11 Brilliant Ways to Stay Cool Without Air Conditioning

updated Jun 28, 2022
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Whether you live in an Arizona suburb where the temperatures are always warm or your big city apartment lacks an HVAC system, there are plenty of ways to cool down without installing primary air conditioning. Even better, you don’t need a big budget to find effective methods for keeping yourself—and your home—at a happier temperature. 

You’ll be fully equipped to endure the dog days of summer and beyond while feeling cool as a cucumber. 

1. Take a cold plunge.

Cold immersion therapy isn’t just for Gwyneth Paltrow and professional athletes. Turn your tub (or shower) into an ice-cold retreat by filling the bottom with ice and running water as cold as you can stand. Jump in for as long as you can handle (no need to go for more than several minutes), and emerge refreshed. Research shows that this practice can help with muscle recovery and fighting inflammation, giving you even more reason to cool off this way. 

Credit: Amazon

2. Turn your balcony, backyard, or living room into a pop-up pool house.

No matter how much (or little) square footage you’re working with, investing in an inflatable pool can make a huge difference in keeping cool at home. Whether or not you have access to outdoor space, purchasing a small one means any room in the home can become the destination for your next great pool party. Put on a favorite playlist, mix up an ice-cold beverage, and get to it! 

Credit: Just Great Photography/Shutterstock

3. Swap out your sheets.

While those flannel sheets may work great for staying cozy in the wintertime, it can be useful to have a few seasonal sheet sets. Lean into light and breezy options like linen, buckwheat, or percale to help you stay cool and catch some Zzzs, no matter the weather. Check out Piglet in Bed for amazing linen options and Red Land Cotton for classic percale. 

4. Don’t neglect your bathroom and kitchen fans.

One of the simplest ways to cool things down is by taking advantage of the fans in your bathroom and kitchen, especially if you can’t live without hot showers and meals. Utilizing both types will zap up the hot air subsiding in these spaces, so that your home doesn’t get any warmer, which will also help lower energy and utility bills.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

5. Use apartment staples to keep cool.

Megan Healy, MD, of Temple University Hospital, says you can look to your freezer staples and put ice packs (or bags of frozen veggies) in your armpits and groin area if you’re looking to cool down quickly. “The large blood vessels are close to the surface in those areas,” Healy explains, so your whole body will cool down faster by applying cool packs there.

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6. Ramp up your fan’s cooling power.

Another tip you can borrow from the ER? “Take advantage of evaporative cooling,” Healy says. “Folks cool off more quickly when you combine misting with cool water and a fan. So set yourself up with a cheap spray bottle in front of your fan, and spray away!” Any of these stylish, high-powered fans will do the trick. And if you don’t have a spray bottle, making a DIY ice fan will create the same cooling mist effect (and remind you of childhood memories at Disney World). 

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

7. Place your fans strategically in your home.

In addition to creating a table fan and spray bottle setup, you’ll want to place box fans in just the right spots. Plus, you can set a fan by the window and change its blade direction to blow hot air out during the day and cool air in at night if the nighttime temps are cooler outside than inside.

8. Add extra shades to your windows. 

Entek, a heating and cooling company, has several great solutions for cooling off your home, some of which don’t require any installation. Our favorite? Heat-blocking shades. A blog post from the brand says that reducing the sunlight coming into your home is the most important by the afternoon, so be sure to close up your blinds by lunchtime to help prevent your home from heating up. If you don’t want to invest in heat-blocking shades or need relief ASAP, you can also try car shades in a pinch on the windows. 

9. Turn off home appliances whenever possible.

Another great suggestion from Entek is to power down your appliances — laundry machines, dishwashers, and even hair appliances — when you want to cool down the home. This means that it’s best to save those to-do list items for early morning or nighttime when it’s cooler. Similarly, if it’s hot outside, try making a dinner that doesn’t require turning on the oven. (Hello, sushi, sandwich wraps, and salads!

Credit: Duck Brands

10. Seal cool air inside your house or apartment.

Cool air can rapidly escape through gaps in doors, and to prevent that problem, Kelly Maughan, a spokesperson for Duck Brands, suggests using the company’s double draft seal, which works for interior or exterior doors. The foam inserts can easily be cut to fit any door frame, and straps hold the seal in place. “Plus, the dark gray fabric liner complements most home décor and is machine washable (and pet friendly!),” Maughan says. You can create a seal around your windows, too, by using a weatherstrip seal, or, Maughan says, using a roll-on window insulation kit will create a barrier between the outdoor air and your interiors.

Credit: Photo: Shutterstock, Graphic: Apartment Therapy

11. Try an apartment-friendly portable AC unit.

Ranging in size, capacity, and price, portable air conditioners can be moved from room to room and don’t require permanent installation, making them a great fix for many apartments, according to New York-based AC experts Neptune Air Conditioning, Inc. Ready to buy one but don’t know where to begin your search? Check out this handy portable air conditioners guide, with prices starting at $41.

Remember, these fixes alone might not be enough to stay cool when the temperature is dangerously high outside or the temperatures in your home are affecting your ability to be comfortable. Young children, pregnant women, and the elderly are at even greater risk for heat-related illness. “If you are overheated and start to feel dizzy, nauseous, or experience muscle cramps, please call your doctor or visit your closest ER as soon as possible,” Healy says.