How to Keep Your House Cool Without AC

Keeping your house cool during hot summer months without air conditioning may seem daunting, but there are many effective methods you can use to beat the heat without breaking the bank on expensive cooling costs. With a few practical tips and inexpensive upgrades, you can keep the temperature down and stay comfortable indoors. We’ll explore useful techniques like strategic shade, insulation, ventilation, fans, and landscaping that can dramatically improve comfort levels. You can survive the dog days of summer without air con if you use smart design and a little ingenuity!

Use Shading Strategically to Block Direct Sunlight

One of the best ways to keep your house cool is to prevent direct sunlight from heating it up in the first place. Strategic shading can make a huge impact:

Install Exterior Solar Screens

Solar window screens are mesh screens treated to block solar radiation while still allowing air flow. They can reduce heat gain through windows by up to 80%. Measure each window and install exterior solar screens on the east, west and south sides of your home to shade it from the high summer sun.

Apply Window Film

Solar control window tints and heat rejection films work like sunglasses for your home. They keep out infrared and UV rays while letting in visible light. Apply them to the inside of west and south facing windows to reflect solar energy before it heats up your rooms.

Install Exterior Shades

Shading windows from the exterior is most effective. Install adjustable awnings, solar screens, shutters, or solar shades on the outside of west and south facing windows. They block sunlight before it enters your home. Close them during the day to keep rooms darker and cooler.

Grow Deciduous Vines

Plant deciduous vines like grapes or wisteria on trellises to shade west-facing walls and windows from summer sunlight. Since they lose their leaves in winter, they won’t block warming light when it’s needed. Train vines up on pergolas too.

Add a Porch or Carport

Shading the exterior walls, windows, and roof with an extended porch, carport, or overhang prevents heat gain indoors. West facing sides of the house need the most shade. Build a covered porch or carport on the west side for afternoon protection.

Consider Exterior Shutters

Close exterior shutters on east and west facing windows during the day to stop solar heat from entering your home. Open them at night to cool it down. Opt for shutters with adjustable slats so you can control air flow.

Install an Arbor

An open lattice wood arbor placed strategically on the west side of your home creates a shaded sitting area outdoors and blocks late afternoon sun from heating up the house. Plant deciduous vines on it for extra shade.

Use a Patio Umbrella

Keep the hot sun off your patio or deck with a large outdoor umbrella. Look for models that tilt and offer full coverage. Close it during the day to shade the house. Open it in the evening so the cool air can sweep in.

Improve Insulation to Keep Heat Out

A well-insulated building envelope keeps hot outdoor air from infiltrating and prevents cooled indoor air from escaping. Consider these options:

Seal Air Leaks

Sealing cracks, gaps and penetrations prevents airflow between inside and outside. Apply caulk and weatherstripping around windows and doors. Seal outlets, pipes, vents and wiring holes. This helps keep your cool indoor air in.

Add Attic Insulation

Properly insulating your attic keeps heat from radiating into your living spaces. Most homes should have at least R-38 insulation. Add extra insulation by rolling out unfaced batts over your existing material. Improve ventilation too.

Install Radiant Barriers

Radiant barriers like reflective insulation behind kneewalls and roof decks block solar radiation before it can warm your attic. This reduces heat transference into your home. DIY install or hire a contractor.

Insulate Exterior Walls

Injecting foam insulation into exterior walls helps prevent heat gain from outdoor air. Hire professionals to drill holes and pump in insulating foam, especially on the west side of your home.

Consider Replacing Windows

If your windows are old and leaky, replacing them with new double or triple pane models will keep more cool air in. Look for low emissivity coatings and gas fills like argon for better insulation.

Add Storm Windows

Interior or exterior storm windows create an insulating air gap that improves efficiency. Install them over existing windows, especially older ones, to boost your home’s protection from heat gain. DIY kits are available.

Insulate Your Ductwork

Sealing and insulating ducts that run through uncooled spaces like attics prevents cooled air from escaping before it reaches your rooms. Clean ducts and apply mastic sealant before wrapping them with insulation.

