10 Ways to Keep Your Cool

I mentioned in a previous post that we don’t use air conditioning.  Some people were amazed because we live in the San Antonio area.  South Texas is not known for its mild summers.  The weather here is hot and humid.  Yes, Houston and south Florida are worse.  So are some parts of the Congo.  And I’m sure it was worse in your neck of the woods that one year back when you were 14.

I used to look with awe at friends who did without a/c.  I used to think I could never do it.  But what would I have done if I were born 100 years ago, or even 50?  Died?  Revolted, and run the streets in the nude?  I like to think I could have coped.

We ditched the window units last year in an effort to cut costs.  They really weren’t efficient or terribly effective anyway.  Yes, they kept the inside cooler than the outside, but didn’t keep it really comfortable.  They were also very noisy, and a hassle to run – always freezing up, and the filters needed very frequent cleaning since they ran 24/7.  They also didn’t last long – we were replacing them nearly every year.

So we made the plunge.  We took them out, bought a few more box fans, and opened up the house.

Last year was a doozy of a year.  We had record highs.  Daytime temps stayed over 100 for an eternity, and my memory tells me that nighttime lows were hardly better.  It was a long, hot summer.

But we acclimated.  I won’t say we didn’t mind the heat, but we did adjust.  At the beginning of the summer, we complained about temps in the mid 80’s.  By the end of the summer, the low 90’s were comfortable.  We just dreaded the afternoons that broke the 3 digit mark.

We reminded ourselves and each other that everyone used to live without a/c, and many of them wore far more clothes than we did.  Modern Americans are whiners.  This was uncomfortable, but not true suffering.

This year has been much milder.  I’m not sure we’ve even broken that all-important 3 digit mark yet, though the normal temp hovers in the mid to high 90’s.

Having said all that, here are some of the things we did to minimize our discomfort:

  1. Wear less clothes. This looks different in different households, but for us this means that when we’re home during the summer we often wear long shorts and a sleeveless top.  Last summer we spent much of the time in our swimsuits – modest ones, but lighter and scantier than our normal daily wear.
  2. Save your shower for midday. My morning shower has migrated toward the midafternoon, a lovely time to rinse off in a cool shower.  This probably saves us money since I’m using less hot water.
  3. Use ice. We drink a lot of ice water.  Before we started making our own ice, we were spending $30-50 each month on bagged ice!
  4. Frozen drinks. Lunch is often a peanut-butter/banana smoothie, made with frozen bananas.  I’m also partial to homemade frappuccinos.  The kids enjoy a koolaid slushie nearly every afternoon in the summer.  Our blender is earning its keep!
  5. Cool your head. It’s a well known fact that the human body loses much of its heat through the head.  We take advantage of this by keeping our hair damp during the hottest part of the day.  A cool wet rag on the back of the neck is heavenly as well.
  6. Cool your heels. The human body also gives off a lot of heat through the feet.  We stay barefoot most of the time, and I love to dip my feet in cool water.
  7. Hurray for kiddie pools. I love having a kiddie pool on the deck!  The little ones can swim whenever they want, and we big people can swish our feet and splash our arms and legs.  Instant comfort.
  8. Cook outside or not at all. We rarely use the oven during the summer.  We cook with a crockpot, or an electric roaster – OUTSIDE.   We grill.  We eat salads.
  9. Use the stovetop sparingly. Did you know that pasta and boiled eggs will finish cooking if you bring to a boil, cover and turn off the heat?  No need to keep the burner on for 10 minutes, heating up the house.  White rice will cook this way too if you have heavy-duty cookware (I don’t).  Experiment.
  10. Be aware of other heat sources. We turn off lights and computers when not in use.  We don’t use an electric dryer.  When I had carpet, I refused to run the vacuum during the heat of the day.  Even fans generate some heat, so we turn off the ones that aren’t being actively appreciated.

And a bonus tip:

  1. Find the breeze. Moving air feels cooler.  If you don’t have a natural breeze, use fans.  If you don’t have a fan, resist the urge to collapse on the couch in a corner of the living room.  If the air isn’t moving, move yourself to create a breeze: get up and take a walk across the house.  Putter.   Check if it’s cooler outside, and find a nice place to sit in the shade.  We eat dinner outside nearly every evening because the house takes a bit longer to cool down.

