How to Stay Cool Without Electricity

With all the heat waves that have been occurring lately this post will give you some tips on how to stay cool when the power is shut down and there is no air conditioning.

Hopefully you have an older home.  New homes are designed for air conditioning; they fail to have good overhangs on the eves and do not have good airflow with the windows open.  If you are in a position to remodel, buy or build a new home, make sure that you have good airflow in your living areas.  By this I mean that with the windows open you will have a cross breeze.

I was in Arizona a while back and I noticed that in many of the new homes many of the windows could not even be opened.  Air conditioning is nice, but don’t depend on it.

The things to look for in a home that will help you stay cool are as follows

  • Good airflow through the living areas.
  • At least 3 foot overhangs on the eves.
  • The home should be well insulated.
  • There should be no air leaks around doors and windows; use caulking or weather stripping as necessary.
  • Energy efficient windows.
  • Louver blinds, cellular shades or lined curtains inside windows.
  • Install sunscreens or awnings on outside of windows.
  • Plant a tree or trees a safe distance from the house to provide shade on the home.
  • A solar-powered attic fan helps home cooling by pulling hot air out of the attic from either a roof vent or gable vent.

Things you can do to help you and your home stay cool.

  • Don’t cook or eat during the heat of the day, eat early or late.  Digesting food takes energy and generates heat.
  • Do not cook inside, eat cold meals or use an outdoor grill or camping stove.  This is a great time to use your solar oven or wonder box.
  • If you have good insulation open your windows at night to allow the house to cool off.  Then close your windows in the morning and the house should stay cooler during the day.
  • Keep your blinds or curtains closed as long as the sun hits them.
  • Limit your physical activities to early morning or late evening, the more you move the hotter you will get.
  • Dress in light loose cotton clothes, perspiration in cotton clothes can create an evaporative cooler effect.
  • Drink plenty of water.  Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.
  • Get a solar powered fan.
  • When outdoors keep your head covered, have a good wide brimmed hat.
  • Wear a water soaked bandana on your head or neck.
  • A friend who lives in the Sonora Desert said that prior to getting air conditioning; he often slept on a cot outside under a wet sheet.
  • If you have a basement, you may want to consider sleeping in it, since they normally stay cooler.
See also  Biohazard Facilities, Their Locations and How this May Affect you

While these are all good things to help you stay cool, the biggest factor will be to allow your body to acclimatize to the heat.  Remember many people lived happily before air conditioning.


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9 thoughts on “How to Stay Cool Without Electricity”

  1. There is ongoing drought and heat in the western US and jet stream blocking patterns coming from global warming are increasing in frequency, see debate between US climate scientists Jennifer Francis and Kevin Trenberth on the exact nature of this.

    Heatwaves have already increased in length and max. temp.; this will worsen. Note that night time temperatures are staying higher than they ever did. This is directly relevant to survival:

    In France in summer 2003, ca. 30,000 people above normal mortality rate died from heat. They were disproportionately elderly. They died in the night in hot apartments: deliveries of dead/dying to hospital were at night time. Doctors noted that humans need some respite from daytime heat to recover. There was no respite.

    The elderly and babies cannot regulate body heat well.

    That is why “how to stay cool” in this article appears to be an understatement. I rephrase this as “how to avoid dying at grid-down.”

    In CONUS but also elsewhere, basements and outdoor cellars are perhaps seen only from the standpoint of tornado protection/root cellar/nuclear shelter functions. This can be a fatal error.

    Suggestion (which I have read but not yet tried):

    Any homeowner with babies or elderly on his watch but no basement or outdoor cellar should

    – dig a trench on the north side of the house in N.Hemisphere. It should be as long as a person, with a sloping crawl ramp at the foot end. The trench should run north-south to minimise insolation.
    – make the trench 60 cm deep and only as wide as needed to fit a person
    – place a big beach or sauna towel over the trench,
    – build a soil wall 30cm high around 3 sides of that towel; flatten off the top of the wall.
    . place a second towel on the flat wall; pin it down with e.g. rocks.

    This structure, if built at night, apparently traps cooler night air in the trench and can keep the temperature in the mid -20s Centigrade by day, which is in the reasonable air-conditioning range.

    I would advise placing a thermometer in the trench well in advance of SHTF, to gain data on what is possible.

    The problems of wind/rain/biting insects also have to be addressed.

    Generally, the average annual air temperature at any location is said to be the soil. temperature 3 metres down.

    Underground houses for miners in the desert can achieve year-round temperatures of 24 C for that reason.

    Thermal mass is your friend.

