Keep Cool Without Air
These tips on how to keep cool without central air are my best money-saving tips. Ones that will help you to keep a bit cooler even if you are not lucky enough to have central air in your home.
When looking for ways to live a simple life, saving money is at the top of that list.
Tired of paying high electric bills? Use these simple tips to keep cool without central air. Simple living tips that will keep your home a bit more comfortable and cooler while saving you money on utilities.
I am going to let you in on a little secret, we do NOT have central air.
Most folks where we live are shocked by this, especially on a hot summer 98-degree day. Even though many folks in our area do have air conditioning of some sort, we are in the minority that do not.
Over the last 22 years, we have raised four kids summer after summer without air conditioning and though we did get close, we never broke down and installed it. In those early years, we never had the extra money in our budget to invest in central air.
And because we had no other options, I had to learn a few “keep cool” hacks so we weren’t, well, miserable.
Disclaimer: This info is based on my experience in Northern Pennsylvania; if you live in the southern states this may not be an option for you. However, I have added some new tips to help with your electric bill no matter where you live. Please remember, above all, if the weather is DANGEROUSLY hot….run your central air or air conditioning unit. Health and safety should ALWAYS come before saving money.
As I said earlier, even though we live up north, the summers still get hot, really hot, especially in August.
It also gets humid. That wet sticky hot kind of humid that makes the weather feel ten times worse.
However, if you have ever been inside our home during those really hot and humid days, it feels like we have central air. I have had people argue with us over whether or not we have central air.
I know, crazy right?
So, what’s my secret?
I use fans and the outside evening air to cool down the temps inside of our home.
My main supplies are box fans, and my secret tip is timing. We have about 7 of them in total and they work great for keeping our 3,000-square-foot home cool.
SLCG PRO TIP: Please note that the fan I linked to there is ridiculously expensive! But I did want you to see it so you knew what to look for at a discount store where you can get one for less than $25.
How to Keep Cool Without Central Air
The trick to keeping your home cooler than the outside temperatures is to bring in the cooler air whenever it is available.
This is easier to do than you might realize. Since the coolest air is usually at night, most of your home’s cool-down will happen while you sleep.
Step 1. Suck in the cool air when you can
Before going to bed each night, I walk around and open all the windows in the house. I make sure I get them all, from the big windows in our family room to the small windows in our bathroom.
My goal is to bring in as much of the evening cooler air as I possibly can.
Step 2. Use fans to bring in the cool air
Next, I place a box fan in each main window positioning it, so it pulls in the cooler air. Our home has the main windows in the kitchen, mudroom, and all the bedrooms. We have a rather large home, so that means we have six-eight box fans that we use to pull in and push out air.
By having a fan at one end of the main living area of our home and another one at the other end, I am able to cool things down relatively quickly by circulating the cooler air throughout.
We use these fans to bring in a more comfortable temperature of air that works quickly to cool down our entire home.
Once the fans are in place, I let them run all night. I know this seems like a strain on the electric bill, but actually, it’s not. Compared to A/C, it is quite economical.
Step 3. Make the switch when it warms up
When I get up the next morning, I leave things as they are, running the fans as I did throughout the night. I do, however, keep an eye on the temperatures outside, referring to our weather station in the family room.
As the day warms up, I will then start watching the temperature inside my home. If you do not have a thermometer inside of your home, you may want to invest in one.
I prefer to have the temperature and the humidity displayed on my weather station. Knowing both helps me to better pinpoint when the windows need to be closed down for the day.
As soon as the temperature inside of our home starts to climb even one degree inside, that is when I shut everything up.
I then walk around and close up all of the windows, along with the doors to the bedrooms. Closing up the rooms helps to keep the main part of our home cooler. Since that is part of the house we use daily, that is where I want that cool air to stay for as long as possible.
Step #4. Reposition the fans
Once the windows are closed up, the fans are then moved to the main living area to help keep the air circulating throughout. This works surprisingly well to keep our home comfortable and cool for the majority of the day. By placing the box fans strategically in the main part of our home, the cooler air that has been trapped inside the exterior rooms can then be circulated throughout.
Believe it or not, this one trick will keep my house at that early morning temperature throughout most of the day.
Now, if it’s really hot, I have a couple of extra tricks.
Most homes up north have basements. This can come in pretty handy in the summer.