Improve Ventilation with Fans and Openings

Ventilation allows fresh outdoor air to enter your home and flushes out hot stale indoor air. Boost ventilation with these tips:

Install Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans improve comfort by creating a wind chill effect. Run them on high in a counter-clockwise direction to push down cool air. Have one in every room you occupy so you feel 5-10°F cooler.

Use a Whole House Fan

A whole house fan pulls hot indoor air up into the attic and draws in cooler outdoor air through open windows. Use in the evenings when it cools down. A powerful model can change the air in your home once every few minutes.

Add a Window Fan

Use reversible window fans in summer to pull hot indoor air out while blowing cooler outdoor air in. Install them on the first floor in windows facing away from the street to improve cross ventilation.

Open Windows at Night

When outdoor temperatures drop in the evening, open windows on opposite sides of your home to flush out hot air and let cooler air flow through. Close windows in the morning before it heats up again.

Install Vents Properly

Proper attic ventilation stops heat buildup. Have intake vents low and exhaust vents high so rising hot air can escape. Solar powered vents help remove hot air. Make sure your soffit and ridge vents aren’t blocked.

Use an Attic Fan

Attic fans are mounted in gable end walls and exhaust hot air from your attic, cooling the rooms below. Install a thermostatically controlled fan sized to your attic space and let it run in the evenings.

Consider a Whole House Fan

This powerful fan draws hot air out from your home’s upper level and pulls cooler air in through open windows. Use it at night to flush multiple floors with refreshing air quickly.

Take Advantage of Natural Cooling from Plants and Trees

Strategically landscaping your yard with shade trees and bushes can also help reduce heat indoors. Here’s how to use plants to keep your house cooler:

Plant Deciduous Trees

Trees that shed leaves in winter provide welcome shade from hot summer sun while allowing warming light in during cooler months. Plant them to the west for afternoon coverage.

Add Shrubs Under Windows

Bushes planted directly beneath windows create shade to prevent solar gain indoors. Boxwoods, azaleas and hollies work well. Keep them trimmed so they don’t block your view out.

Grow Vines Up Walls

Vining plants like jasmine and ivy cling to exterior walls and create “green curtains” that shade your home. Plant them near west facing windows and walls to shade late day sun.

Install a Green Roof

Planting beds of drought tolerant plants on your roof covers the surface with evapotranspiring vegetation. This cooling effect can lower indoor temperatures by several degrees.

Choose Light Colors

Painting your roof white instead of dark colors helps reflect sunlight instead of absorbing its heat. White or light exterior siding also stays cooler than dark colors.

Consider These Cooling Lifestyle Tips

Adapting your daily habits can also help your home stay cooler without AC. Try these tips:

Cook Outside

On very hot days, cooking outdoors prevents adding heat to your kitchen. Use an outdoor grill, cooktop or oven instead of indoor appliances. Doing dishes outside helps too.

Close Off Unused Rooms

Keep doors to spare bedrooms closed so you’re not trying to cool unused spaces. Close vents and use a portable fan for your main living area instead of cooling empty rooms.

Avoid Using Heat-Generating Appliances

Ovens, dishwashers, dryers and other appliances output heat when operating. Run them at night when it’s cooler. Microwave instead of baking. Let dishes air dry. Hang laundry outside.

Turn Off Lights

Incandescent and halogen bulbs give off heat. Minimize lighting to keep cool. Use fixtures with CFLs or LEDs that run cooler if you need illumination during the day.

Set Thermostat Higher

If you do use AC, set it to higher temperatures like 78-80°F during the day. Use fans to feel comfortable. Dropping your thermostat just 1° lower increases energy use by up to 3%.

Take Advantage of Lower Nighttime Temps

Do housework and exercise when it cools down at night to avoid daytime heat. Meal prep, clean, do laundry and bathe kids in the evening when your home is cooler too.

Limit Entering and Exiting

Coming and going allows cool air to escape and hot air to enter. Stay put with the doors closed and shades drawn to maintain your oasis of lower indoor temps.

