Keeping Cool This Summer

It is the middle of August. That means that if you live anywhere in the continental United States, it is probably a lot hotter outside than you would like. With temperatures in the 90’s and 100’s across much of America, staying cool becomes a very serious pursuit. Staying cool without breaking the bank becomes even more of a focus.

Our home has central air conditioning. It actually has two AC units, one for the master bedroom and one for the rest of the house. I have no idea why the original owner (from whom we purchased the house) included two AC units in the house but it makes little difference to me. We just won’t use it unless someone runs a summer fever and needs to be in a cooler room.

My kids like to tell me that I am a freak because I do not feel the heat. I just don’t mind it. I would much rather be in a hot climate than a cold one and I certainly don’t want to pay a premium in order to chill my house enough to justify putting on a sweater (which seems to be the goal of my elder son). That said, there are a lot of ways that people can stay cool without having or paying for air conditioning.

Draw your Shades or Shutters: If you draw your shades or shutters, especially on the dark side of the house, you will find that your home is much cooler. Growing up in Massachusetts during the energy crisis – in a home without air conditioning – our house was always cool because it was always dark during the summer. Keep the sun out and you will keep the heat down and manageable.

Turn off the Lights and other Appliances: Light bulbs generate heat. The more lights you leave on in your house, the more heat you will generate. The same is true for televisions and other large appliances. Keep them off whenever possible and you will find that your house cools off as well. Also, do not put any heat sources near your thermostats. That will cause your AC unit to think that it is hotter in the room than it really is.

Use Fans: We have ceiling fans in every room of our house and they do wonders to keep us cool. You may not have ceiling fans, and you may not need them if you live in an area that is not warm year round, but any kind of fan will be sufficient. The fans will generate a small amount of heat because they do have motors, and they won’t actually cool down the temperature in your room, but they will make you feel cooler the way a breeze will cool you down outside.

Feed the Family without Turning on the Oven: Use smaller appliances like toaster ovens and crock pots. Better yet, take your cooking outside and use your grill if you have one. Just don’t turn on your oven and have it heating your kitchen to 400 degrees when it is already hot enough. Make sandwiches or toss a salad with some tuna.

Take Advantage of Swimming Opportunities: Swimming pools are very expensive. Chances are good, however, that you can take advantage of a swimming pool that you do not have to maintain. If your community or subdivision offers a pool, try to cool off whenever you can by taking a swim. If a local gym has a swimming pool, the pool alone may be enough to justify a membership!

How are you staying cool this summer?

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13 Responses to Keeping Cool This Summer

  1. Paula says:

    I live in Maine, so I don’t mind a little hot weather as it never lasts long! It usually doesn’t get much hotter than 80’s, so I have found that most of the time I can avoid using the AC if I draw the shades and turn on the ceiling and regular fans for air circulation.

    Also, we are a short drive to several beaches in the area and our mobile home park has a nice inground pool on those days that its too hot to do much of anything.

    All too soon, it will be fall (my favorite time of year) and temps will be cooler…

  2. Lou Russo says:

    Summer is my favorite time of the year. The warmer it is, the better I like it. This year, in the northeast, it has been cool and wet. We have had less than half the normal number of 90 days for the year. We only own one air conditioner, a small bedroom unit, that I have not put in.

    We have a pool, which we use when it is hot, an attic fan, and several box fans to keep the air moving.

    We have followed most of the ideas you posted for as long as I can remember.

    By the way, our pool is easy to maintain. I put a couple of chlorine tablets in every few days, and have the filter on a timer. Other than the opening and closing, I don’t do anything else to it.

  3. Ann says:

    Okay, I’ll admit it. I’m part polar bear and can not stand heat!

    I do everything you say and still end up turning on the air… sometimes as much to take the humidity out of the air, as to reduce the heat!

    I figure that it all balances out ’cause in the winter I only set my thermostat above 60 if someone is coming over to visit… and I like them. LOL Most of the time I prefer the temp at somewhere between 55 and 58 in the winter.

