Keeping Cool- Without Fans

Its officially summer and there have been numerous renditions of the same article all over the frugal blogosphere- "How to lower your air conditioning bill this summer", or even some really radical pieces regarding methods of eliminating air conditioning completely, and using a fan instead.
Of course, someone like myself who is so extremely frugal that I cut out my food processor, leave lights off, and even bake in the sun (yes, I got my solar cooker to work again) so I can conserve electricity, is not about to tell you to replace one electricity drain- the AC- with another- fans.

I live without fans for the most part. (My 2.5 year old has other plans and insists on falling asleep with a fan blowing in his face, but thats a sensory issue as opposed to a heat issue, and its only one fan running for a few hours a day.)

Don't think I am able to manage without fans simply because I live in a place that doesn't get too hot. Summer starts here early- in late April already, and temperatures are usually in the high nineties throughout the summer and over a hundred degrees on a regular basis. It gets hot here, but I still manage just fine with no air conditioning and fans only on rare occasions. (True, it is a bit more arid here than some other locations, but when I visit my family at their beach front apartment, it is humid as hell there and I'm still not tempted to use AC or fans.)

How do I do it?

Keeping Cool without Fans (and without AC)

Cool down from the inside out

    Tovolo Yellow Groovy Pop Molds
  • Drink! Most of the discomfort on hot days is due to dehydration, not to heat. If you drink enough, you'll feel much better and be able to tolerate the heat much more.
  • Iced Drinks. If you drink cold drinks, you'll cool your body down from the inside (learned the hard way when I drank ice water when hiking the Grand Canyon in freezing weather as a pre-teen). I've already shared my iced tea recipe and plan on sharing more delicious, homemade, frugal chilled drinks throughout the summer.
  • Ice water. Fill a few bottles half way with water and freeze them. When frozen, fill them the rest of the way with water and you'll have ice cold water instantly. Keep a few in the freezer at a time so you'll have a bottle at the ready when one gets finished.
  • Smoothies. Make refreshing shakes with frozen fruit, for breakfast or throughout the day. Use in season fruit to keep the cost down.
  • Frozen fruit. Buy bananas and other fruit that is reaching the end of its shelf life from the reduced rack. Cut these into little pieces and nosh on them throughout the day to keep cool. My favorite frozen fruit are bananas and grapes.
  • Popsicles. Don't buy the overpriced chemical laden store bought stuff. Make your own with freshly squeezed juice (homemade, of course), frozen homemade drinks or herbal tea, or pureed fruit. If you don't have Popsicle molds, make your frozen treats in plastic cups or ice cube strays with craft sticks, toothpicks, or even spoons as the handle.
  • Ice cream or sorbet. Make your own, ideally. I plan on sharing some recipes soon.
  • Eat summery foods. Nothing makes me crave AC more than a steamy soup on a hot day. Stick to cooler foods like cold soups, salads, and dishes that are tasty cold.

Cool Your Body

    Intex Recreation Swim Center Family Pool, Age 6+
  • Water play. Playing with water is the perfect way to have fun and keep cool at the same time. Do it the frugal way and you will be spending virtually nothing on this keep-cool activity.
  • Water mist. Fill a dollar store or recycled spray bottle with some water, and spray water on your face, hair, and neck periodically. As the water evaporates, you'll cool down. If there is any wind blowing your way, even a hot wind, it'll be even more refreshing. This uses minuscule amounts of water but is as cooling as a dive in the pool.
  • Cold Showers. You're already taking frugal showers, I hope. Save even more money and help yourself cool down even more by taking cold or at least lukewarm showers.
  • Wet your clothes. Consider wetting a shirt, hat, or other article of clothing. In the appropriate setting, of course.
  • Dress for the weather. Light colored airy clothes with natural fibers are the best combination. Light cottons and linens and other breathable fabrics keep you cooler because they allows airflow to get to your skin. Darker colors attract heat more, so stick with the lighter colors during the summer  months. Loose clothes allow air to circulate near your body, cooling you down.
  • Cold compresses. Ice packs, packages of frozen veggies, ice cubes, frozen water bottles, or wet rags placed where ever. Instant cool, ultra refreshing.

Cool Your Home

Esschert Design White Window Frame w/French Doors
  • Don't cook inside. The thing that heats homes the most is cooking food. Ovens especially heat up homes, as do things cooking on the stove top. Solar cook, grill your food, or eat as many raw dishes as possible.
  • Cross breezes. If there is any wind at all where you live, open windows on opposite sides of the house. This lets air flow from one side to the other, giving a nice breeze.
  • Open windows at night, close in the morning. The air outside is cooler at night and warmer during the day. By opening the windows all night and closing them during the day, you'll be able to trap some of the cooler night air inside your house during the warmer hours. If there is wind during the day though, it may pay to keep the windows open even during the day.
  • Cover the windows. Sunlight brings in warm. By keeping your shades and blinds drawn during the day, the sunlight won't be warming your house as much. I do not do this as I prefer to use natural light during the day, but I can tell you that this definitely works and keeps a home much cooler.

By following these tips and advice, keeping your air conditioning off, and only even turning on your fan as a last resort after you've tried all these other options, hopefully your electric bill this summer will be a breeze to pay. (Terrible pun intended.)
If you try all this and still are uncomfortably warm, don't feel terrible about turning on the fan (but continue to hold off on that AC). Within time, your body will adjust to warmer temperatures and you'll be able to withstand high temperatures more and more without air conditioning or even a fan. (I'm writing this post when it is currently 88 degrees outside. I have no fan on and haven't felt the need to do any extra things to cool off aside for drinking cool drinks and leaving my windows open. You adjust to the heat. I'm proof.)

What do you do to keep cool during the summer without breaking the bank?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Love your article!! Shame that it's so old.

  2. Spray all over your body and then fan yourself with a frisbee. DO NOT fan yourself with your hands as that will only make you hotter because you are moving around. sit as still as you can, don't move around. Do something to take your mind off of the heat. read a book or watch a movie.

  3. What if u don't have cold drinks or water?? I'm at church and I'm burning right now.

  4. Great post, really helpful and educative, thanks for sharing and please post more of what should we eat in the winter !

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