Consider These Small Upgrades for Passive Cooling:

With a little time and investment, these relatively inexpensive upgrades can provide effective cooling:

Radiant Barrier in the Attic

Installing a radiant barrier of aluminum foil layered kraft paper under your roof sheathing blocks solar heat gain before it warms your attic space. DIY for under $300.

Better Attic Ventilation

Proper attic ventilation stops heat buildup. Make sure you have adequate intake and exhaust vents. Solar powered vents help remove hot air. Install a power attic ventilator to actively extract heat.

Whole House Fan

This powerful fan rapidly pulls hot air out of your home and draws in cooler air. Models rated at over 5,000 CFM can change the air every 10-15 minutes on hot nights. Costs around $2,000 installed.

Reflective Window Films

DIY solar control window films reflect solar energy back outside. They lower interior temps 2-4°F by reducing heat gain through the windows. Purchase film and install kits for about $100.

Ceiling Fans

Fans spread cooled air and create a wind chill effect so indoor temps feel cooler by 4-5°F. Add Energy Star ceiling fans with advanced DC motors to bedrooms and living spaces. About $150 each.

Attic Insulation

Properly insulating your attic to R-38 keeps heat from radiating into living spaces. DIY by rolling out unfaced fiberglass batts over your existing insulation for around $1 per square foot.

Whole House Evaporative Cooler

Evaporative coolers blow dry outside air through moist pads which cools it before circulating it inside. This can lower interior temps by 10-15°F in dry climates. Costs $2,500 – $5,000 installed.


How much can exterior shading reduce heat gain through windows?

Extremely effective! Installing exterior shades like awnings, solar screens or shutters can reduce heat gain through windows they cover by as much as 80-90%. Solar control window films also block up to 80% of solar heat.

What is the best color for a roof in hot climates?

White or other light colors are best for keeping your roof cool. Reflective white roofs reflect up to 80% of sunlight rather than absorbing heat like darker roofs do. This cools the attic space under the roof by up to 40°F.

Which direction should I add shading to my house?

Focus on shading west facing windows and walls as these receive hot afternoon sun at the peak temperatures of the day. South facing windows get strong midday sun so they benefit from shading too. East sides get morning sun that’s not as hot.

Should I close my windows during the day in summer?

Yes, it’s best to close windows and window coverings during the hot daylight hours to prevent heat gain indoors. Then open windows at night and in early morning when temperatures drop to let in refreshing cool air. This flushes out built-up indoor heat.

How many degrees can ceiling fans cool a room?

High efficiency ceiling fans can make indoor temperatures feel 4-5°F cooler. The wind chill effect creates by fans’ airflow makes you feel cooler through convective heat loss. Run fans on their highest setting and in a direction that pushes air downwards.

How can landscaping help cool my home?

Strategically planted trees shade your home from hot sun. Shrubs below windows block solar gain. Vines on walls provide insulation from heat outdoors. Evapotranspiration from plants has a cooling effect. Light colored mulch reflects sunlight away from your home.

Which window treatments block heat best?

Exterior solar shades like adjustable awnings and solar screens are most effective at stopping solar heat before it enters windows. For interior window treatments, tightly-woven roller shades offer good heat protection. Close curtains and blinds during the day too.

Can radiant barriers reduce attic temperatures?

Absolutely. By blocking radiant heat in the attic, radiant barriers can reduce temperatures by up to 30°F compared to unprotected attics. This also lowers the temperature in rooms below. Radiant barriers work best with proper attic ventilation.

Should I insulate my interior or exterior walls?

Exterior wall insulation performs better by keeping outdoor heat from penetrating into your home’s envelope. But retrofitting exterior walls is costly. Adding insulation to interior walls also helps if you air seal well first.


Battling summer heat without air conditioning may take some extra diligence and smart techniques, but comfort is still attainable. Focus on shades, insulation, ventilation, landscaping and other passive cooling methods. Your efforts will pay off in energy savings and the ability to maintain a nicely cooled home. Prepare for the dog days of summer by planning ahead and making improvements so that when the temperature soars, you’ll relax in your own oasis of lower indoor temps.