AC Broken! How to Cool Down House & Keep Yourself Safe Waiting For Repairs
The short answer is there are dozens of ways you can keep yourself comfortable and cool when your air conditioning systems breaks. From taking cool showers to keeping window blinds closed, this list will give you everything you need to beat the heat without AC.
The summer heat feels like it's rising every year, and with it comes the worry that our AC unit might break down at the worst possible moment. There's no substitute for ensuring that your HVAC system is well-maintained by booking regular inspections - AC units are simply the best way to beat the heat.
However, it's worth being prepared if the worst, searching for local air conditioning repair, should happen. For that reason, we've put together this comprehensive guide on keeping cool without air conditioning.
Heat-Related Health Risks
The first thing we worry about when the AC goes out is the discomfort. "Sticky" isn't a word most of us like using to describe how we're feeling, but there are much more serious risks to a broken air-conditioner than this.
The most common and dangerous consequence of overheating after your AC breaks is heatstroke. This is an illness that results from your core body temperature rising to 104F, although symptoms can begin before you reach this critical threshold. Some common signs and symptoms of heat stroke include:
- Hot, dry skin
- Heat racing
- Feeling of weakness
- Passing out
Extreme heat is relentless. It can drive your internal temperature up within hours or over several days; the important thing is to take steps to mediate your body temperature to stop it from climbing too high.
If left unchecked, heatstroke can be fatal. Even if it doesn't kill, it can cause serious internal damage as your body simply isn't designed to operate at these temperatures. Therefore, knowing how to stay cool without air conditioning is essential for keeping you and your family safe if the AC goes out when the mercury is on the rise.
How to Stay Cool When Your Air Conditioner Breaks Down
Below we've assembled 37 of the best tips and techniques for cooling off. We've included whole-house strategies to protect your family from the sun's rays as well as a few tricks for helping individuals cool down fast. Ensuring that your loved ones understand these techniques can help them remain at a safe temperature even when you're not around - everyone needs to know.
Here's what to do.
1. Keep blinds closed
The less direct sunlight gets into the home, the better. Keep your blinds shut to avoid UV light passing through windows, as this won't just overheat your body - it also carries long-term health risks.
2. Blackout curtains
Heavy blackout curtains help to block light from filtering in, which keeps your property cool. Use cooling curtains in conjunction with opening windows at cooler times of day to keep the temperature down in your home.
3. Close doors to unused rooms
The less space you have to keep cool, the better. Don't waste the cool air you let in in the early morning by spreading it all around the home if you're not going to be using a room; keep it where you need it. If the main area of your home heats up, you might also want to move to an unused room where there's been no body heat radiating all day.
4. Coldwater washcloths on neck and wrists
Dousing washcloths in cool water and placing them on pulse points in your neck and wrists helps mediate your blood flow and drive your pulse down. A racing pulse is a common sign that you're beginning to overheat; treat the problem with cold compresses.
5. Drink more water
Drinking more water is mandatory at higher temperatures, but don't go overboard! You need to stay hydrated, but drinking too much water also carries health risks.
It's best to drink cool, plain water if you feel extremely hot - ice water could shock your body.
6. Use box fans
A box fan is a brilliant investment. They're cheap and don't use too much energy. It's best if you can avoid keeping it on when you sleep (put it on a timer if you need the cold air to help you rest). In general, it's a great way to keep your core temperature down and you should have one around for each person in your home.
7. Spend time in your basement (if you have one)
Heat rises! The basement is probably the coolest part of the house. Kitting your basement out with energy-efficient light bulbs is also a great idea, as some light bulbs give out a lot of heat.
8. Use cotton sheets at night
Cotton is much cooler to the touch than polyester and most other fibers used for bedding. Cotton sheets help you stay cool and sweat less, meaning you won't be rolling around in a warm, damp bed. Yuck.
9. Wear loose, lightweight clothes
Oversized, lightweight sports shirts are an excellent choice as they don't get heavy with sweat and won't cling to your body. This lets heat emanating from your body escape rather than getting trapped and warming you further.
10. Create your own AC (Fill a bowl with ice and position it in front of a fan)
A DIY air conditioner using a fan and a mixing bowl full of ice cubes works surprisingly well. This also means you can use a lower power setting on box fans, protecting your electric bill.
Bonus tip: use larger ice cubes where possible, as they take longer to melt.
11. Make sure ceiling fans are set counterclockwise
When your ceiling fan is set to rotate counter-clockwise, it pushes cooler air down rather than up towards the ceiling. This helps keep the room cooler and you can place your chair or bed under the fan for constant coverage.
12. Take a cold shower
Again - if you're overheated, don't jump into freezing water. A cold shower will lower your internal temperature but it's best to start with a cool, comfortable temperature and move to cold water gradually. Cold showers are also much more effective if you spend more time under them - they're no use if you keep jumping back!
13. Control your body temperature
Cold baths will gradually lower your internal temperature as you sit in them. Make sure you don't get too low - dropping below 95F will result in hypothermia, which is no more fun than heat exhaustion. However, it's a cheap and easy way to feel cooler.
