How to Stay Cool When You’re Keeping Your House Warm

Fighting outside temperatures is one of the biggest drivers of your electrical bill. Six months ago, I wrote an article on how to stay warm when you’re keeping your house cool. Now that the temperatures are rising and the days get longer, I want to deal with the opposite problem: how to stay cool when you don’t want to crank up your AC (or don’t even have it!)

For a lot of us, tolerating cold is a little easier than tolerating heat. In cold weather, you can always put on more clothes, curl up under blankets, or cuddle up with someone snuggly.

There’s only so many clothes you can shed in the heat, though.

The good news is that there are things you can do to tolerate heat better. Whether you’re trying to save some money by nudging the thermostat higher or lacking a functioning AC unit, if you Adjust your house, clothes, and behavior just a bit, you’ll be comfier even as the heat rises. 

Acclimate to the Heat

Summer seemed a lot cooler when I was a kid. Now maybe that’s due to global warming, but I think a lot of it was due to the fact that I spent all day outside. Now that I’m an adult, I spend a lot more time in air conditioned spaces all summer.

You may not have much control over the temperature at work, but your warmer house will feel more comfortable if you spend less time in air conditioning. Run the AC less in your car. Spend time outside during the summer, at least during the cooler parts of the day. If you’re using air conditioning in the cool of the morning, your body is going to have a much harder time with the noonday heat.

Dress for the Weather

There’s a time for tank tops, sundresses, and bare feet, and it isn’t January (at least north of the Tropic of Cancer.) As your house warms up, though, it’s time to take off shoes and socks and expose a little skin, at least when you’re out of the sun.

In the summer, fabric matters. Wear lighter clothes instead of heavier, looser clothes instead of tighter, and natural fibers instead of synthetics. If you’re going to be spending time outside, try to avoid dark colors that absorb heat.

Make sure your shoes are appropriate for the weather, too. If you can’t go barefoot, try sandals or ventilated shoes.

Don’t forget to change your bedding, too. The sheets and comforters that felt so cozy in winter may not work for warmer weather. Lightweight cotton or linen sheets work best, by themselves or with a very light blanket. You may even want to pick up a buckwheat pillow, which absorb less heat than most.

Use the Drapes

The warmth of the sun can raise the temperature in your home a lot. That’s great on a winter’s day, but not so great in July. Use drapes, blinds, and curtains to keep the sun out and to help insulate your windows so that cool air doesn’t escape.

When the sun goes down, though, consider opening up the house, especially if you have screens. You’ll feel better if you can circulate some fresh air into the house when the temperature allows.

You can also keep your house cooler for less by shutting off rooms you don’t use. And if you haven’t already switched out your incandescent lights for CFLs and LEDs, go ahead. Incandescents generate heat as well as light, while LEDs and CFLs burn much cooler.

Fan Boy

A fan in a really hot house is only going to blow hot air around, and won’t make you that much more comfortable. But a fan can help you move cooler air where you can best use it in the house, and that makes it a valuable resource for keeping your cool.

We use ceiling fans, window fans, and an oscillating floor fan in our home at different times and for different purposes. Our ceiling fans move air around constantly. Turn them on at a low speed, and they’ll keep the air moving in the house. (Just make sure you’ve switched them from your winter settings.)

A window fan works to bring cool fresh air into the house during the evening or early morning. Finally, we use an oscillating fan to augment our AC in our family room while we watch TV.

One thing we’ve talked about but haven’t done is install a fan in our attic to draw the hot air out. While it’s a little more of a project, it would help keep the house a lot cooler.


How to Stay Cool When You're Keeping Your House

Drink, Drink, Drink

If you want to stay cool, you need to stay hydrated. That means drinking plenty of cold water. There’s also evidence that warm drinks like tea can help you stay cooler. Either way, as long as you drink plenty of fluids, your body should be able to better regulate its temperature.

Stay away from carbonated drinks and alcohol (or at least alternate them with water.) Due to the sodium and alcohol, they’re unlikely to contribute much toward hydration and may make you feel worse.

Eat for the Weather

Fruit and vegetables are often at their peak in summer, so take advantage of all that seasonal goodness to eat more produce. You’ll feel better with lighter fare like salads and grilled fish than you will with heavy foods like stews and casseroles.

