced water all day long and rest more than do chores if the heat is extreme. Even with an air conditioner running we put fans in front of the registers so we can keep the conditioning at higher temps. We cover all our windows, shut the doors, keep off the lights, and eat lightly. I sometimes think it is harder to manage in high temps than it is if we had no power in the winter.

  • JeannieC

    I'm quite surprised that I've not seen tin-foil mentioned! Taping tin-foil, shiny side out, to your windows will reflect a LOT of the heat back out and away! I live in NW Missouri and use this method every summer.

  • Rooinek

    Cold foods - yes, but not those high in sugar like ice cream. Sugary foods tend to increase body heat and/or turn to stored energy - i.e. fat.

  • gena

    When I moved back to Texas in 2005, I moved out to a trailer on a friend's ranch in Sept. My VA check had not caught up with me, and I had had surgery in late August on my cervical spine, and was 58 years old. I had no AC in the trailer nor the money to buy one. The one my friend offered me kept blowing the circuit breakers. A couple of weeks after my dogs and I moved in we had a horrible heat wave that lasted five days and the last two were 110 degrees actual temp. We pretty much laid around during the hottest hours, and made a lot of trips to the shower, clothes on, and I would soak myself and soaked all the dogs as well, having seen on the Weather channel a story about saving overheated dogs that way. It worked for us, the heat wave broke after five of the worst days of my life. I remember the last afternoon before the heat wave broke, I laid down in the afternoon, wondering seriously if I was ever going to wake up alive again. But I did, and learned I am stronger than I thought I was. The next month my VA check caught up with me and we were able to come up with some of the amenities we all seem to take for granted. I have learned not to take a whole lot for granted anyhow.
    Also, had a mama dog with a litter of puppies and learned they would not nurse when it was that hot, until I started dipping them and Trixie, their mama, in water, which was when I started doing that for myself and the other dogs as well. None of the dogs died or got sick, I made sure they had cool water constantly available and all of us would take occasional trips to the air conditioned pickup to cool off, although I could not do that too often due to the lack of funds and the cost of gas.

  • gena

    Forgot to mention, having had surgery on the cervical spine four weeks before, I was supposed to be wearing a hard cervical collar during the day and a "soft" collar at night. You just cannot do that in that sort of heat. It seemed to add several degrees of heat to what was already more than uncomfortable. And I learned you cannot use a regular fan in that sort of heat as it feels like you have a furnace blasting you as all it does is circulate the extremely hot air. I have read that the use of fans in Chicago during that heat wave years ago where hundreds of elderly died, was for that reason, a fan in that sort of heat works about like a furnace, merely circulating the hot air, with no cool air available it will not cool.

  • Kathleen

    A couple of years ago I ordered a "cool gelmat" online. It works real well at keeping you cool and requires no cooling, freezing, water, or ice. It comes in handy when the temperature is over 110 for a week in the northern midwest. The only downside to it is that you need to put a few blankets between the mat and your body because it really cools. The elderly, and children should be checked on regularly so they don't get too cool. Other than that it was well worth the money. A smaller version is used in hospitals for people suffering from burns and heat exposure.

  • J

    I stick a sheet in the freezer so by night it is nice and cold. Right before a take a cold shower or a cold soak. If none of that works I slam head against the wall and knock myself and when i wake up I hope it's sept. I try to go to the beach or lakes or pools.

  • Jeff

    Grab your "bug out" bag and move to a colder climate where you don't need A/C.

  • Roger G

    I'm surprised I didn't see this one ... An old farmer's trick is to pour some water in a pail, put some ice in it, then add 1/8 to 1/4 cup of 'rubbing alcohol' to it, depending if small or large pail ... stir it up and dip your rag or cloth in it and apply to neck and chest area ... (be cautious to not get it in your eyes) ... the cooling effect is phenomenal ... Great when doing yard work or just about anytime you get hot ...

  • NameKyle

    You can do an internet search on these as writing about them would not fit in the box. All should have Youtube videos and how to instructions to have should the need arise:

    Swamp Fan cooler
    Zeer Pot refrigeration
    Evaporative Refrigerator
    Absorption Refrigeration
    Fire Extinguisher made Dry Ice
    Dry Ice and 91% Alcohol
    ThermoElectric Generator ( TEG)
    Hendershot Generator

    Having these premade in case of an emergency or at the very least the parts to make them would be a good idea.

