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5 ways to cool your house without central air

For when summer is blazin'

A blue fan spins while a woman sits on couch drinking water Credit: Getty Images / Maryviolet

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Just like last year, Summer 2021 is expected to bring record-breaking heat, according to The Old Farmer's Almanac. Even if you think you can handle hot weather, expect this heat to creep into your home, whether you live in an apartment, a cottage, or an estate.

This is the kind of heat that will have most of us relishing the arctic breeze that air conditioning provides. Especially if you don’t want sweating indoors to become your new norm.

Central air conditioning may be your ideal route to a cool house, but there are several other effective options to explore. It’s worth mentioning that according to the Environmental Protection Agency, central air is the third-largest end use of energy in the home, making it hard on your electric bill and far less energy-efficient than cooling methods like portable air conditioning units, dehumidifiers, sun-blocking shades, and window tints. Keeping your home at an ideal temperature for the season is a first step.

And, if you’re in the market for air conditioning alternatives, here are a few tips for keeping a cool house during a heat wave.

1. Bring down the dew point with a dehumidifier

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Humid air can make a home feel much warmer than it actually is.

If heat and humidity are common in your region (New Orleans, Houston, Orlando), a dehumidifier is essential for creating a cooler space. Dehumidifiers remove water vapor from the air, leaving you with drier air that naturally feels cooler than humid air. Don't overlook other benefits you’ll get with dehumidifiers, too, like the elimination of common allergens.

2. Turn your home into a cool house with fans

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A powerful fan can make a world of a difference during a hot summer.

Debating between buying a new air conditioning unit or a fan? A solid fan can keep your home cool, while also being significantly more energy-efficient than air conditioners.

One tried-and-true way to help hot air escape is by creating a cross-breeze from two open windows on opposite sides of a room. This airflow pushes cold air in and warm air out. You can also achieve a cross-breeze effectively by opening up the chimney or a window on your roof. Known as the “chimney” or “stack” effect, this allows hot air to naturally rise out of the home, while cool air pushes through floor-level windows.

Make sure to maximize the effectiveness of a ceiling fan by setting it to spin counterclockwise—this sucks hotter air up higher and pushes cooler air back down, creating a wind-chill breeze.

For comfortable airflow within your work-from-home space, a desk fan creates a cool burst of local air when you don’t want to run an entire system.

3. Use blinds and window tints to block out sunlight

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Adjusting your blinds throughout the day will properly block sunlight from heating the house up.

Over one third of all sunlight that enters the home is transferred into heat, according to the U.S. Department Of Energy. Fortunately, window blinds, shades, and window tints reduce this.

To block the maximum amount of sunlight, you can adjust blinds to achieve total shade depending on the time of day. Take it a step further with smart blinds, which automatically adjust their angle and can even open and close on a set schedule. This way, you can beat the heat without any work on your end.

A discreet window tint defends you from the sun by absorbing light shining in. Here at Reviewed, we tested window tints in our lab, and we were surprised by how much direct sunlight they block out. As a plus, the tinted film works as another layer of insulation come wintertime.

4. Invest in a portable air conditioning unit

Credit: Reviewed / David Kender

Look for a portable A/C that cools and dehumidifiers, especially if you live in a humid climate.

A next-best alternative to central air conditioning is a portable air conditioner (PAC). By nature of their smaller size, they may seem less powerful, but they can be just as effective in cooling down a room.

Something to consider is that several portable air conditioning units also function as dehumidifiers, so you may want to invest in a multi-functional unit if you live in a muggy climate.

5. Cordon off your cool with a window air conditioner

Credit: Reviewed / Kevin Oliver

If your landlord allows for a window unit, it can help to save space.

A PAC is a solid alternative to central AC, yes, but a window air conditioner takes up a lot less space—which definitely matters if you’re living in a tiny apartment or a home with small rooms.

Window units tend to be more affordable but less portable than PACs, and, once you get it in the window for the season, it stays there meaning that you cannot move it from room to room with ease like you can with a PAC. It’s a factor to consider if you aspire to fill multiple rooms with cool air.

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