The air in our basement is wonderfully cool and, luckily, dry. On our furnace, we have an internal fan that will blow air from our basement throughout the house. By turning this fan on, I am able to add some additional cooler air and have it circulate with very little effect on our electric bill. I only do this in the late morning as the temperatures get warmer in the home.
To keep as much of that air in the main living space, I find it is best to close the vents in the rooms we are not using. This will push more of that cool basement air into the rooms where we need it the most.
But what if it’s really REALLY hot??
Then there are those days in August….what I like to call our “Atlanta Georgia” hot days.
Those are the days I need to bring in reinforcements because, as I mentioned above, safety always comes before saving money.
We do have a small window AC unit that we will use if the temperatures are just too hot to handle safely. We do not use this yearly, but it is nice to have it just in case. This one window unit is enough to keep all our kid’s bedrooms a bit cooler. I put the window unit into one of our kid’s bedroom windows and use box fans to spread that cold air to the rest of our boy’s rooms.
Box fans are amazingly helpful in redirecting air throughout our entire home. By doing this, we are able to reduce the temperature in our kid’s rooms by a few degrees, which can make a huge difference.
SLCG PRO TIP: By only running this one small window A/C unit as needed, meaning mostly at night on really hot and muggy days, our electric bill is still considerably lower than it would normally be.
A window unit can also cool down an entire home using the fan tip above. Place a box fan in the room door with the window unit inside and another in the hallway. This will pull that cool air through to the main area of our home, which can be enough to take the edge off.
Use your fans to move the cool air into the main living parts of your home.
Since we live in a ranch-style home, the ideal spot for the window unit is one of the boy’s bedrooms. Even though all the cold air is in one room, a box fan can easily move that cooler air to the other rooms and along to the main parts of the home. It is amazing how much cold air I can move with those two fans into our family room and kitchen area.
I only use the window AC unit if it is really hot; I’m talking upper 90s hot.
The trick isn’t the AC; it’s getting the house cooled off during the evening hours and keeping that air cool and circulating as the day heats up.
Trust me, this really works!
It is not unusual to find my house a good 10 degrees cooler or more from the outside temperature, even with the air conditioning off.
I realize this may not be an option if you live in a hot southern area. You can, however, use a few of my tips to alleviate how often you use your central air.
Even if you adjust your thermostat 5-10 degrees, you will save money monthly on your bill.
No, it’s not a lot, but remember, all those small savings can turn into a pretty impressive savings.
How to keep cool without central air conditioning
Tip #1 Use fans to pull cool air in at night
As I mentioned above, before heading off to bed, walk your home and open up all the windows.
Place a few box or window fans to pull the cool air in even more. To make sure you remember, go one step further and set the alarm on your phone. This handy little reminder will help you to instill this money-saving habit until it is second nature.
Tip #2 Use fans to suck the hot air OUT
Did you know you can also put your fans in the window to push the hot air out of the house?
When you open your windows up in the cooler evenings, you may find the air inside your home warmer than outside. This is a great time to push that warm air out to make room for the beautiful cooler air.
Place your box fans in the window so the fan is blowing OUT rather than in. This will move the warmer air outside where it belongs.
This little trick works surprisingly well, especially after a really hot day.
Tip #3 Close off vents in rooms you do not use frequently.
This works best with a central fan system on your furnace (see above). There is no use keeping a room cool all day long that you only sleep in at night.
Shut the vent during the day to push the cooler air to the main living areas. I do not recommend doing this tip if you do have central air.
NOTE: If you use central air conditioning, it is recommended that you NOT close vents in unused rooms since this can cause damage to your system. Please contact your manufacturer for suggestions.
Tip #3 Close the curtains and keep out the sun
I know this may not be a popular option for some, but blocking out some of the sweltering sun on really hot days can go a long way to cooling off your home.
You can even go one step further and use energy-efficient curtains that will block even more of the summer heat like these surprisingly attractive heat-blocking curtains. I was pleasantly surprised at how well these curtains worked!
SLCG PRO TIP: You only need these curtains in rooms where the heat bothers you. If your bedroom receives most of the hot afternoon sun, but you are not in your bedroom until night time, then there really is no reason to invest in these curtains for that room.
However, if that same hot afternoon heat is in the family room, you might want to get a pair for that room instead.
Tip #4 Close any bedroom, bathroom, and office doors
This will also help push cooler air into your main living space. The office, a spare bedroom, and even your master bedroom. If the room is unused during the day, close it down and keep all the wonderful cool air you are making where you need it.