    I do set the air on at a high temp and switch to light, summery clothes — never have understood people who think they need it cool enough to wear a sweater indoors! Why have seasons, if you want the same temp year round? When I lived in California, I seriously considered moving to San Francisco proper ’cause the temps were between 45 and 70 year round, which sounded perfect to me! 🙂

  4. Jackie says:

    I’m more like Ann. I run the a/c in the summer as cool as I want to and make up the money in the winter months. I don’t go crazy, it’s rarely lower than 72 but that is more about not working it so hard it quits on me when it’s super hot and humid outside. I also do all of those things – pull the shades, avoid using the oven in the middle of the day, etc. Hate the heat, love the a/c. 🙂

  5. cptacek says:

    Adding on a small porch or putting up awnings are also a good idea. The south side of our house has a car port half the length of the house that is converted into a porch, and it blocks much of the sun from hitting the house. But when the sun reaches the point in the sky where it is hitting the west side of the house, the AC immediately starts running more. I have found that if I close the doors to the rooms on the west side of the house, the AC doesn’t run as much and it is much more comfortable.

    My plan is to either find some awnings or put up a small overhang on the west side with 4×8 sheets of plywood and shingles, or tin, to shade the windows. That should make a world of difference.

  6. spicoli says:

    On hot summer days, I like to go to the movies. It’s a great way to cool off and to enjoy a film at the same time without having to crank up my own AC!

  7. persephone says:

    On hot days, I try to take care of all of the errands that I have to run. If I have to shop, I like to do it on days that are too hot for anything outside and the grocery store and the mall, and my car, all have wonderful air conditioning.

  8. Robin says:

    If it’s a breezy day, we open up the windows. It keeps the place cool and lets nice fresh air in. Also, I usually only turn up the air at night because I sweat very easily.

  9. David G. Mitchell says:

    Here is a timely interview with Clarence Otis, CEO of Darden Restaurant Group. The interview is in USA Today but I link to Scott Joseph’s commentary on his blog because it provides excellent context. The interview is accessible via a link that Scott provides.

  10. Andrea says:

    I will go without AC for as long as I can stand it, which is far longer than most of my friends. I turn off lights, draw blinds (no curtains), and run fans. What gets me, though, is the humidity. Summers here are unbearably humid, and after a few days of it I not only have a constant headache, but my possessions are starting to mould or mildew. So I installed *good* insulation in the attic, and I gave up and run the AC. I keep it at a relatively cool 78 at night, and let the house get to the mid eighties during the day. Without AC, the house can easily hit 100, and in the room where I am doing glasswork, or in my kitchen, temps can be over 110.

    One nice thing about Georgia, though … sometime in the early fall the humidity goes away, and then we have a series of pleasant (mid eighties) days and cool (60s) nights, perfect for open windows! Much though I love Texas, the cool weather doesn’t arrive until the middle to the end of October. I used to enjoy the looks on the faces of recent students from the north who had packed their woolies for September, while the rest of us were in cutoffs and flipflops 🙂

    @Paula: As someone who now lives in Georgia and grew up in Texas, I am laughing quietly about the idea that temperatures in the 80s count as hot — unless you have high humidity, as we do in Georgia, in which case I sympathize! Of course, you get to laugh about me thinking that “seriously cold” starts at freezing, and that anything below 20 is cause for a statewide emergency.

  11. Paula says:

    Andrea, we do indeed have a lot of humidity here, or I would probably never have gotten an AC (in fact today was 88 degrees and HUMID)! Along the coast, you get that nice ocean breeze that helps but we are just far enough inland (about 15 miles west) that it doesn’t.

    As for our winters, yes they can be brutal with lots of snow and freezing temps, although usually the worst of that is January thru March. We have the usual Maine jokes about the rest of the country putting coats on when it gets around 50, but Mainers are wearing shorts and T-shirts outside! LOL.

  12. Gail says:

    For health reasons we run the A/C when needed for me and as my hubby is self employed we run the A/C so he can do his physical labor job without passing out. That being said, it has been so cool this summer we didn’t have to start regularly running the A/C till a couple of weeks ago and it has already impacted the electric bill. We do all the suggestions already. My only comfort is that because we run a home business, part of our utilities are written off our taxes as business expenses.

  13. Scott says:

    I try to keep my house dark by keeping the curtains closed at all times and by turning off the lights, but my wife insists of turning on every light in the house.

    Even though it looks a little trashy, putting aluminum foil on the windows of the rooms that get the hottest does reduce temps by quite a bit. It doesn’t hurt to put reflective tint on the rest of the windows too.


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