  • Name dave s

    But it's a dry heat: I feel sorry for those of you living in high humidity areas. I live in the dessert in so. California. I rely on evaporative coolers about 90% of the time. they keep the 1200 sq foot house as well as the 1000 sq foot kennel building about 25 degrees cooler than the shade outside. and they are cheap to run. once in a while we get "high" (still about 50% less humidity than places like Florida) humidity. evap. coolers don't work well in humid conditions. if you don't want to spend a lot of money running your air conditioner or if you don't have one, I recommend using other peoples money by going to the movies or the store during the hot part of the day. or take a good book to a fast food restaurant and get free ice tea refills for a few hours. there are a few tricks to keeping you cooler in any hot condition. soak hands and feet in buckets of ice water for 10-15 minutes several times per day. every drop of your body's blood travels through your extremities over and over again in this time period. blood is very close to the surface of you skin in your hands and feet. the cold water actually causes your blood to cool which then causes your core temp. to lower. if you are outside in a hot dry climate I recommend wet clothes and a fan or natural breeze to turn you into an evap. cooler. as a cyclist I use this method on my mid day 100--110 degree rides, and it works great. as a dog trainer by profession, I recommend small hard sided plastic pools and or a good spray down for the dog a few times a day. instant doggie evap. cooler. when my town set a new all time high temp. record for our area 3 weeks ago of 115 degrees in the shade, you can bet that these methods were all used with good results

  • JJRedfan

    In some of the Rennasance Fairs my friends have drug me along to, they keep things cool by spraying MIST from hoses with tiny holes. The hoses are draped along branches and roofs edges lining the walkways where the merchants have there shops and some of the performers do there shows. Another friend of mine tried about the same thing for his barn. Put hoses along the ridge that sprinkled the roof. That lowered the temprature inside about 15 degrees. Made a BIG difference.

  • Sams momO

    There is a gel material that you can buy (inexpensive) in the floral department. I made small neckties and filled them with the dry pellets. Only the middle 1/3 is filled. Sew across the tie parts to keep pellets from moving. Soak in water, wring out, and put in the fridge. When it is really hot you can put these around your neck, your dogs neck, etc and they keep you cool for quite a while.

    We have used them in the yard, at parades, etc. Inexpensive and last for a long time. YOu can let them dry out and rehydrate them whenever you need it.

  • Catherine

    We live in Texas and all year experience the hot heat. I found a "bed fan" through "Sharper Image" that really works. It sits at the end of the bed under the covers and blows cold air up through the sheets. Highly recommend.

  • cool-n

    Wear a wet bandana around your neck. It works wonders to keep you cool.

  • Ray

    Install a radiant barrier in your attic. We live in Las Vegas and when we did that and added additional insulation up there our heating bills dropped almost 30%.

    If your house is hot or if you have to go outside, use Endura Cool bandanas and towels. I got mine at Lowe's and they work great. Just soak in water, wring them out and give them a sharp jerk to activate them, then put around your neck or on your head.

    If you're working outside in the heat, periodically soak your head with a garden hose -- just let the hot water run out first. :)

  • Beth

    When I work in the yard during the day, I:
    -take breaks by coming inside the house and running cold water over my elbows when I wash my hands. It instantly cools your whole body.
    -take a cold shower.

  • hockeyguy

    this is such bad advice its going to get someone killed or at least in the hospital...


    That is pure insanity .. a closed home, shed, car any building or other enclosed area will become hotter and hotter and hotter as the day goes on...

    PLEASE .. if you don't understand what you are writing about at least google for a while and get some advice from reputable sources...

    I have been a building contractor for 14 years .. before that I worked on cars.. I know a little bit about thermodynamics in homes and vehicles and load rating of air conditioning systems..

    You have posted some bad information before...
    but this is purely dangerous..

    PLEASE at least visit HUD's website they have lots of information for people on low incomes and how to stay safe or go to a medical related website .. or just read almost every newspaper or tv news site out there because they always cover this in the beginning of spring...

    wow .. stupid ..

    If you are hot in your home go to a local library or other government building to cool off or go to a mall or hospital and sit in their waiting room..

    don't close all your windows and die.

    • Judge Roy Bean

      Pardner - during the heating days of Spring, here in Texas, when the nights are below 67 at bedtime we open the windows to let the cool night air in. When the sun comes up and starts to push the temp up, we close the windows and for most days the house stays under 77, which is where the A/C is set.

      If we kept the windows open, we would have to close them and turn on the A/C much earlier. Some days we can keep the air conditioner off all day. It is some of the small efforts to save money, and stay comfortable that can make a big difference in the electrical bill.

      The bottom line is that keeping the windows open or shut, and when this is done, is all part of what one can do depending upon where one lives, how well the house is built, and the "normal" temperature curves.

      Down here 100° is common and people who work outside drive with their windows down so as to stay acclimated. Also when it hits 115° it's hard to choose windows up or down because the heat coming in is enough to sear your eyes, hair and facial skin.

      Oh, and by the way, "hockey" by itself is Texakin for the stuff that comes out of the north end of a south bound horse. Enjoy the stuff there hockeyfella!

    • don

      We ALWAYS keep our windows CLOSED during the heat of the day. Open them up again after it cools off. Just good common sense to shut the heat OUT to keep the house cool.

  • Diana

    Closing your windows whenever it is hotter outside than inside is a standard and effective indoor climate-control practice. If you shade your windows, there should be a large part of the day when the temperature inside is lower than that in the blazing sun outside. Opening your windows then will simply raise your house to the higher outdoor temperature, which is plain stupid. You can run a fan with the windows closed, which will cool you just as well as running one with the windows open--better if the indoor air is cooler than outdoor air.