14. Turn exhaust fans on
Your exhaust fan will extract warm air - this is especially important if you're cooking! The whole room heats up when you cook as the heat circulates. Get it out as soon as it starts rising. Also turn bathroom fans on, especially during a shower.
15. Sleep on the lowest level of the house
Downstairs rooms experience cooler temperatures at night, making it easier to sleep. This also means you can open up the upstairs to let the night air flow through unimpeded by doors.
Read Also: How to Increase Airflow to Second Floor
16. Use a fan to push hot air out at night
Aiming a fan at a large, open window is an effective way of blowing hot air outside. This should be used along with another open window that lets cool air in - it's a tried and tested strategy to keep your home cool.
17. Spend time at a friend or family member’s house
There's a lot to love about the balmy summer air - when you have the option of escaping to a nice, cool home. Visiting someone else's house to enjoy the benefits of their AC means that you can appreciate spending a little time outside in the summer heat without it oppressing you.
18. Spray cold water on yourself
Keeping a (well-sanitized) spray bottle of water is a great fix. Simply give yourself a spritz when you're feeling warm.
19. Open windows at night to let cool air in
Opening all the windows at night and shutting them during the day to trap the colder air inside is Warm Climate 101 stuff. Opening windows during the day often lets the heat inside and mean cooler air escapes; it's at night when the temperature drops that you want to open up your home.
20. Grill outside vs. cook inside
Find or create a shady spot in your yard and fire up the grill! This means you're not generating hot air in your kitchen and you can also eat outside - cooking and eating indoors radiates more heat into the home.
If you'd prefer not to grill, a slow cooker often generates less heat than an oven or stovetop hob.
21. Replace incandescent light bulbs
Changing incandescent bulbs for energy-efficient bulbs or compact fluorescent lamps can significantly reduce the (already wasteful) heat output of your interior lighting. This is especially useful at night when you're trying to get cold air inside; it's no good if it's immediately being heated by inefficient lighting.
22. Make sure insulation is in place
Updating the insulation in your loft and walls is vital to keeping your house cool in summer. When was the last time you had it checked? Maybe it's time to upgrade your insulation.
23. Add weather stripping
Weather stripping around doors and windows makes the "windows open at night, closed during the day" trick that much more efficient. It doesn't take long and it's well worth it.
24. Use large appliances at night (clothes dryer, range, dishwasher)
Trying to keep your electricity usage down when the weather heats up is a great idea. If you have to use a larger appliance, use it at night when it won't add to already overwhelming temperatures.
25. Purchase a dehumidifier
Humidity makes the effects of hot weather feel so much worse. Again - who wants to be sticky? Removing moisture from the air can make it seem more bearable.
26. Buy insulated window films
Insulated films can reduce the amount of heat that gets through the window. Using them alongside blackout blinds or curtains creates a strong line of defense.
27. Eat smaller meals
Large, hot meals can significantly raise your internal temperature. You'll also feel more sluggish - keep them small and mix in a refreshing salad!
28. Don’t sleep in warm pajamas
Lightweight cotton pajamas are a much better choice than polyester. Alternatively, sleep in less - just have consideration for other people you share your living space with!
29. Create a cross breeze
A cross-breeze creates a cooling pressure current by blowing straight through your home. If you can force air in on one floor and out on another, this cools as much of the property as possible.
30. Find cool activities outside the home
Consider visiting a swimming pool or paddling in a nearby lake. Alternatively, sit in a shady part of your yard and read a book.
31. Sleep with a cooling pillow
A chill pillow uses a type of cooling gel to help you cool down overnight. It's a much better choice than a dense, fluffy pillow that will absorb your body's heat and unlike an ice pack, it won't leave condensation in your bed. However, ice packs are also a great way of cooling a bed.
32. Unplug unused electronics
Electrical items give off background heat. They're also costing you money by running when you're not using them. Switch them off and unplug them.
33. Eat frozen treats
Cooling treats like ice pops are a treat for the kids but can help you cool down as well! Some people enjoy frozen fruit on cereal, while frozen peas are a cooling savory option.
34. Keep your hair wet
Wetting your hair with cold water can keep blood vessels in your head cool and reduce the risk of headaches. You shouldn't keep your hair permanently wet, but regular rinses are a good option.
35. Park your car in the driveway (engine heat will rise to a room above your garage)
Your car keeps producing heat for a while after you've turned the engine off. Let it cool off outside.
36. Focus cooling just one room
If you're working from home, try to ensure that your study will be as chilled as possible at the start of the day. The most important places to cool down are those where you'll spend the most time.
37. Ice bath for feet
Choose a bowl, basin, or bucket that you won't miss. Throw down some ice, put your feet in, and throw down some more ice to cover them completely. Just remember to go to the bathroom before you get comfortable.
Call ARS/Rescue Rooter to Restore Your Air Conditioning
When your own air conditioner isn't working, these strategies are lifesavers. Our tips are designed to keep you cool without AC, but we all know that there's no substitute for the real deal - that's why you should call ARS/Rescue Rooter immediately if your AC has gone out for swift, professional restoration.