Yes, it’s nice to be in a perfectly controlled climate.  I prefer the mid 70’s with low humidity and bright, indirect light.  I like to hang out in places with a/c.   But contrary to popular opinion, the human race can live without air conditioning.

Sure, we sweat, but once I resigned myself to sweating it just wasn’t that bad.  After all, just a generation ago nobody would have dreamed of calling air conditioning a necessity, no matter where they lived.  It was a luxury, if it even crossed anyone’s mind.

Wants vs. needs.  Isn’t it strange how easily we confuse the two?


  1. We’ve yet to turn our a/c on this summer in an attempt to save money. I was wondering how hot it actually gets in your house? We live in a mobile home, which seems to hold heat a lot worse than a traditional house. We’re in Missouri, and I don’t think it’s been over mid 90’s here so far, but inside has topped off at 95, with high humidity, and it’s bound to get higher. I’m not concerned for myself or my husband, but we have 4 small kids (oldest is almost 5, youngest is 7 weeks), and I’ve worried about them getting too hot. The room our 17 month sleeps in doesn’t have a screen on the window, so we’re unable to even open the window, and it’s noticable warmer in there. And we don’t have much shade around our house either. Have you ever had concerns of it being too hot for your kids, and at what temp did you start to worry?

  2. mamachildress says:

    Are you guys still doing no ac? If so, how are you coping with being pregnant and the heat?

    We live in Northeast Texas and our ac is slowly dying. It freezes up at a certain point and just won’t cool anymore! We do have ceiling fans in almost every room. I am thinking we need one in the bathrooms too! ha ha ha!

    Being pregnant with our 11th baby…. like, 29 weeks pregnant…. I am HOT!
    Just wondering if y’all were still without ac.

    Janet…. mamachildress

    • Mamachildress, we’re still doing the no-ac thing, with one small exception: a few weeks ago we put a tiny window unit in our bedroom that we turn on for a few hours each evening to cool down our room. I feel like a cheater, but our bedroom is on the west end of the house with 2 exterior walls. Late in the day it is *much* hotter than the rest of the house, and doesn’t cool down on its own nearly as quickly as the rest of the house.
      But acclimation does wonders, and after several years we just don’t mind the heat much as long as we can dress for it and the air is moving a little.

  3. Mary Beth says:

    Ahhhhh, such interesting timing for me to come across this post! 🙂 Our family is heading to the San Antonio area next week to stay for a few months. We live in the San Francisco Bay Area and have had an amazingly cool summer (only a few hot days sprinkled about). Every day that we’ve sat outside eating our lunch and dinner we are just savoring the coolness . . . because we’re gonna die out in TX!

  4. Baking bread in your roaster – why didn’t I think of that? I can probably figure it out, but do you have a post on it somewhere? 🙂

    Regarding a/c, we use it now and enjoy it (my husband says he would not be in FL without it) but in 2003 we went over half the year without it because our electric bills were skyrocketing. We have propane stoves, dryer, and solar water heater, but the a/c was running straight for 10 hours a day! So we turned it off – I was pregnant with #7, and she was born in June. We purchased about 5 box fans from Walmart, and the children practically lived in front of those all summer – we taught them how to use a wet wash cloth to cool off then sit in front of the fan. We had some heat rash issues, but dealt with that. We took 1-minute “rinser” showers often. The final straw for my husband was when a leather holster got moldy… “that’s it!” he said. “We’re turning the a/c back on!” I think this was September – 3 weeks later the unit died – I don’t think we got it replaced until January.

    In God’s providence, this all ended up being great practice for the 2004 hurricanes, when we were without power for 22 days during one, and 11 days for the second one. One fun thing we implemented during that time was the bucket shower before bed so the children could sleep. We’d get a 5 gallon bucket of water from the pool, and dump it over each child before bed. They were allowed to whoop and holler as loud as they wanted! (I think we just swabbed a sopping cloth over the youngers…) Then we just patted them enough so they weren’t dripping, and they got in bed with a fan on them.

    Thanks for helping to dig up these memories! 🙂

  5. Posts like this are proof positive that people shouldn’t live south of the Ohio River….of course it will be snowing in just a few months.

