Regardless of where you live, we’ve all been advised by national health experts to stay indoors as much as possible. That was one thing in early spring, when the days were still short and dreary. But with summer on the horizon—it officially begins on June 20, but 100-degree days are already taking place in much of the country—staying inside can take its toll, especially if you don’t have air conditioning.
While some of you might already be sipping frozen margs by the pool, or basking in the cool temps of an AC unit, for the rest of us it’s about to get real hot—and fast.
So rather than spending this summer sizzling away in the heat, we thought we’d come up with a few easy (and mostly cheap) ways to cool down your house. Here are seven clever tricks from the experts to help you stay cool inside this summer.
1. Get a swamp cooler
While this is definitely the priciest solution on our list, it has to be said. If you live in a hot, dry climate, investing in a swamp cooler can make a huge difference in how comfortable your home feels.
“Swamp coolers, also known as evaporative coolers, can produce similar results to what you’d get from an air conditioner,” says Brandi Andrews, founder and CEO of the National Air Warehouse. “When water evaporates and becomes a sort of dry air, the temperature of that air will naturally drop, and once it’s reached the stage of water vapor, the machine disperses this cold air as a way of cooling.”
Keep in mind that, since swamp coolers are adding moisture to the air, they won’t work well in humid heat. (Sorry, East Coasters.) But if you’re roughing it out in the desert somewhere, you just might want to get one.
2. Put ceiling fans to work
Another great way to stay cool this summer is by using what you already have— like your ceiling fans. But are you using them the right way?
“In summer, your fans should be spinning counterclockwise,” says Matthias Alleckna, an energy expert with EnergyRates.ca. “This forces hot air up toward the ceiling, making the room feel cooler.”
Ceiling fans don’t actually cool the room, though—they circulate the air, giving the impression of colder temps. So make sure you turn off ceiling fans in any room you’re not occupying, otherwise you’ll just be heating up your electricity bill.
3. Swap out your lights
Keeping the lights off is definitely the best policy when it comes to fighting the heat, but sometimes you’ll need to have them on—and when you do, it’s best to have bulbs that aren’t making things worse.
“Toss out those old-school incandescent lights, and swap them for energy-efficient ones,” says Marla Mock, vice president of operations for Aire Serv. “Lighting accounts for up to 12% of your energy budget, and those old incandescent lights give off 90% of their energy as heat—warming up the room more than homeowners realize.”
“You’ll see substantial savings, plus have a cooler house,” she says.
4. Cool the room with ice
Yes, you can actually cool things down with a fan and ice, and Benjamin Joseph, co-owner of Liberty Home Guard, explains how.
“Take a box fan, and put a frozen gallon jug behind it, and blow it toward you,” he says.
Much like the wet towel-over-the-fan trick, this little hack will make the air coming from your fan feel a lot cooler, plus you won’t have to keep getting up to wet or reposition a towel.
Since the ambient heat is likely to make your frozen gallon jug perspire, we recommend placing it in a dish.
Another pro tip: Joseph recommends adding a bit of salt to your frozen jug, since saltwater freezes at a slightly lower temperature, making for even cooler ice.
5. Reduce the heat that’s coming in
Another trick to keep it cool inside? Keep the heat out.
“South- and west-facing rooms are the trickiest ones to keep cool,” explains Mock.
Thick, dark curtains with a white reflective backing area (also known as blackout curtains) are the most effective for keeping a sun-facing room cool.
6. Limit your use of appliances
As much as you might want to use these long, hot days to get through your ever-growing pile of laundry, resist the urge.
“Running the dryer, dishwasher, and oven multiple times throughout the day can produce a lot of heat in the home,” says Mock. “Consider minimizing the number of times you do this, or find alternatives that will keep temperatures down.”
Keep things cooler in your house by running appliances late at night (when temperatures drop) and by letting your clothes air-dry on those really hot days.
7. Buy a cooling necktie
A what now? You heard us right. Wearing one of these gel-filled Kool ties can make a huge difference in how comfortable you feel on a blazing-hot day.
“These neckerchiefs are made from regular fabric, with water-absorbing polymer granules inside,” explains Andrews. “Since you absorb so much sun and heat on your neck, cool ties can be quite effective for relieving some of that heat.”
But these magic little neckerchiefs (made by a family in Arizona) aren’t just for the great outdoors. Soak yours in some icy water and sit in front of just about any fan—and then tell us if you don’t feel better.