A summer without A.C.? 9 ways to stay cool and save

The no air conditioner challenge.

I’m not jumping on that bandwagon, but apparently there is one blogger who thought it would be a neat challenge to see if survival through the summer with an A.C. is possible. Not so secretly, I have my answer.

I do know, however, that I am willing to hold out longer than most. Until my teen years, we did not have central air conditioning in our family’s home. There were wall A.C.s that my mother despised turning on because they were inefficient and expensive. Instead, she opted for the box fans in the windows (a cooling method that still can put me fast asleep on a lazy summer afternoon) and later ceiling fans.

Undoubtedly, there are ways to keep cool — rather, cooler — if you forgo air conditioning. That makes me wonder: Is the A.C. a luxury or a necessity?

Block The Sun

Pull the curtains together and close the blinds to protect the room for the scorching summer sun. That doesn’t cost you a dime.

Turn on the Ceiling Fan

Of course, the fan will drop the temperature faster — and keep it there — fairly quickly. It’s a lot cheaper than dialing down the thermostat.

Wear Cool Clothes

If it’s hot in the house, throw on a tank top and shorts instead of sitting around in blue jeans and a warm shirt. Just thinking of being over-dressed in an already warm house makes me hot.

Turn Off the Stove

Does anything heat up a house faster than baking a chicken or making lasagna in the oven in the middle of the day? In addition to eating lighter foods, cook during cooler parts of the day.

Take Cool Showers

No one is suggesting you turn off the water heater (something my mother does daily until 15 minutes before it’s time to use hot water). But, you’ll feel better with a slightly cooler shower.

Eat Ice Cream

Here’s your excuse (if you needed one) to eat ice cream, popsicles and frozen yogurt.

Read A Book

This is one borrowed from the Frugal For Life blog. It makes perfect sense to me. Staying cool is about the temperature, but it’s also a state of mind. Thinking cool thoughts and learning to just chill out will help you relax and not get your body heat worked up.

Turn Off the Lights

In my house, at least, light bulbs generate heat. I’ve replaced some bulbs with energy efficient ones and they don’t seem to have the heating effect that regular bulbs do.

Enhance the Breeze

I could never figure out whether it was cooler or hotter with the door open. We grew up with a screen door and sometimes it let in a cool breeze. Other times it just allowed more hot air to blow in. If the A.C. is off, let cool air come in through open windows. But, if it’s too hot outside, you might be better off keeping the heat where it belongs.

Join The Crowd

If you wish, join the Frugal For Life followers in the no A.C. challenge. As for me, I’ll do all of the important things to save money on my bill, but I’m unlikely to through the summer without turning on the air conditioner.

Follow me on Twitter @atlbargains and on Facebook at AJC Atlanta Bargain Hunter

22 comments Add your comment

Hot and Sweaty

May 27th, 2010
4:31 pm

I didn’t go completely without the AC last summer, but I put off turning it on as long as possible and turned it off as soon as the weather cooled a bit. Ceiling fans and being on a lower floor apartment helps.


May 27th, 2010
4:43 pm

I live in an old house from 1925 and we’ve held out on using the AC except for the hottest days. Fans keep the air circulating well. As the previous owner nailed the windows shut except one (we live in a neighborhood that might be best described as “in transition”), we try to let cooler air come in through the back door when we can. The thermostat is set at 82. To tell you the truth, after working in an overly cool office all day, it’s a nice change to have a slightly warmer house.


May 27th, 2010
4:51 pm

Living in Colorado, the “dry heat” does make the breeze feel nicer at times. But hot is still hot. I can understand that you do what you can in the Atlanta area as the humidity is hard to fight against.

Thanks for the link and your thoughts Rana!


May 27th, 2010
4:52 pm

My AC is actually broken & until I can get it fixed I am living w/out AC for a while, I open the windows & sliding patio door to let air in & use ceiling fans & other fans that I bought. So far I haven’t been too
extremly hot, only last Sunday when the temp outside was almost 90 degrees! In the evenings when I get off work it’s usually fine, I open the windows & turn on the fan. I will be getting my AC fix ASAP though! I don’t think I could make it through July & August w/out AC.


May 27th, 2010
5:13 pm

Do you consider indoor plumbing, electricity or an automobile a luxury? At one time all were considered a luxury. For most of the world’s history mankind went without. What was once a luxury is now a necessity.


May 27th, 2010
5:22 pm

Like kt, my experience in “doing without” started with a broken A/C— over a holiday weekend. Rather than pay emergency rates for repair, I made do. Read an article at that time that suggested you open windows (if it’s safe to do so) any time the external temp goes below 77. I spent many nights last summer with the A/C off and the windows open. Was very comfortable except on extremely humid days.


May 27th, 2010
5:22 pm

A luxury compared to heat in the dead of winter. Though as I get ancient, I do like having AC but lived long w\out it. Your ideas ring true, another is to soak and wring the bedsheet so that it is dampened with the fan blowing over . And the older houses with a white roof and shade trees do much better than the McMansions with no crossventilation set in a cowpasture.


May 27th, 2010
5:52 pm

I’ve done without for years but after getting into a relationship, I’ve had to go back to A/C. The wife will simply not do without A/C. However, she has adjusted to being more conservative. Overhead fans are used, a fan to pipe hot air out of the kitchen is used while cooking, etc.

I personally like going without A/C or at least using it frugally because it helps one feel in tune with the seasons and also when one goes outside, the shock of the weather is not so great.