  6. Sigh…..I seriously cannot imagine living without our AC, although I do give it more than a passing thought every time we get our electric bill!! My husband, who is toughened from growing up on a farm and now works in one of the skilled trades- outdoors- for many weeks of the year- thinks that summers really and truly are getting more humid and unbearable. He’s used to me griping, but when I heard HIM talking about it the other day, it really gave me pause. Maybe it’s as hot as it’s always been, but I don’t remember it ever being so miserable when I was a little girl. It seems to be getting worse everywhere.
    My inlaws used to tell me about the summer of 1936. That year broke all kinds of records and many of them still stand to this day. They used to tell me about how people slept outside on their lawns because it was just simply unbearable in the house, and how many people died that summer from heat-related fatalities. I have health problems, as do some of my children, and I often wonder what would happen to us if we had to live without AC. I hope I don’t ever have to find out!

  7. Hi Kim,

    Have you heard of a “whole house fan”? My parents have one, and it works great. We’ll get one eventually…it’s a fan mounted in the ceiling and through the roof, and when the temp is cooler outside than inside (evenings) you turn it on with all the windows open, and it pulls in the cool air from outside, pushing the hot air from the house out through the roof. It can cool off their 1200 sq. ft. ranch house beautifully in about 15 minutes.

    But we’re in Wisconsin, and it really cools off in the evenings here. Not sure if Texas does.

    Do you have AC in your van? We drive older cars and it seems the AC is one of the first things to go, AND the most expensive to have fixed, so we do without. We’re used to it, but it’s hard to talk to each other with all the wind from the open windows!

    Great ideas on keeping cool. I do our bigger cooking and ALL of the baking in our basement. We do have a kitchen down there, but anyone could put a second stove in the basement. Works well!

    • We have a/c in our van, but it’s so ineffective right now that we usually drive w/the windows down. I agree about the noise level, but the kids in the back get too hot when the windows are up!
      I’ve heard of attic fans, but your parents’ fan sounds different. We’ll have to look into that. Thanks!

  8. Catherine says:

    I know Marcus would never give it up. After tours in Iraq where it gets up to 140+ in the sun and 120 in the shade and acu’s that do not breathe and over 100lbs of army gear….so yea there is nooo way. but kudos to ya”ll!0

  9. wow, this hit hard for me this morning. Our AC needed repair this last week and it was 90 degrees inside! I am six months pregnant and thought I was going to die. We live in North Texas and have no shade trees.The worst part was the repair of $600, and we still have the power bill coming. You are an inspiration.

  10. Bernie Morgan says:

    er, you don’t lose more heat through your head.


    Sorry, it’s just my uncle was involved in the research for this one and he bores / mentions it quite frequently.

  11. we have an ac in our bdroom because my hubby works in a steel mill and its always 3 times hotter in there,the heat here in western pa has been hot, some days inthe 90,s.he needs relief when he comes home from the 10hr work shift.we only run it for that purpose.

  12. Yep, no AC here either, for the same reasons as yall. We live in NE Texas and have an old (built in 1902) colonial style home. They built them back then for no AC which helps. Transom windows, tall ceilings and lifted off the ground about 3 feet (which holds alot of cool air that seeps through the floors in the summer and helps a bunch) (Winters are cold though!)

    I think your right, the kids dont mind it much at all and neither does my husband. One thing I learned this summer is that if my electrolights get low I will get a horrible headache…so I drink lots of gatoraide.

    Another trick is wetting your shirt.

    My mechanics wife dropped my car off the other day and said “how in the world do yall cool a house this size?” I laughed and said, “we dont”

    We also dont use a clothes dryer or a dishwasher which helps on electricity. Just little things to help save.

    I loved hearing that you dont have an AC, makes me feel a bit more normal,

  13. I’m with Holly. For me, it’s a NEED. I can think of lots of other things I would rather give up! And we live in Maryland–otherwise known as Hades this summer!! I hate the heat! I would take February year round!

    I admire your determination and I’m thankful God hasn’t asked this of us quite yet! 🙂

  14. Thank you for all of the suggestions. I find that heat bothers me more than it used to now that I’m in the hot-flash season of life

    In an attic apartment where I lived for several years I found it beneficial to use a side-by-side set of fans in a window, one pulling air in and the other pulling it out. My mother has a fan in her attic that pulls hot air out of the house. It seems quite useful there, but my husband doesn’t think it would be suitable for our house.