Tip #5 Save the baking for a cooler day
Nothing can heat a house up quicker than turning on that oven. Keep it off and save it for a cooler rainy day. Instead, use your crock pot or instant pot.
On cooler days, you can take some time to do batch baking and freeze the extras. Now, on those hot days when the kids are begging for home-baked cookies, you have a nice little stash in the freezer.
You can do the same with all of your cooking. When making a dish, double it up and freeze the extra meal. Now you can reheat amazing home-cooked meals on hot days and keep the unwanted heat from your stove or oven out of your home.
Learn how to Make Dinner Time Easier Without a Meal Plan
Tip #6 Who says crockpots are only for the winter?
How many folks refuse to break out their crockpots in the summer amazes me. You would be amazed at all the awesome meals you can make in a crockpot. No more slaving over a hot stove that can inadvertently heat your home. Use your crockpot and keep you and your kitchen cooler.
You can find some of my favorite crockpot recipes on my Pinterest page.
And the best part is crockpots are so inexpensive now. I have three myself in various sizes and use them constantly.
SLCG PRO TIP: No money to spare? I get it. You would be amazed at how many crockpots you can find at yard sales for a dollar. A dollar people! Why so cheap? Because most folks think crockpots are only for the wintertime, but we know better…don’t we?
I know these are small efforts in the big picture, but sometimes doing the small things is enough to make a big change.
It is all in your thinking; working smarter, not harder, not only applies to us but to every aspect of our lives.
MY FAVORITE MONEY-SAVING TOOLS TO KEEP COOL
Do you have some keep cool without central air tips? I would love to hear them! Leave a comment below so we can all learn to keep cool without burning cash!
Where do you live that you can leave your windows open all night? We can never leave are windows open for fear of someone breaking in ….also, it doesn’t cool down enough at night to cool our home….we live in Phoenix. We have no choice but to have AC. Wish we could open windows and air out the house once in a while but it makes it too hot inside.
Oh, Myrna, that is scary! We live in a rural area and we feel pretty safe here. We also have a dog that is great at warning of sounds and protecting our family from attack frogs and robins. I feel safe knowing he will do the same if a larger intruder would try to do harm. 🙂 We do things in the winters to help deter heating costs, you may be able to do the same for your AC. Close of vents to rooms you do not use often. Shut shades or curtains during the day to keep the hot sun out. I hope things cool down for you soon!
We live in East Texas and we have lived without central heat and air for approximately ten years. We sleep with the windows open and box fans in the other end of the house facing outside in order to pull the cool evening air throughout the house by opening our bedroom window. When the heat index is over 100 we do have a small window unit in the bedroom window and we use it to cool the bedroom down. We use infrared electric heaters for zone heating in the winter. These measures cut our electric bill in half (total electric home). We have downsized and built a smaller home for our retirement and do not intend to install central heat and air. We have an attic fan that we can circulate air with by opening the windows. And for the really unbearable days we have a window unit rated to for 1500 sq ft. Our new home is 1000 sq ft. But the best thing we did was have spray foam insulation installed. Our new home stays cool for almost all day. This summer has been extremely hot and due to health problems we have used the a\c for less than two hours a day in the extreme heat. We also located our new home facing south with huge shade trees on the west side of the house where the blazing heat comes from. We have yet to experience a winter season in the new home. I think that we are going to be very comfortable if this morning’s crisp fall temperature is any example of what we can expect. After going out to feed the animals and coming back in it was toasty warm without and heat source other than having the windows closed.
Sounds good but not sure if it would work here in Texas in July our hot is much hotter than yours. But I’m sure in the cooler months it would help. We have done the fan thing in the windows when our ac was out.
Yes, Jenifer, I should have put a disclaimer on my post stating where I live! I can imagine the heat in Texas and how central air is a must there. You can try shutting off rooms you do not use and shutting curtains to keep the sun out. This will hopefully help at least with your bill. Stay cool!
Your suggestions might work in some places, but it definitely WILL NOT work in south Louisiana! Down here we could tell you to turn off central heating in the northern states and try to stay warm in January and Feb–makes about as much sense as doing without AC in the hot summer in the south!
