Your HVAC system may be the first line of defense against summer heat, but it also burns up quite a bit of energy, so you may wish to turn it off every so often. Or there might be a problem that puts you out of air conditioning for a few days. Worst-case scenario, you don’t have an air conditioner at all.

Here are some tips for beating the heat without running your HVAC system all summer long.

Run fans. Ceiling or box fans can move the air, making your skin feel cooler even if the temperature remains the same. If you have a ceiling fan, set it to rotate counter-clockwise to push cool air down to the floor.

Don’t cook inside. Fire up the grill, make a salad or eat out. As temperatures rise in your oven, they also heat up the house. Running the dishwasher and laundry machines, using the stove, bathing (without using ventilating fans) and leaving lights on also contribute to heat gain. Limit these activities to the cooler times of day, like mornings or evenings.

Cover up the windows. Large windows, especially those that face south, soak up the sun and the heat if not shaded, experts say. Keep your windows covered during the heat of the day.

Open up the house. If it’s cooler outside than in, open up doors and windows. When heat and humidity rise, close the house.


Install an attic fan. A powerful fan installed on a roof or through and exterior wall into the attic pulls air up through the attic and out of the house. It’s an effective way to draw heat out of the home.

Use insulation wisely. Your attic is a big heat attractor. As heat rises and builds up in the attic, it pushes back into the home. By effectively insulating your attic, you cool down the home, improve the attic structure and help the roof last longer. Don’t overlook ridge and soffit vents, to allow heat to escape.

Reflect heat with a radiant barrier. Radiant barriers in your attic inhibit heat absorption.

Go underground. Your basement is the most natural geothermal cooling system of all! If you have a basement, head downstairs to cool off, where it may be 10 degrees cooler than the main level.

Plant a tree. Strategically placed landscaping cuts down how much heat enters your home. Tall, full trees that block sunlight on the east and west sides of your home will limit heat gain inside.

Use a window unit. OK, this is a bit of a cheat on the “no A/C” thing, but a window unit can really cool down a second-story room that gets a lot of heat and not quite as much HVAC power.


Paul F. P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie’s List, a provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services.