    I used to sometimes apply rubbing alcohol to my skin to cool off, but a doctor told me to stop doing this because it puts a strain on the liver, similar to drinking a lot of alcohol.

  15. I’m a swamp creature. Born in Louisiana, been in Florida for 23 years, and I wouldn’t mind a bit going without A/C. A couple summers ago, the A/C in my car died, and I refused to have it fixed because I just didn’t care. I actually consider anything below 75*F cold, and I always have to take a jacket with me when I go somewhere because anyplace with an A/C (and that is EVERYWHERE) seems to set it somewhere between “frostbite” and “freeze to death.” I do run the A/C at home, but mostly just to remove some of the humidity (black mold is NOT my friend); I keep it set in the mid-80s. Until hubby comes home and complains, that is. I think it’s pretty funny that he’s so proud of having been born in Florida and lived here all his life and he doesn’t want to handle the heat. It was absolute bliss to return last month from chilly San Francisco and step out the airport doors into Home Sweet Sauna! High 80s even after dark and humidity above 70%–beautiful!

  16. Having an HVAC technician for a husband, I’d be in trouble for even mentioning getting rid of our central air! He works in attics most of the summer, sometimes in temps as high as 150 so to come home to another hot home is out of the question. Being 9 mos. pregnant i won’t argue!

  17. tarynkay says:

    We have no AC right now. This has been a very long, hot summer for us- it got up to 105 a couple weekends ago. I keep ice bottles in the freezer- just fill old plastic bottles with water- and when the heat gets too bad, I take these out and hang onto them. You can put a bunch of them in front of a fan, too.

    When we were in Morocco, they drink hot mint tea all day, even though it’s a million degrees there. This sounds crazy, but it bizarrely works to cool you down. When you drink ice water, your body has to warm it up in order to absorb it. We really didn’t want to drink hot tea, but we had to to be polite, and we were shocked that it seemed to help rather than making us hotter.

    If it’s possible, naps in the middle of the day are a genius idea and invented for places like South Texas. Sleep when it’s hottest and stay awake and get stuff done at night and in the cool of the morning.

    We also open up the house at night, but keep the windows shut and the blinds drawn during the heat of the day. We insulated the attic recently, and that helped SO MUCH, so if you haven’t done that, I highly recommend it. Making your roof reflective or even just a light color helps a lot, too.

    People living in housing traditional for the area in which they live can get through w/o AC just fine (floor to ceiling windows, overhangs, and breezeways in Florida, adobe in the desert) but people living in apartment complexes in the middle of seas of asphalt in Phoenix- I don’t know if they actually can. 105 is one thing. 120 on the other hand- you could actually get heat stroke at that level. The invention of AC have led to the building of housing without enough operable windows to get a decent cross-breeze or overhangs to keep the sun from beating in, etc. Enough asphalt leads to the creation of it’s own weather system, too. Atlanta is heat island b/c of this, for example.

  18. Kim C,
    We had to take the Baby to the emergency room, because he was not breathing. I truly thought he was dead (and he is number 5, so the ER believed me). After two days in the hospital they found nothing wrong with him, they think it might have been a seizure. But, no one really knows. I do live in a house with black mold, so I do certainly think *that* is a big problem too. But, I could not rule out the heat factor.
    However, if you are in TX, and your kids are ok, then I guess that the heat was not the problem.

    Now, another question for you – are you buying bread right now? I turned off my A/C last night (not because of this post, but because of the black mold built up in the A/C unit!). And, now there is not a morsel of bread in my house. I dread the idea of baking bread. So, please tell me that this too is just a acclimation issue… right?


    • Bethany,
      That’s terrifying! I’m so glad he was ok!
      We do bake our bread still, but often in the roaster outside. If we do it indoors, we usually do it early while it’s still relatively cool (cool = 80 or less). But we also eat a lot of store-bought tortillas, because I don’t like to bake bread when it’s hot. 🙂

  19. sillygeese says:

    I don’t think that living without a/c is any different than camping. With that said my dh does not camp, but my girls and I do. When our a/c went out last week I set up a few fans and opened all the windows. Dh couldn’t sleep but everyone else was fine. He wanted to go to a hotel for the night, but got shamed into staying home when I pointed out that he was the only one complaining.

