Two summer’s ago, we bought an old house without air conditioning. Our last apartment had central air but all our previous ones, and the house I grew up in did not, so this is nothing new to me. Most days are fine: I dress lightly, the dog finds a shady spot to sleep outside, the cat retreats to the basement and we all stay fairly comfortable throughout the day. I’ve gotten pretty good at keeping the house cool the old fashioned way, without air conditioning, even during this recent heat wave.
The main part of the trick, is to resist the urge and instinct to open the windows when it gets hot out. This won’t cool the house during the day, it’s only going to let more heat and humidity in. What you do is open the house up in the evening, when the sun is low and the air starts cooling off, but you don’t just fling every window and door open and hope the cool breeze will find its way in. If your house is a two story, like mine, you start by opening all the lower level windows on side of the house with the coolest breeze coming in – for me this often tends to be the back/north side of my house – and all the upper windows on the opposite side. If you’ve done it right, and the wind is in your favour, you should soon feel the cooler air coming in, rushing up the stairs and pushing all the hot air out of the upper rooms. I let this convection current do it’s thing until the house has come down a few degrees and then open all the windows and let each floor establish it’s own cross breeze. I leave all the windows it’s safe to leave open over night and return the house to the convection until after breakfast in the morning. Then I close up tight! On really hot days, when the house starts getting stuffy, I’ll run the furnace fan a little bit to circulate some of the cold, dehumidified basement air upstairs. During heat waves, like the one we just had, when it doesn’t get cold enough at night to return the house to a starting temp of 21-22°, I’ll be very careful not to create any unnecessary heat or humidity inside the house. That means showers are short and cool, laundry and dish washing machines are run overnight or not at all and the oven isn’t turned on. We do have a small, old window air conditioner unit in the bedroom – a relic from our tiny one-bedroom apartment days – for when the nights are absolutely unbearable, but as environmentally and budget conscious people, we try to run it as little as possible.
I maintain a comfortable temperature in my house during the summer months just by living the way our grandparents did before air conditioning was invented. All the time, I have friends walk in and say, as I quickly shut the door behind them, “hey! I thought you said you didn’t have air conditioning.” I just smile slyly and say I don’t.
Head to toe ModCloth
(Find my sandals in all colours here)
All photos by me.