Use your grill. Cooking inside generates a lot of extra heat in your kitchen. Cooking outside means less heat for your AC unit to have to counterbalance. You can also generate less heat by eating more uncooked foods, cooking in your microwave or convection oven, or using self-contained appliances like rice cookers.

On the other hand, you might try chilling foods a little more often. Popsicles are a fun treat, but frozen grapes and berries can also be delicious frozen treats. You can try making banana ice cream by pureeing bananas and freezing them for a healthy treat. You can even add your cold leftover veggies into salads.

Eat less, too. Eating too much will tend to warm up your body temperature and make you feel sluggish.

On the other hand, don’t be afraid to add a little spice to the mix. There’s a reason so many equatorial cuisines tend toward heat…consuming hot peppers makes you sweat, which cools your body.

Get Wet

Take a warm shower to feel fresher and cooler.

What? Not a cold shower?

A cold shower will shut down your sweat glands, so while you might feel briefly cooler, it won’t help for long. A warm shower, though, will rinse you off without compromising your body’s cooling system.

Other things you can do to cool off (besides hitting the pool) include soaking your feet, using a cool wet towel on your face or back of your neck, and putting ice in front of a fan to build a makeshift air conditioner. Even wetting your clothes a bit can help make you feel much cooler.

Go Elsewhere

If you don’t want to crank up your own AC during the hottest parts of the day, consider going somewhere else to cool off. Going to the pool is fun and good exercise.  You may also find those really hot hours of the day a good time to go to the library, do your grocery shopping, or check out a second-run movie house.

No, it won’t work forever, but it may give you some breathing space to keep you comfortable. Remember, your AC works hardest during the hottest days, and if you can turn the temp up a little bit then, you’ll save more money and not be taxing your system when it is least efficient.

Stay Cool

Hot weather is coming, and it’s time to start preparing yourself and your living quarters to help you stay cool. But you can go too far.

When Jon lived in Orlando, he managed to get pretty acclimated to the heat. He didn’t even run his air conditioning very much Even his neighbors noticed. One of them told him ” You’ll never get a wife if you don’t turn on your AC.”

As his wife, I can tell you that’s true. At least for me, there are some days you need some air conditioning even if you have to go somewhere else to get it.

Remember, too much heat can cause serious health issues. Do what you can to stay cool safely with minimal air conditioning, but if all else fails, turn on the AC. 

29 thoughts on “How to Stay Cool When You’re Keeping Your House Warm

  1. I usually take hot showers all year round. I never understood why my friends would enjoy a cooler shower in the summer….

    What are your thoughts on energy efficient windows? Have you installed them at your house?

    Thanks for sharing, have a good one.
    Erik @ The Mastermind Within recently posted…My Money StoryMy Profile

    • We don’t have energy efficient windows, though we’ve talked about it. At the moment, I’d rather have a few more window screens…we only have a couple of windows we can open without letting the bugs in.

  2. I’m probably different from most people – I tolerate heat much better than cold. I love it when my toes stop going numb in the spring! 🙂

    All fantastic tips. We use them all – we rely on the drapes and fans the most. Since we keep the thermostat pretty high in the warmer months, the ceiling fans are life-savers at night.
    Amanda @ centsiblyrich recently posted…How to use reminders to develop better money habitsMy Profile

    • I do better with heat than cold, too, but still have my limits. If the house gets much above 82-83, I feel uncomfortable these days. I’m not sure how I handled unairconditioned dorms in my youth.

    • We like windows open (or doors, where we have screens) at least in the early morning. Jon still tolerates heat better than I do, but i do okay. Which was a good a couple of summers ago when we had to do without ac for a week til Jon could get a new compressor and install it. (that’s when we really had to use the “get out of the house” method. I think the temps were in the high 90s that week.)

  3. I tend to prefer heat. That being said our house is pretty well insulated and generally if we circulate the air from the basement to the rest of the house it stays fairly cool. One notable exception is our sun room. Those windows are essentially open if we’re in the room. Picture a giant magnifying glass and your the ant.
    FullTimeFinance recently posted…Why I do not use a BudgetMy Profile

    • That would be awesome during the winter, but not so comfy in hot weather. That said, sounds like a nice bright room to enjoy. I wish we had a bit more window to our house.