It’s just more natural.


May 27th, 2010
6:14 pm

We never had a/c until I was 16. We had an attic fan that was pretty cooling…it pulled air in through any open window. We also had floor fans in each bedroom. We WERE lucky enough to have a backyard in-ground pool which kept us kids cool and occupied through the summer months. I am now 61 y.o. and I live on the 3rd floor of a large house. Needless to say, the a/c barely touches that level of the house. I do have a window unit, but rarely use it. I have a ceiling fan and a floor fan, and use those 99% of the time. I’ll turn the window unit on for about 30 minutes before bedtime to cool it off…after which it goes off, window is wide open, and both fans keep it cool. It’s all in what you can tolerate and/or get used to.


May 27th, 2010
10:15 pm

I’m trying out the Georgia Power Nights and Weekends this summer. You’re supposed to get a lower rate off-peak and a higher rate on-peak. I’m hoping the money side will motivate me to tough it out. The only problem is that we are home all day (i.e., on-peak). If it gets bad enough, we’ll head out to the library (but not the mall… that’s not frugal!!). Right now, we’ve got it set to 82F more or less…


May 28th, 2010
10:35 am

When I lived in FL w/o AC,I used to take a cold shower at night and soak my head before I went to bed. Also, wear as little as your sense of propriatory allows.

I tried living without ac recently but as someone reminded me, my animals can’t take remove their fur at will. I could have them shaved but it’s more traumatic for them and not cost effective.


May 28th, 2010
4:15 pm

I’ve had no A.C. for the past 7 years its not fun. Defainatly take cooler showers it helps a lot and if there is a breeze outside have the fans blowing in if there is no breeze and its hot as H-E-double hockey sticks have the fans blowing out so you blow out all the hot air


May 30th, 2010
10:49 am

Does that include driving without a/c too?


June 1st, 2010
2:49 am

I did not know what ac was until I was grown and left home all we had was window fans and the old window fans sounded like a plane taking off. Then you knew you would be cool soon. It was great THEN but now no way, my ac went out last year and I would have done anything to get that fixed. The way houses are built today they are so well insulated that a box window fan is almost useless. My attic fan and a lot of cold showers got us thru the week until the AC guy arrived.


June 17th, 2010
1:39 am

I ony use small window unit in bedroom and other than that use spritz bottle of water in front of box fan. Too bad and I go to library and read or check my eyelids for dust..


June 17th, 2010
1:41 am

Cool/cold rags applied to inside of wrists do wonders…

Southern Opinion

June 17th, 2010
6:38 am

Used a whole house attic fan and everything in the house mildewed. Now I have cathedral ceilings with ceiling fans; does great till the humidity kicks in. My electric bill (all electric) was $46 for May 7 – June 7. Makes me a little mad that they add an “adjustment” charge of about $4. My house is really hard to keep warm in winter though. Do you remember – a nap on your momma’s bed on her chenille bedspread with a fan blowing on you? Great – and then you woke with the imprint of the bedspread on your face. That was the life!!!!!

uga dawg

June 22nd, 2010
5:51 pm

Frugalady – Be careful with the Nights & Weekends plan with Georgia Power!! It is a scam, not really as they advertise. They still add the fuel charge, which means off peak you’re saving a little more than a penny per kilowatt hour, and on peak you are paying more than double per kilowatt hour.

Teacher who shops when he can afford it

July 28th, 2010
9:50 pm

AC is set on 80º and the bill was $69.98 for 30 days –can yesterday. I am total electric with a heat pump in an old brick house. As long as the cat is curled up, I know he is not too hot. She has learned to sit under a ceiling fan–me too. I have other things I want to do with my $$.


July 28th, 2010
10:08 pm

My son has no AC or heat in his house because it is broken and he cannot afford to get it fix. He is making the most of in this weather we are having doing all the things mentioned below. At least he has a roof over his head and the rest will come. A thankful option in the state of the economy.


August 23rd, 2010
1:42 pm

I called ahead, so I know about the fuel charges too so I don’t consider it a “scam” (those have nights & weekend rates too, but you have to sign up separately). My 2 bills so far have been a little better than “break even” compared to the regular rates, but that is with extreme conservation. My temp is set to 81F between 2-7pm and 78F for an hour right before my husband comes home. We are home all day (stay-at-home over the summer and homeschooling now). I can make it work, but am not willing to make the sacrifice next year just for a few dollars.


September 13th, 2010
10:48 pm

I have saved so much on the Nights and Weekends program-I never want to go off. My bills are close to half of what they were last summer, and I had cut those bills in half from the summer prior by setting the thermostat higher.

I do not run my air at all from 2-7 M-F. I do not run the dishwasher, the washer, the dryer, or the pool filter. I cook on the stove (I have gas), but I try not to use the oven because it gets too hot. I should also mention I have a gas dryer, furnace and water heater. My on-peak kilowatt usage is generally around 100 in a given “summer” month.

For the first month, I roasted from 2-7, with the temperature in the house getting up to like 96. I was afraid I had made a terrible mistake. Then I got the first bill, and it was over $50 cheaper. So I took a chance the following month, letting the air run until 2, even though I wasn’t home, just so I wouldn’t have a heat stroke around 6. Again, over $50 lower-way lower. And my winter bills are lower, too, and I use a lot of space heaters.

I love this program, absolutely. Love it.