    If you have electricity, then the most effective way I have found to keep cool without AC and with little expense is to keep a bunch of those ice packs they use to ship refrigerated/frozen foods frozen in you freezer. Cushion and insulate a large one well by rolling it in a washcloth or similar and strap it on just below your breastbone with an ACE wrap or similar (I use a wide elastic back supporter, but anything that will hold it while stretching a bit as needed for comfort will work.) Make sure you've padded it enough to prevent frostbite, but you will find it makes an amazing difference in your comfort level because the hepatic portal system is sending a large volume of blood through there close to your now-icy-cold skin. I wear loose cotton muu-muu style dresses in summer, so the flat ice pack strapped on below my breasts isn't even apparent if I go out into the world while it works its magic for me. If it's a real stinker of a day, I add a small rectangular ice pack wrapped in a washcloth and tied on with a bandana to hold it against the back of my neck, where there is also a high-volume blood flow close to the skin surface.

    If the electricity is out, but the water is on, then trickling water slowly through a coiled hose from the sink to a ground-level drain such as the bathtub will allow you to make yourself a cool water seat cushion or bed pad that could save you from heat exhaustion in a power outage, particularly if used in addition to frequently soaking your feet, wrists, and head and neck in the 50-degree or so water coming from below ground.

  • Vickie

    I used to deliver mail and the trucks were like driving in an oven in the summer time. The two tricks for staying cooler that worked for me was to take an old fashioned ice bag with the screw on cap on the top and fill it with ice cubes. Then I would set it on my lap or put it behind my back. The other trick was to keep ice cubes in my mouth. It really helped to keep my body temp down. Thanks for all of the ideas!

  • Linda

    To wiseguy, Oh, I mean hockeyguy, I believe most everyone was meaning to open your windows after it cools off outside. I DON'T open my windows and my house stays a lot cooler inside. Maybe you should assume that everyone reading the article and contributing their ideas are smart enough to figure out what works for them. For instance, if a person is sitting in a car with the windows rolled up, they're going to know that when it gets too hot, they should roll the windows down. I guess what I'm saying is just don't be so insulting. And I,for one, appreciate the articles from Ready Store because they get me thinking and then I try to expand on the information they've given me by doing research.

  • Don Hodge

    W/ out electricity chest type freezers will retain cold temp 3 days if you don't open frequently. 25# of dry ice will add another 3 days for a 10 cubic ft. chest freezer. Keeping freezer full w/ water filled plastic milk jugs improves efficiency and lasts longer w/out electricity.

    Heat flows to the colder area. The interior and exterior walls store heat/cold. The more 'mass' a building has the better it moderates the air temp inside. Trees outside make a big difference too.

  • bon

    Some folks aren't smart enough. I roomed in someone else's home. The A/C went out in triple digit Oklahoma summer time. She kept the windows close. Through the day it made sense, but she never opened them at night. We had splitting headaches and tell tale signs of heat danger.

    You know, the oddest part was it wasn't readily obvious. I guess the heat slowly rose so our bodies slowly adjusted to it as much as possible. There was no sudden realization that we were way way too hot.

    We were both working so the next day we were out in someone else's A/C. The A/C guy came after hours that evening for us.

  • jon

    Drinking diuretic substances increases resistance to heat and will dehydrate your body. That means coffee, tea, some herbal tea, and sodas.

  • Oregonannie

    Loved the bed fan idea, as well as all the other ones. Thank you, Ready Store and all who responded, except for Hockeyguy; keeping your temper down will help keep your temperature down ...

    First thing in the a.m. (earlier, the better) open your doors and windows and air your place out for about 15-20 mins. - no matter how hot out it already is - then close your house back up. Airing out beforehand makes a huge difference!

    Check dollar stores, Big Lots, etc. for inexpensive bamboo rolls - the kind you can sit on. Sit on the window sill, roll out between your curtains and window, and you'll feel an immediate lowering in temp. I actually purchased a couple of indoor/outdoor woven rugs and they also work great.

    If you're prohibited from putting A/Cs in your windows (as at apt houses) - put your A/C on anything which sits flush with your window sill, push up against your screen, put clear plexi-glass or whatever in the open space and lower your blinds or curtains enough for privacy, and roll a towel under to absorb water. Nearly as good as hanging it out the window. I have mine set up like that right now.

    Avoid washing your hair on really hot days if it tends to dry slowly or if it's long, otherwise your head will turn into your own personal carry-round sauna. Hot and miserable!

  • Joseph G

    When my A/C went out one year and I was waiting for it to get fixed, I would open two windows:
    Windward side window, I put a wet, heavy blanket.
    Leeward side window, I put a box fan, pointing out.

    The air drawn through the wet blanket by the box fan across the room was cooled by the water... it gave me my own "shady, riverside, under a tree" feeling - and wasn't dry air, like the A/C gives you.

  • Gary smith

    When I was younger I worked for my fathers company and one of the jobs I was on involved working inside a fairly large building that housed the municipal water tank. The week we were there the temp averaged in the high 90s with even higher humidity. The point is that water tank kept the inside of that building so cold we had to wear light fall jackets/ how could that be incorporated into a regular house? Any ideas anyone?

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