  20. Great post. People ask me a lot how we can afford so many kids (we only have 6) and it all comes down to priorities.

    I would secretly love to ditch the A/C, too. But I’m not ready just yet:P

  21. We turned on our a/c when the house was about 94 (indoors). We were worried about the six month old. How do you keep the littlest ones cool? I know my baby can crawl around half naked, but he got so hot in his bed that he got sick.


    • Bethany,
      Are you sure it was the heat that made your little one sick? Mine have never had anything worse than a little heat rash now and then on the worst days.
      I have found that little ones are much less bothered by heat than we are. They have proportionately more surface area so can dissipate their body heat better than we can. This means they are more prone to getting chilled than overheated.
      And running around in nothing but a diaper certainly helps! If you truly think your baby is overheating, try water: my toddler was sick and feverish the last couple of days, so I used a damp rag to wet her hair and skin.

  22. I am amazed at how many people pay over 200 for their electic bill. I use the dryer, dishwasher, and we keep the ac at 76. We live in a 2100sq. ft. home. My lowest bill was 90 and my highest bill has been 135. So kim just being nosy Do you pay less than 100 for your electric bill? I was just curious.

    • April,
      Our bill is always over $100. I’m sure a large part is the water heater, plus fridge and fans. Our house is small and well insulated, but running 3 small window units brought it over $200, and with space heaters during our short, mild winters the bill can top $300 in January and February. Maybe the cost of electricity varies considerably, or maybe our household just uses that much more for the basics.

  23. Hey there, I live in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and this summer has been the hottest one in ages with plenty of humidity to go around. This afternoon as the tots and I were out and making our walk around the neighbourhood, I got to thinking about how incredibly warm it was and instead of being whiny or disgusted by it (as ever so many Islanders seem to be) I delighted in it!!! I was outside with my kiddos and I didn’t have mitts or hats or boots on and I wasn’t freezing cold!! Our summers here are short so why shorten them further by complaining about the heat we’ve been aching for all fall, winter and spring?!?!

  24. I’ll stick with A/C when it is available. We’ve done without too when it was broke, no money to fix and pregnant to boot. I would rather give up other things to make a/c happen. Ex: we don’t have tv, buy new things, or have memberships to the pool/gym, we eat basic foods, we use cloth diapers, etc. Everyone just has to pick what is worth it – for us it is a/c over lots of things. 😉 And going to bed sweaty would be gross! Talk abotu causing more laundry – eww.

  25. A/C units aren’t the only thing people didn’t have 100 years ago. I live in South Florida. Years ago I would leave the windows open to allow the breeze to cool the house. But once the excessively tall condo buildings began lining the beaches, the breezes disappeared and the heat became more and more unbearable. People want to live on that prime real estate, but it has affected the climate for everyone. Our a/c went out last year during the month of August, and my husband actually slept in the car because he thought he would have heat stroke. Believe me, I would much rather live without the a/c, but I can’t see how.

  26. Faith Maldonado says:

    We live in an old house with crappy windows that can’t be opened. 🙁 I used to take several cold showers a day in the summer to keep cool. Then a good friend of our told us about an amazing machine.
    Now we usually keep our house at about 85 now. AND DON’T SWEAT!!! What’s our secret? Dehumidifier!!!!! At about $200, it’s be best thing anyone can ever buy!
    (and a cool miday shower is also a LIFESAVER!)

  27. I think about this a lot. Our electric bill was over $400 last month. We have two central AC units AND a window unit in our bedroom (big house, high ceilings, hard to cool). When I get out of my car in the Walmart parking lot I’m blown away by the heat and every time I think about the pioneer women who built this great state. I read The Worst Hard Time last year about the Dust Bowl that hit this part of the country and how difficult daily life was. We’ve become so weak, well, I speak for myself. When we go to our ranch we spend a lot of time on the front porch and as you said, we don’t use the ovens in the summer or use the lights during the day. I guess we adjust. We drink more and sit in the shade and appreciate the breeze. I’m not ready to take the plunge to no AC in town yet, but maybe baby steps of raising the thermostat a little.

    I commend you! Way to go! It frankly amazes me that anyone in this country goes without AC.


