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If it’s really hot out and you want to stay luxuriously cool, you need an air conditioner. There’s no getting around that. Ideally you’d use a smart thermostat like Nest or Ecobee3 Ecobee3 vs. Nest Thermostat: A Head-to-Head Comparison Ecobee3 vs. Nest Thermostat: A Head-to-Head Comparison Did you know that a smart thermostat can boost your home value? It's one of many reasons why a smart thermostat is well worth the initial investment. But which one should you get? Read More , which keeps your home at optimum temperatures The Most Energy-Efficient Way to Set Your Thermostat The Most Energy-Efficient Way to Set Your Thermostat In the dead of winter and peak of summer, one question that pops up at least once throughout each season is: how should you set your thermostat so that both comfort and savings are maximized? Read More while using the least amount of electricity Smart Home Technology to Save Money and Improve Your Life Smart Home Technology to Save Money and Improve Your Life The following smart home solutions are practical and relatively inexpensive. Some will even help you save money. Read More .

But if you don’t have an AC, can’t install one, or want to reduce AC usage as much as possible, then you’ll be happy to know that energy-friendly options do exist.

Just remember to temper your expectations. If it’s 100F outside, these methods won’t bring your house down to 75F. But if you’re okay with a livable temperature (as opposed to a comfortable temperature), then you’ll love these alternative solutions.

Increased Air Circulation

Window fans are your best friend when air conditioning isn’t an option. They don’t cost very much, they don’t use much energy, and they can be surprisingly effective at bringing down temperatures.

These days, you don’t want to spend less than $50 on a window fan. If you go much lower than that, you’ll likely end up with a loud hunk of plastic that’ll cause you stress and frustration. Trust me, a reasonably quiet fan is worth the extra few dollars!

Other reasons to buy a mid-range window fan:

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  • Dual fans — Some of the cheaper models are basically miniature box fans that are too small to circulate enough air. A good window fan has at least two side-by-side fans.
  • Reversible airflow — Make sure you get a window fan that can reverse directions with the flick of a switch. Sometimes you’ll want to suck in cool air, sometimes you’ll want to expel hot air. You don’t want to flip the entire unit just to switch directions, do you?
  • Multiple fan speeds — Although a one-speed fan can be fine if it’s powerful enough, some days may fare just fine with a slower speed. It’s nice to have that flexibility.
  • Remote control — Not a necessary feature, but certainly useful on hot days when you want to tweak the fan settings without constantly getting up and moving around.
  • Durability — Buying one $50 fan every five years is better than replacing a quick-to-break-down $20 fan every summer.
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Using a Window Fan Properly

The best way to use a window fan depends on the situation.

If you only need to cool a single small room, and if the air outside is cooler than inside, then close the door and blow inwards. Not only will the cool air bring down inside temperature, the circulation will promote evaporation and cool your body down further.

If you need to cool down multiple rooms, then close all windows except one and blow outwards. Ideally, the window fan should be set up on one end of your home, and the open window should be on the opposite side of your home.

When a window fan blows air outwards, it reduces air pressure in that room almost like a vacuum. Air from elsewhere in your home rushes in to equalize the room’s pressure imbalance, then air from outside rushes in to equalize your home’s pressure imbalance.

In other words, blowing air out of one end causes air to be sucked in through the other end, creating circulation through your entire home.

You can add additional window fans to the mix as long as you make sure to maintain a single flow of air throughout the home. All the fans on one end should be sucking in, and all the fans on the other end should be blowing out. If you mix the flow, the warm air will stay trapped inside.

If you live in a multi-story home: Set inward-blowing fans on the lower level and outward-blowing fans on the upper level. Hot air naturally rises, so you don’t want to fight against that.

Stop and close all windows as soon as the outside temperature begins to rise. Hopefully your home is insulated enough that it will stay cool throughout the day, at least until the outside temperature drops again. Then you can reopen your windows and circulate again.

You Can Also Use Standing Fans

Standing fans are excellent when paired with air conditioners 11 Air Conditioner Blunders to Avoid on Hot Summer Days 11 Air Conditioner Blunders to Avoid on Hot Summer Days Are you using your air conditioner as effectively as possible? Check out these 11 great ideas to keep cool while saving energy and money this summer! Read More because they’re so good at circulating internal air. But if you have one and don’t want to buy a separate window fan, you can use it in a similar way.

Simply open two windows — one at each end of your home — and point your standing fan directly at one of them. Set it on highest power. This should push out enough air to create a pressure differential. If you have multiple standing fans, place them at chokepoint locations (e.g. a doorway) and use them to create a stronger one-directional flow.

Pro Tip: If you’re really hot and need immediate relief, take a cold shower and then stand in front of the fan. The evaporative effect will cool you down.

Pro Tip #2: Don’t have time to shower? Dunk your wrists (and feet) in a basin of cold water (or run them under the faucet) to pull heat from your veins and circulate cool blood through your body.

Humidity Control

Here’s something you may not have known: it’s not so much the heat that makes you uncomfortable as it is the humidity (the amount of water vapor in the air).

As humidity increases, it becomes harder for your sweat to evaporate. If sweat can’t evaporate, your body can’t regulate its temperature as well, so you feel clammy and hot. In fact, the difference between “normal” and “humid” air can make you feel up to 20 degrees hotter.

And not only is humidity is the reason why you feel uncomfortable, it can also cause health issues and property damage 4 Health Benefits of Monitoring Temp & Humidity at Home 4 Health Benefits of Monitoring Temp & Humidity at Home Did you know that there are health benefits of using smart home products? That's right. One or two smart purchases could drastically improve your quality of life at home. Read More .

Is Your Home Too Humid?

