How to Survive a Heat Wave With No Air-Conditioning

The temperature has been over 90° every day this week—finally hitting the 100° mark yesterday. But, as we say in Indiana, it’s not the heat…it’s the humidity! The “feels like” reading on my weather map has been over 100° all week.

Yet, our central air hasn’t been on all summer.

We typically leave the air off until after Memorial Day, relying on spring breezes to keep us cool. This year, the hubby totally cheated and tried to turn it on a week early—only to discover that it was blowing hot air! Since, we (well, I) had been fine all month, we didn’t do anything about it right away. Our budget couldn’t handle another hefty repair bill, like the one we had feared.

Then, it got hotter. And, more things in our life attacked the budget. So, the air conditioning continued to be at the bottom of our priority list. A few weeks ago, the heat finally got the best of me, and we borrowed a few window units from my brother and his wife. I’m grateful for the loan, rather than jealous that they’re currently enjoying newly installed central air!

The only cool part about our situation (ha ha! Get it?), is the electricity bill. Our usage is way down, without the air running all day. Today, though, I finally broke down and called someone out for an estimate (hooray for payday!). However, I plan to continue using several of these tricks, to keep our electricity bill under control even if we do get the air running again. (Fingers crossed!)

No oven: I use the oven as little as possible in the summer anyway, but with no air it is OFF! As an ambassador for George Foreman, I use my indoor grill a lot these days. Since it cooks both sides together, resulting in dinner in half the time, it isn’t running long enough to make an impact on the kitchen temps. If I need to bake or cook anything at all, that goes in the toaster oven—smaller area, less cook time, less heat in the kitchen. We do a lot of cold meals, as well, like leftover grilled chicken salads, sandwiches and wraps.

Water, Water, Water: Keeping hydrated is important. Luckily, we already drink a lot of water, but I have tried to up our intake a bit now that it’s so hot. I’m probably drinking 100 ounces per day right now—and ice cold from the fridge, rather than the room temp water I normally grab. The girls need to be reminded a bit to grab their water, but they’re always right on top of it as soon as it’s mentioned.

Water Play: And, of course, there’s more to summer water than just drinking it! Wednesday was a hot one, so I sent the teen to the aquatic center, the tween to a friend’s pool and setup an old baby pool in the backyard for my 5-year-old. We also have sprinklers, water guns and water balloons for the girls to play. Not only does it keep them cool, but I get to be the awesome mom who says yes to those things.

Stay Indoors: If we’re not getting wet, we’re not outside. If our unair-conditioned house isn’t keeping us cool, we head to the library where there is AC, lots of books to read and free wifi so I can still get my work finished. For fun days, we would choose the Children’s Museum or bounce house with AC over outdoor options.

Shade: We keep our thick drapes closed throughout the day, so the sun has to work a bit harder to warm the rooms. There is also a heat control film on all of our sun-facing windows—that dropped our utility bill significantly when we first installed it years ago. If we really must go outside, I consider shade when choosing a park. It’s hot enough out in shade, so we’re not about to stand outside in the sun! I’m also fitting my runs in at sundown, which helps a little bit.

Stay Where It’s Coolest: We placed one window unit in our bedroom, and one in the living room. We leave our bedroom door open and all the other doors closed, to get some air into the hallway & stairs (not to mention the laundry area, where our washer misbehaves in the humidity). During the day, we’re hanging out in the living room, where the girls are sleeping together at night.

Because the family that sweats together, stays together. Or, something like that.

What are your favorite ways to stay cool this summer?


  1. says

    My mom recently told me about how they would wipe down their bedsheets with a damp washcloth before bed on hot nights. Sounds pretty refreshing to me!

    We haven’t been w/out air this summer, but we have made an effort to keep our thermostat set a little higher than usual. It’s almost always at 77 or 78 but we turn it down to a chilly 75 when it gets too hot.

    And we’re just like you! You’d think we live in a cave with the way we keep all the shades shut all day. :) But, hey, if it works, why not!

  2. says

    This is my first year with central air and I’m becoming spoiled. I keep the thermostat set pretty high at 79, but it’s so nice not to have to worry about reaching the high ’80’s indoors. Last year I remember freezing wash cloths and freezer cubes and sleeping with them. I’m glad I don’t have to do that anymore. ;)

  3. says

    I grew up with no air conditioning because of low income, and we made our own redneck water coolers by placing large flat pans in front of each window fan or room fan. As the air blows across the water it cools down the temperature of the room by several degrees. We also pulled down the blinds and closed the curtains on sunny sides of the house. Early mornings we opened all the windows and let the cooler breeze in until it began to warm up, then again in the evenings when the temps dropped.

  4. says

    Yeah, our a/c has been out (read: can only be fixed by being replaced) basically since we purchased our condo last year. We did our best to try to keep cool (including keeping our shades drawn as much as possible, like you mention above), but we eventually caved in and purchased a used portable air conditioner of off craigslist. We saved a good chunk of money by doing it that way (as opposed to buying a new portable unit), but I suppose we’re just staving off the inevitable by not ponying up the cash to replace the rooftop unit.


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