5 important tips to stay cool without air conditioning

Stay cool inside hot fans ac
Fans can help you stay cool, but they won’t lower the temperature of an entire room. fizkes/Shutterstock
  • To stay cool without AC, there are a few tricks you can use to keep yourself from overheating.
  • Make sure to block sunlight from entering your home with curtains or shades, and use fans properly.
  • You can also eat cool foods like salad or watermelon, drink lots of water, and use cold washcloths.
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.

If you don’t have air conditioning, you’re at a higher risk of overheating during the hot and humid summer conditions.

Overall, air-conditioning is the best protective factor against heat-related illness and death. And this is something to take seriously – heat illness killed an average of 658 people per year from 1999 to 2009.

If you’re unable to invest in an air conditioner during the summer, or can’t access indoor locations with air conditioning, it’s imperative that you follow these recommendations to stay cool.

1. Keep out sunlight

About 76% of the sunlight that falls on standard double-pane windows turns into heat and raises the temperature in your home, according to the Department of Energy (DOE).

This is called solar heat gain. During summer, windows facing west and east allow in the most heat, while north and south facing windows only give small solar gains.

Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce the amount of heat that enters your home from sunlight. Here’s how:

Close the curtains or blinds

This is especially important on windows receiving direct sunlight – though the effectiveness can depend on the type and color of the material.

Studies demonstrate that medium-colored draperies with white-plastic backings can reduce heat gains by up to 33%. Lining your curtains with light-colored fabrics, if they are not already light, will help reflect the sun.

Use shutters, shades, or awnings

Exterior shutters and shades are most effective at reducing solar heat gain, according to the DOE. Shades are typically fabric or vinyl and the material may have openings that allow some visibility through the window. The larger the openings, the less protection from solar gain.

Insulated cellular shades – for a window’s interior – are made of pleated materials that can fold up, like an accordion. They can reduce solar gain by up to 80%.

An awning is a roof-like shelter on a home’s exterior that shades windows from the sun’s heat and glare. Window awnings can reduce solar heat gain in the summer by up to 65% on south-facing windows and 77% on west-facing windows.

Apply high-reflectivity window film

Window films can be useful if you don’t want to block views since they are semi-transparent, or on windows that are difficult or expensive to fit with other treatments.

They typically have three layers: an adhesive layer that sits against the glass, a polyester film layer, and a scratch-resistant coating. As solar radiation strikes the glass, window film acts as a sunscreen to block harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays as well as reduce the levels of heat and light passing through the glass.

This study showed that most of the relatively low-cost window-tinting films successfully reduced heat transmission by 5 to 10°C. They can be professionally applied or are available for do-it-yourself at home improvement stores.

2. Utilize fans properly

Fans can’t lower the temperature of an entire room – that’s because the electricity driving the fan turns directly into heat.

However, fans can create a wind chill effect, so you feel cooler. Basically, when a fan blows air around, it helps sweat evaporate from your skin, which cools you down.

Related Article Module: How to cool down a room with fans if you don’t have ACCeiling fans are considered the most effective, according to the DOE, because they circulate the air in a room to create a wind-chill effect throughout. But turn them off when you leave the room; remember, ceiling fans cool people, not rooms.

Also, when buying ceiling fans, look for the ENERGY STAR® label since fans that earn that label move air 20% more efficiently, on average, than standard models, according to the DOE.

Window fans, or portable fans, can also work well in many climates, but they are only effective if you use them correctly. To do so, you’ll only want to use them when the air outside is cooler than the air inside, which is usually at nighttime.

3. Drink lots of water

Frequently drinking water is one of the best protective measures against heat-related illness. That’s because your body needs water to effectively deal with hot temperatures.

When you get too warm, your body starts to sweat. The evaporation of your sweat cools the skin, which helps to cool down your whole body.

The problem is that excessive sweating can lead to dehydration. And your body can become dehydrated before you notice signs, so it’s important you don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink.

In addition, if you are doing any exercise that makes you sweat, you need to drink even more water to replace the lost fluids and stay hydrated.

4. Use cold washcloths

Applying a cold, damp cloth directly to your skin can help lower your temperature. The Mayo Clinic recommends placing it on your pulse points – such as the back of your neck, under your armpits, on your wrists, or groin.

In these areas, your blood vessels are close to the surface of your skin, meaning the cold will extract more heat from your body and bring your temperature down more quickly.

Prepare a cold washcloth by:

  • Wetting a towel with cool water
  • Squeezing out excess water, so that the towel is damp
  • Leaving it in the refrigerator – the longer you leave it, the colder it will be

If you use ice packs, make sure to never apply ice directly to the skin, as this can result in a burn. Instead, ensure it is wrapped in a towel or a blanket so there is a barrier between the ice and your skin. And never apply it for long periods – the general rule of thumb is no more than 20 minutes every two to four hours.

Although it can give temporary relief, taking a cool bath or shower actually increases our core temperature. Your skin temperature falls and you’ll feel cooler, but the cold water results in less blood flow to the skin, so you’ll actually keep more heat inside.

5. Eat cool foods and avoid alcohol

Here are five expert-recommended foods and drinks to cool yourself down:


Vegetables contain lots of water, which can help keep you cool. Lettuce, for instance, is 95% water and cucumber is 96% water.

In addition, salads require no cooking. Any food that doesn’t require heat to prepare is better – for example, the CDC advises against using your oven to cook, since it can make you and your house even hotter.


Not only is watermelon a summer staple for picnics and barbecues, but it’s also 90% water.

“The pink flesh contains vitamins C and A and the antioxidant lycopene-which helps in protecting you from the sun too,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, a registered dietitian in New York City. “This is the perfect snack to cool off and replenish electrolytes that are lost as you sweat in the sun.”


Fresh mint can be grown in the garden and provides an instant cooling sensation. It’s a zero-calorie addition that will freshen any drink or snack.

Hot Peppers

“Ironically, spicy foods are a great way to beat the heat,” Zuckerbrot says. “Eating something that will cause sweating, nature’s way of cooling us down, will allow you to withstand the sun.”

Sweating can lead to dehydration, though, so make sure to consume substantial water throughout the day.

Non-alcoholic beverages

“Skip the margaritas and mojitos,” says Karen Ansel, MS, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “A summertime cocktail might seem like just the thing for a warm evening, but too much alcohol can cause your body to lose water.”

If water starts to sound bland, rethink your ice cubes, Ansel says. Adding frozen berries, grapes, or melon chunks to sparkling water is a refreshing way to switch things up.

Insider’s takeaway

While these tips can help you stay cool, extreme heat can sometimes be too much to bear without air conditioning.

If you’re unable to keep yourself cool with these strategies, you may develop the symptoms of heat exhaustion, which, if left untreated, can turn into heatstroke – a serious medical emergency that can lead to organ damage or death without immediate attention.

When temperatures are high, such as during a heat wave, you may also want to check in more frequently on young children under the age of four, as well as older people above the age of 65, because they are more susceptible to heat-related illness.

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