  28. We put sheets in the freezer on those unbearly hot nights to help get to sleep. As a child my folks would even dampen the sheets (but not freeze them). I hate hate humidity. I sweat like a stuck pig! My head/hair is the worse. I look like I’ve just come out of the shower after a few minutes work-quite embarrassing at times. Any tips on how to control that?
    Enjoyed this post.

  29. We’ve done both and are using the a/c less and less but Holly’s comment totally makes me laugh!

  30. Lois Groat says:

    Thank you. I weary of hearing people’s shocked comments when they find out we have no air conditioning, and no intention of getting any. We live in Michigan, for goodness sakes! Yes, we are very very hot for a few days each summer. This year we have been very very hot for many days. To that I say, “Yay!” Do you know how freezing it is around here in the winter? How about ENJOYING the wonderful seasonal differences here in the wonderful state of Michigan?

  31. I’m impressed–we lived in Phoenix until a year ago, and the temps regularly top 115 degrees. I know older people who lived in Phoenix before A/C was standard, and I know they did survive, but I always wonder HOW. We kept our A/C running all the time, but usually only to around 82 degrees, used many of the same tips you just gave, and we were still hot!

  32. Air conditioning is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy!

  33. Enter the cowboy essential-The Bandana. Tied firmly but loosish (looseish?) up, on the neck-wet or dry-keeps perspiration from irritating skin and making a heat rash. Very stylish.

  34. We live in Ontario, Canada so it is cooler but this summer looks set to break temperature records. We have lived in 4 other provinces and air conditioning in them is much rarer. Here everyone talks about the humidity and how they can’t live without a/c. We have never had air conditioning. Most years there are only 3 or 4 days when we wish we did (when the temp doesn’t drop at night to allow a comfortable sleep). I have a few other tips to consider. Keep the blinds or curtains closed on the sunny side of the house to keep the sun from heating up the interior as much. Planting trees on the sunny side helps shade the house. Spend more time in the basement – if you have one.

  35. What a great post! We live in Phoenix, Az. It gets mighty hot here and each of the last few summers I have been pregnant. But this summer I decided since I wasn’t ( yet 🙂 ) I would turn the AC up and see how warm we could handle it being. So far we have cut our electric bill by a couple hundred dollars and no one has melted – me included. What a wonder!

  36. Ugh. Do I have to assume that my husband’s desire that we use our window AC less (if at all) combined with your timely (and excellent) post is the Holy Spirit’s gentle nudge toward ditching our AC?

    We’re only in PA. I am not currently pregnant or nursing an infant (once a day with a seventeen-month-old hardly counts for much). I am just a total wimp. Officially.

    Thank you, though. As always, you are an inspiration 🙂

  37. I am in the UK too and our summer at the moment has me wearing a cardigan most days!
    One way that I cope with hot days is to get up early and do everything that needs to be done first thing in the morning. Then in the afternoon when it is hotter I laze about with my girls and a paddling pool safe in the knowledge that the basics have been covered.

  38. Of course, ppl with medical conditions and the elderly, etc. do need a/c, if at all possible. Some ppl really can’t live without it.

  39. You’re exactly right. We survived without AC the first summer in this house (100 yrs old – hubby completely gutted and remodeled it). It was the hottest summer in northern IL in years – I realize that’s different than south TX, but we’re tougher in winter 🙂

    And I was pregnant! So that really made me “suffer” – but you’re right, we survived.

    Now that we’re moving to TX (Dallas is much cooler than San Antonio, isn’t it?), you’ve got me thinking on ways we can save money….

  40. In the UK practically no-one has a/c in their houses although we do in cars. Having said that we definately don’t get the sorts of temperatures that you do.
    I wanted to share with you a few tips that we used in my parents house in the South of France. They have shutters on the windows and keeping the windows and shutters shut as soon as the outside temp gets up to the inside temp and only opened again when it cools in the evening. really makes a difference. To try it you could hang a split bamboo blind outside your windows.
    Just about all the French houses have shutters of some kind and it works for them!
    Of course my parents also have a swimming pool which has to help 🙂
    The only other thing we have resorted to during one heatwave (a laugh compared to yours I am sure) in the babies room when it got to 30 degrees one evening was to place bottles of frozen water in front of a fan which cooled the room by 3 degrees – not much but fairly essential for a feverish 6 month old.
    Looking forward to hearing any other tips….

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