Air conditioners and heat pumps are great for cooling a hot home during an insufferable Texas summer, but they’re just one way to keep the heat at bay. If you’d like to substitute strategy for sky-high electric bills, try a few of the following low-cost tricks to make your home comfortable without air conditioning.
Install ceiling fans, which pull warm air toward the ceiling and help keep your living area cool. (These also help in winter, when blades can be reversed to push warm air back down into the room.) Remember to turn off fans when you leave a room, though: Fans help people feel cooler by moving air, but they waste energy in spaces without people in them.
Strategically place stationary and window fans throughout the house for spot-cooling.
Attic fans—also known as whole-house fans—remove hot air from a home by drawing heat upward and releasing it through vents in the attic.
Open windows early in the morning and late at night to cool the home naturally.
Other methods can be implemented in conjunction with savvy air-conditioner usage, resulting in greater comfort while still conserving some energy:
Smooth tinted window film—a thin, plastic coating—onto window glass to block some of the sun’s heat and warming ultraviolet rays.
Install white window shades or miniblinds. Miniblinds can reduce solar heat gain by 40–50 percent.
Install awnings on south-facing windows if there’s insufficient roof overhang to provide shade.
Hang tightly woven screens or bamboo shades outside windows during the summer to stop 60–80 percent of the sun’s heat from getting through.
Save moisture- and heat-producing chores like dishwashing and baking for after dark or early morning when it’s cooler.
If you’re doing some interior painting this year, choose light colors. Pale shades reflect sunlight and keep walls from absorbing heat.
Install a programmable thermostat that can reduce the air-conditioning burden overnight and while everyone’s at work during the day.
Clean the filter in your clothes dryer after each use. This will allow your clothes to dry faster—and the heat-producing dryer to run less.
Swap your sheets. Seasonally switching up your bedding is a great way to keep cool. While textiles like flannel sheets and fleece blankets are fantastic for insulation, cotton is a smarter move this time of year, as it breathes easier and stays cooler.
Buy yourself a buckwheat pillow or two. Because buckwheat hulls have a naturally occurring air space between them, they won’t hold on to your body heat like conventional pillows, even when packed together inside a pillow case.
Focus on the temperature of your body, not the house. Sip tasty iced drinks or apply a cold cloth to strong-pulsed areas like your neck and wrists to cool yourself from the inside out.
Let the night air in. During the summer months, temperatures may drop during the night. If this is the case where you live, make the most of these refreshing hours by cracking the windows before you go to bed. You can even create a wind tunnel by strategically setting up your fans to force the perfect cross breeze. Just be sure to close the windows (and the blinds) before things get too hot in the morning.