  2. We’ve got an old house with no air conditioning. It’s about 98 degrees outside and the house is getting HOT. We’ve got fans running in the rooms we are in and turn them off when we leave the room. Should we leave the windows open to help get air circulating (but let in the outside heat), or close them (keeping the already hot air in, but the super hot oustide air out)? Best answer could help lots of people during all these heat waves. Thanks.

    1. You say it is 98 F outside but you do not seem to have measured with a thermometer the room temps. that result from the two options you mention.

      I would do that on 2 days in a row to see which option is cooler.

      The textbooks say to open windows all night to let in cooler air and then to close them by day. But maybe you are not getting nighttime temp. reduction outside in your heatwave?.

      I have also read of people keeping their pillow in the freezer by day and people mist-spraying the mattress sheet and top sheet and managing to fall asleep between the two sheets before the water evaporates.

      You do not mention what curtains/blinds/shutters you have. And it is material outside the windows that blocks incoming heat to the glass. So I suppose you have none.

      Using bubble wrap when you have no outside shutters:
      shows many good photos. Note that these photos are 6 years old, so what I am saying is tried and tested.

      So a cheap experiment would be to buy bubble wrapping and, wetting the window glass, stick it to the inside of your windows after having cut the wrap to fit with a box cutter. This is shown in the link I placed above.

      But I do not know how much heat is getting into your house through your roof either. There are retrofits for that problem too, but not as cheap and easy as bubble wrap.

      Come to think of it, you might like to tape up the whole ceiling with a big piece, or big pieces, of bubble wrap as well, to see if it traps heat coming down from the attic. You would need probably two people and 2 ladders for this.

      In my view, you have to keep taking thermometer measurements at all times to see what works for you.

      Currently, I believe you are in danger because you depend only on the grid for coolness. Tbe bubble wrap will take you off-grid, which is good.

  3. I live in a log home. It was built from a kit, delivered to the full size concrete foundation about 25 years ago. I am surrounded by mainly Sugar Maple trees. We have no central air conditioning except for tow small A/C window units that we have only had to use 2-3 times in 25 years, and for a few short hours at night time so we can sleep cool upstairs.
    I keep the windows shut on hot days. When it gets really hot out around 90 F, I open my basement door (to the hallway) and turn on a large fan at the bottom of the basement stairs. This air is nice and cool, maybe 60-65 F. The fan is aimed upward and blows a cool breeze up to the main floor. We get a nice cool temp. of 75 F or so. I also have four ceiling fans in main rooms , the larg e kind with 5 blades and lights too. The master bedroom fan has four speeds from low to high. I also have an old fan in the master bedroom window, this has a remote switch that I can control from my bedside. It has exhaust or input modes and variable speeds. We blow cool air over us in the bedroom at night. So we are cool & happy and have a really low electric bill! The trees really help during the hot day. Only thing I would have changed in building this house is the roof. We bought it from the owner/builder so we had no choices. There is no attic space. The roof is , I believe, shingles, tar paper, ply wood, foam sheets, then pine ceiling. It acts like a radiator and gets hot and holds the heat till night time and slowly cools off. I can not blow any air through it to cool it. Not a good design for cooling. No fans or air space to help cool. But I deal with it. Hope this info. helps people cool off a bit! Thanks for your website. Good info.!

  4. I have been giving it some thought and a lot depends on your insulation. Does the house cool off at night?. If it does and you have good insulation, close the windows in the morning and leave the windows closed as long as the house stays cool. Then open the windows and get your air circulating. Try and create a good cross breeze it you can by opening windows on opposite sides. Hope this helps.

  5. These are all really, really great tips for home owners, especially those in older homes. Keeping energy cost down can be tough but following these easy tips will help. Making sure your AC unit is properly maintained so it is working efficiently is a great way to save money when you do need to use it. Just like a car, it will run better and use less fuel (electricity) when taken care of!

  6. i take showers after returning from school but its useless bcoz of power cut during day, its humid heat which is unbearable. i sweat through my shirt and jeans without doing anything. pls help.

  7. This works because we have a peaked roof, but it might work for flat roofs as well. Google the Pea Soup Anderson hotel in Buellton CA and look at the X’s on their roof peak. Build similar X’s to fit your roof. These do not have to be nailed down to work. Run a soaker hose along the peak, it is held in place by the X’s. We have a 30 gallon tank sitting on our peaked roof with rain gutters. The gutters drain into a below ground cesspool. A solar pump then pumps the water back into the 30 gallon tank on the roof.
    This causes your entire roof to be a giant water cooler. The hotter the day, the cooler the house stays.
    We remove everything in the winter and re-set it up in the summer.

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