Yes, I do realize that this may not work out for everyone, I was just hoping to help a few northerners that may want to cut some corners cost wise. I cannot imagine living in such a hot area such as South Louisiana! I have family in Florida that must have AC during the hottest months of the summer. And yes, we do have our problems come winter, but don’t worry I have tips for us cold weather folks as well. Stay cool Anne! 🙂
We did the same thing growing up in Ohio before most people had central air conditioning. In fact my parents lived in the house we grew up in for almost 30 years before they put air conditioning in it. It does help that when the temp starts climbing, turn the fans around in the windows to suck out the warmer air and keep one on the floor. And we had box fans for every room. It moves the air throughout the house quite efficiently. Staying vigilant on keeping the fans clean is very helpful as well. Dusty and furry fans are not efficient.
I knew about turning the fan around but for some reason never tried it. I will do a test with the fans and see how it helps with our indoor temps. I can’t wait to see the results! We are in a cold snap right now, but our next hot day I will try this and do an update on my post. Yes, I agree keeping those fans clean is important and easy to do. It’s the little things that all add up to big results. 🙂 Thanks for the great tips!!
I do almost the same thing here in Kansas. I have something I used last winter I love for keeping me warm. I can’t remember the name brand but it is bubble wrap with foil on both sides. I put on tension rods in the windows especially my bedroom window on the north west side. My bedroom was toasty warm and my bill was lower. I bought in a roll at Menards.
That’s a great tip for keeping the cold out. We also take steps to keep the house warm using as little propane heat as possible. I will be doing a post in a few weeks on how to keep your house warm in the cold winter months, which will be here before we know it!
Exactly what I am doing in Inland Spain. It does work well. Don’t have a airco, and use the ventilators as discribed. Last summer it got to 41 degrees Celsius, and had to shut the shutters too, in order to keep the house cool. Inside it was not bad at all.
I am so glad to hear that you do it as well, even in Spain 🙂
This is exactly the method I use every summer. It’s amazing.
Closing off vents in unused rooms is not recommended. The air conditioner will produce the same amount of air, and by closing off vents the pressure throughout the system increases, which can lead to leaks and blower damage.
Thank you Susan for pointing this out to me. I have done some research and you are correct. I have adjusted my post to reflect the new information. Thank you for the heads up!
I have used all of these for years as well we planted large deciduous trees on east and south sides of our home. Many people are surprised when I tell them air is not on when they experience temperature in our house that is ten degrees cooler than outside. Room darkening drapes are big help no matter what part of country you live in. Bringing cool air up from basement has worked as well on really hot days. I live in PA.
I just love your idea of planting shade trees, so brilliant and so simple to do!
Thanks for stopping by,
My grandmother, on very hot days (110 or so) would put a block of ice in front of her fan. She also soaked her sheets in water and hung them till they were almost dry. My mom remembers sleeping in damp sheets as a child, though I’ve always wondered if this is really advisable. I appreciate your tips here. We live in a hot, humid climate and rely on our AC too much, so I love the idea of helping my AC out by using box fans!
I have seen the ice and fan trick, although I have never given it a try. The damp sheets is a new one! It just amazes me what our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did. What an ingenious bunch they were!
Thank you for stopping by!
I found this article insanely helpful thank you! This will be my first summer as an adult living without central air. I am currently living in a duplex ( the house is over 100 years old and we live on the top floor) in Maryland. Although our unit has 2 small window air units, one in the living room and the other in the mater bedroom, they aren’t really practical for keeping the entire apartment cool and they run constantly making our electric bill higher than I would like. I now have things to try out to keep my apartment a cooler the temperature has climbed to about 90 in the past few days… Hello summer !
I do have a question that just popped into my mind. Most of our windows crank and swing outward instead of pulling upwards like more traditional windows. Will the box fans still work effectively if they can’t sit directly in the window?
We too have a few of those crank windows and you need to be a bit creative to get the fans as close to the window as you can. Yes it still does work to bring the cooler air in, maybe not as effectively as regular windows, but enough that it quickens cool down.
How fun for you Felicia! I also lived in a very old home our first years away, and it really was hot! Evenings were the worst. I am so glad you have a couple of units so you can sleep a bit easier. Box fans are the most efficient fans for moving air and highly recommend them. Placing them at the doorway of the room with the A/C will help to push that air to the rest of the home.