Ideal humidity for summertime temperatures is somewhere between 45 and 55 percent. However, some people can still be comfortable with a humidity between 30 and 60 percent. Aim for 50 percent.

If you aren’t sure where your home falls, get a hygrometer (a thermometer for humidity). They’re very cheap — usually around $10 — yet provide so much value. Humidity control is one of the best ways to maximize comfort, prevent mold growth, improve sleep, and mitigate property damage. It’ll pay for itself several times over in the long run.

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What to Look for in a Dehumidifier

A dehumidifier is the fastest and most efficient way to reduce humidity and increase comfort. If your home is regularly above 50 percent humidity, you should consider getting one. If your home is regularly above 70 percent humidity, you need to get one.

Unfortunately, a lot of the dehumidifier advice on the web is outdated and/or misinformed. Check out our guide to buying a dehumidifier for in-depth tips, but here’s a quick summary:

  • Get a compressor dehumidifier. Dessicant and thermo-electric dehumidifiers are too slow for summertime home use.
  • The “size” of a dehumidifier indicates how much water it pulls out of the air per day. It has no relation to its physical dimensions or tank capacity.
  • Buy the largest dehumidifier you can afford. The larger it is, the faster it pulls out water. A fast dehumidifier means quicker comfort, less energy used, and longer lifespan.
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Evaporative Cooling

Swamp cooler, desert cooler, and wet air cooler are all terms for the same device: an evaporative cooler. An evaporative cooler is basically an enclosed water basin with a fan built into the side.

When water evaporates, it does so by absorbing heat from the air and shifting states from liquid to gas. This causes the air above the water to drop in temperature. Blow out the chilled air, suck in ambient air, and you now have a mechanism for cooling down a room.

Commercial evaporative coolers are expensive — so much so that they can cost more than air conditioners! So we recommend trying the DIY solution, which can be very cheap:

  1. Fill a large basin with lots of cold water and ice.
  2. Place it directly in front of a standing fan.
  3. Done!

You can make it more sophisticated by creating an actual box with a built-in fan and a way to dump the warm water and refill it with cold water and ice. But I’ll leave that up to you and your creativity.

A Big Caveat for Evaporative Cooling

Evaporation speed depends on humidity. If your home is already humid, the water in the evaporative cooler won’t evaporate as quickly, reducing its effectiveness by quite a bit.

Furthermore, the water in an evaporative cooler doesn’t just disappear — it ends up in the air itself. This means it adds to humidity, and humidity can actually make you feel hotter even when the temperature drops.

Therefore, evaporative cooling is best in dry climates, ideally deserts. As a rule of thumb, if your home is naturally under 40 percent humidity all the time, an evaporative cooler could be a viable solution. If your climate is extremely dry, the extra humidity might even help you sleep better.

Window Blinds or Curtains

In addition to reducing indoor temperature, you should do everything you can to prevent heat from entering your home. Unfortunately, the sun is a big and strong adversary, that’s not easily defeated.

If you want a cheap and easy solution, get thermal blackout curtains. These are curtains made of a material designed to block as much sunlight and heat as possible. Lighter colors are better than darker colors (white reflects light while black absorbs light).

But for a higher-tech solution, check out MySmartBlinds. This smart system allows you to manually control your window blinds using your smartphone. It also has an automatic energy saving mode, which self-adjusts for optimal temperature and lighting.

Other Tips for Staying Cool in the Summer

Cold showers are great for cooling down, and they’re even better with the U by Moen smart shower. With it, you get perfect temperature control, smartphone notifications, and the ability to prepare, start, or pause the shower with an app.

Incandescent bulbs also generate a lot of heat, so consider switching them out for cooler summer nights. While compact fluorescent bulbs are the standard, LED bulbs may actually be a better option Are LED Light Bulbs Worth Buying for Your Home? Are LED Light Bulbs Worth Buying for Your Home? The light-emitting diode bulb (LED) has only just started to become popular within the last decade. Here's what you need to know before deciding if LED bulbs are right for you. Read More .

Lastly, adequate water intake is crucial! Your body’s cells need to be well hydrated in order to thermoregulate. And dehydration doesn’t just make you feel hotter — it can also lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The Hidrate Spark smart water bottle tracks your intake and reminds you when you aren’t drinking enough.

What’s your worst summer heat story? Do you have any tricks of your own for staying cool in excessively hot weather? Share with us in the comments below!

Image Credits: PR Image Factory/Shutterstock

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  1. D Harries
    July 19, 2017 at 10:44 am

    If you live in your home long term, get to know the pattern of sun throughout the year. Wooden blinds will block out the heat from the hot sun. Outside the house, you can build a pergola, or brise soleil, or have wooden shutters.

  2. hotsummer
    July 18, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    Keeping comfortably cool in the summer without air conditioning simply isn't going to happen. Period. Unless of course, you live in the Antarctic. Articles like this are pointless.

  3. fcd76218
    July 15, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    "you should do everything you can to prevent heat from entering your home"
    Thermal blackout curtains and window blinds may be stop sun's heat, but they both still allow the space between window and curtain or window and blind to be heated by the sun. Even though it is less than from a direct sun, it will contribute to extra heating of the room/house. A better solution is an outside awning over the window(s) that stops the sun from shining on the window and heating it up. A window awning that shades the air conditioner allows it to work less.

    "Cold showers are great for cooling down"
    A cold shower may be great to control the apocryphal primal urge, but they are more of a psychological remedy than a physical one when it comes to hot weather. A warm or a very warm shower would keep you cooler in the long run. I know that when I take 100-110 degree shower, I don't feel the heat of a 80-85 degree house. OTOH, if I take a 70-75 degree shower, when I step into 80-85 degree house, I feel hot.