  4. We’ve noticed a big difference after installing a ceiling fan in our living room and we don’t crank up the A/C as much. I know I should change my bedding in the summer but I just can’t adjust to a light weight blanket. I like the feel of a heavier weight.

    We can’t leave our windows open as much as we’d like to. Fresh air makes Groovy Cat nuts. He jumps up to the window sills sniffing and whining.. It takes hours for him to calm down.
    Mrs. Groovy recently posted…Dad’s SocksMy Profile

    • Having fans in the main room you use can make the house a lot more comfortable.

      I didn’t like the lighter weight either until I had Little Bit, so I completely understand. We do pack away the flannel sheets and blankets during the summer.

      I picture your cat, and i’m giggling. It’s probably less funny when you live with it.

  5. Nice suggestions, Emily! I can tolerate cold weather much better than heat and I live in Texas 🙂

    We have pretty good insulation and the utility bill has been pretty reasonable. In peak summer months (June, July, August) A/C is a necessity in Houston, at least for me.

    You bring up a great point – spending more time outside and getting acclimatized to the heat would certainly help.
    Michael recently posted…Passive Income Dividend InvestingMy Profile

    • I wouldn’t want to go without AC in Raleigh either, but I don’t mind keeping the house on the warmer side, especially during the day. That’s where the programmable thermostat can really pay off.

      It can be hard to spend a bunch of time outside if you work inside (or even for the school kids.) I’ve noticed that in hot weather, my daughter’s class stays inside. It’s a shame, because she’s in school pretty much all summer.

    • Yeah, if you can avoid air conditioning where you can (like the car) and when you can (like mornings), then you need it less overall. If you’re in it all the time, it’s a lot harder to avoid. Thanks for coming by!

  6. In the summer months my wife and I spend a lot more time in our basement. It’s significantly cooler and much more pleasant which allows us to save a bit of money. We also try to go for walks outside so that when we come back that it doesn’t feel nearly as hot inside 🙂
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…Are Collectibles A Wise Investment?My Profile

    • Getting outside is a really good idea. So is spending more time in a basement, which can be so much easier to keep cool.

  7. Love the warm shower reminder–it’s similar to running cool water over frozen hands. Most people think you’d need warm or even hot water but that’s a recipe for skin burns if your hands are too cold!

    I opt for lighter clothing and take a few blankets off the bed this time of year. Pretty soon it will be time for A/C but we are pretty good about not running it constantly. Plus, having The Nest thermostat has really helped our utility bills.
    Willow @ Miter Saws and Mary Janes recently posted…Credit Card Debt: How I Paid Off $18K in Less Than 8 MonthsMy Profile

  8. It’s summer here in Australia, and boy is it hot! I’ve kept the AC on for weeks straight, and I don’t like it. I usually like to keep the windows open so that the air circulates. I find keeping the AC on and windows closed causes germs to remain in the house (which is maybe why I’ve been sick over the past few days).

    • Yeah, I always feel healthier when we can get a little air into our house too. We try to leave at least the bedroom window cracked, even though that’s less efficient from a heating or cooling standpoint. Thanks for coming by, Troy.

      • If it’s hot during that day I’ll close the windows. My house is made of double layered brick, so it’ll stay warm during the day even if it’s hot outside (as long as it’s not TOO HOT outside). THen I’ll usually open the windows at night and let some of the cool air in.

        • Sounds like a smart, efficient house, Troy. And yeah, there are probably some days when we should seal up everything tight, at least in the hottest parts of the day.

    • Yeah, it doesn’t feel too comfortable to fill up on most comfort foods on really hot days. Grilled meat and veggies, smoothies, etc work pretty well.
      I don’t know that AC feels awful. We get 100 degree days here, so some days it’s just a necessity. But there are a lot of reasons to try to minimize it…financial, air quality, more time outside, etc. thanks for coming by, Francesca.

  9. Hey, Emily. Great post. Another thing we do is shut down our gas fireplace for the summer. It’s amazing how much heat the pilot light throws off.

    • Good call, Mr. G. I’m hoping to get Jon to write a “Summerize your Home” post and I’ll try to get him to put that on it.

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