I live in a one bedroom apartment in Sacramento, California. Our summers are easily over 100 (it’s been 108 for days already) and at night it does not cool off below 85-90 degrees. My apartment is located towards the sun and it’s on the second floor. It has been over 90 inside my apartment everyday even with all these tricks. I coated my windows in aluminum foil to reflect the sun, I use my window AC all day from 8:30 am. It’s really difficult and my dog isn’t happy about it either! My apartment manager won’t install a new AC unit, so I am just looking for tips and tricks to try to stay cool. I’ve been taking a cold shower at night, having a fan blowing on me, and using the ice bowl trick.
Oh, Jade, that is just awful!!
I am sorry my tips are working but I am afraid in that intense heat your only option is AC. Is there a way to get a free standing AC unit? I have never used one but I have heard good things.
Please be safe my friend!
I live in Florida and even with 2 a/c units I have a hard time keeping the temp below 84 on 90+ days. I have heat repelling window curtains, as well as foam insullation clipped to the inside. I use my fans as Traci does pulling in cool air and blowing out hot in early or late hours. At night I use re-freezable ice packs in a small cooler and set my fan on top of it. Blows a cool breeze all night long… without a mess.
I just love the idea of the freezable packs!
Thank you for sharing, stay cool. 🙂
Hi, I be been doing these tricks for years. Although it’s like living in a cave with curtains drawn. And yes, it’s all in the timing when to open and when to close the windows,
. I also have ceiling fans on 24/7. We live in R.I. where we do get days that are in the 90’s.
Yes, I agree Linda…it can be a little dark with the curtains shut! Today it is 88 outside and 76 in my house. So nice!
I live in Colorado and I know it’s nothing like the south or the humid areas, but I know when the inside of our home gets to 85 plus degrees it gets a bit miserable! I have done the fan tricks for many years growing up, I even have a window unit! The problem is our attic isn’t insulated and it’s like we’re literally just cooking! Soooo my suggestion to those who doesn’t think her ideas wouldn’t work, make sure your attic is insulated!
I heard I could hose down the roof to keep the house cool but I would imagine that could end up causing problems and money for my water bill plus it wouldn’t last long! I would imagine it would dry up quickly! Thanks for the read and keep cool everyone!
This is a great point, Ciara, thank you for pointing it out. 🙂 Insulation is a huge factor in not only the colder months but the hot months as well.
I lived without ac for a yr in NC, and did this alllll summer. My inside temp never exceeded 75*! It was great! Thankfully the lot to the west my apt was all trees…so we didn’t get the harsh setting sun, and the tree lot had cooler temps, too.
Now we live in south Alabama….and I am grateful for our year round ac! 🙂 Our nights don’t get cold enough here to make that work well…..though the old timers do fine with it. We spent one day with an elderly woman in august, and her house was a wee bit warmer than I prefer, but it was comfortable and under 80*. She had an OLD house, and had the tops of a few of her windows opened to let out the hot air + tall ceilings + good shade trees + a few fans. I was surprised when I realized she had windows cracked a few inches at the tops…..I thought she had air but it wasn’t turned down as much as we turn ours down.
Yes, I agree, Lolly……
this won’t work nearly as well in the southern states in summer as up north. However, you can use the same tips in the winter for your area whereas we cannot up north. 🙂
I had not thought of opening the tops of the windows, I will have to try that out. Although our ceilings are not tall ones.
I like the tip you shared about placing box fans in the windows of your home in order to help keep it cool. In addition to that, I would think that having a tint film installed onto the windows would be a good idea. That way you can limit the amount of sunlight that is actually getting into your house.
Oh this is a great idea, thanks for sharing!!
Hanging sunscreen or an awning outside of West windows does wonders! It keeps the direct sunlight off of the glass, and you can still leave open the windows.
Oh I love this tip! Thank you for sharing!
I love the idea of running the small window unit during the night to keep costs low and still be comfortable. My spouse and I have noticed that our AC is having trouble keeping our house cool during the summer days. We need to get this fixed so that we don’t get really uncomfortable because of the heat in our house.
Oh yes, if you live in the south I highly recommend you have a unit where you sleep. We do now have a bedroom free-standing system that was given to us from a family member and we only run it for sleeping in the hot summer months. This really does save our electric bill!
Thanks for these tips Tracy! Living in Phoenix really required me to have an air conditioning unit installed though. I’m thinking of getting an additional unit this summer actually as it gets really hot but seeing how much buying and installing a new AC unit would cost really got me thinking if I should push through with it or not. I’ll give your tricks a try first to see if it would be enough to put my idea of buying and additional air conditioner on hold, thanks again!