Stay cool the old fashioned way

Some techniques that will help you reduce your A/C needs, and certainly help you stay cool in the absence of having one.

Reducing the need for air conditioning
Techniques for reducing the need for air conditioning © Niell Kennedy

While it's true that no matter where you live, be it urban, suburban or rural, the hottest days and nights of summer may have you dreaming of coolers climates. However, those living in dense urban areas will feel it the most, where ambient temperatures can be 5 to 9 degrees Celcius higher. 

This marked difference is the result of a combination of factors, specifically the lack of vegetation in cities, heat emanating from countless vehicles and other machinery and huge concentrations of asphalt to absorb the sun's rays. Ironically, the heat extracted from buildings by air conditioners is blown into the street making air conditioning units another big player in pushing up urban temperatures.

If you either want to (or have to) get through heat spells without relying on AC for relief, consider the following:

Lighting and appliances:

All electrical appliances and lights generate heat, everything down to your laptop and TV. But first set your sights on the big offenders:  

  • Old refrigerators are not very efficient and can generate a significant amount of heat. When it's time for a replacement, airm for an ENERGY STAR certified fridge.
  • Incandescent and halogen bulbs produce far more heat than compact fluorescent or LED lamps. LED are more expensive, but the price is dropping quickly; they last forever and use a fraction of the energy.
  • Cook fresh: do whatever you possibly can to avoid using your stove on the hot days. Preparing cold meals like salads, sandwiches or fruit plates can be a huge help in keeping your home temperature down.
  • Take short showers or shower cold: a hot shower can add a lot of heat and humidity to a home, not to mention the residual heat that will radiate from the hotwater pipes throughout your house.

When you add it all up, the amount of heat generated by appliances and lighting can be like running a baseboard heater all summer long. It all boils down to one thing - the less heat you bring in, the less heat you have to either endure or extract. Pretty simple right?

More ideas:

  • Anywhere cold air comes in during the winter, hot, humid air will come in during the summer. Inspect around windows, electrical and plumbing openings, and seal any cracks.
  • Close all your windows during the heat of the day, and get your fresh air at night. Pay attention to the temperatures inside and out, and wait until it's actually cooler outside to open up the windows.
  • Block out the sun during the day with opaque curtains or blinds, this reduces the amount of heat that enters the house.
  • Fans: they don't actually cool the air, but it sure feels like it. At night though, one of the best places for a fan in an upstairs window blowing out. This draws in cool air from all the other open windows.
  • Keep a cold bathtub ready for a plunge. On those hot days and nights, we generally aren't elaborately dressed, so going for a quick dunk in an existing tub of water to being dried and dressed again can take as little as a couple of minutes, and will drastically bring down your body temperature. 
  • Creeping plants on outside walls such as vines for example, can prevent some heat from being  absorbed by your walls.And the phenomenon of evapotranspiration that plants use to regulate their internal temperature helps to refresh the air.

It's our hope that the tips above will help to noticeably lower your indoor (and body) temperature, potentially turning an otherwise sleepless night into a restful one.The less heat we bring into our homes, the less heat we need to eject towards our neighbours house, so we all benefit in the end.

As always, if you have any refreshing tips of your own, please share below.