Beat The Heat: Inexpensive and Fun Ways To Survive With No AC + How To Recognize Heat Stroke

Avatar Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: November 30, 2021
Beat The Heat: Inexpensive and Fun Ways To Survive With No AC + How To Recognize Heat Stroke

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When the temperature starts to rise, staying cool starts to be a more important consideration. While it is somewhat about comfort, the fact is that overheating can cause serious illness or death. Read on for some ideas on how to stay cool without air conditioning. Some tips are also useful for increasing the effectiveness of your AC so you save money while being comfortable too!

Eco Coolers

A while back I did a post on how to make your own Eco Cooler out of things that you probably would just throw out. While this is not the same level of cooling you can expect from an air conditioner, it will lower temps up to 9 F which can make a significant difference in the comfort level of your home.


To make an Eco Cooler you need the following:

Used Plastic Soda Bottles. The 2-liter variety works well but you can also use vinegar jugs or similar if that is what you have.

A piece of sheet plastic or cardboard the size of the cooler you want to make. If you are putting this in a window, then size it to fit the window. Cardboard is fine to use, but it might become damaged over time especially if exposed to rain.

  1. Measure your window and cut your cardboard or plastic to fit the size window you want to put your cooler in. You may want one for each room for maximum results.
  2. Cut holes in the board that is equal to the size of the rim of the bottle you are using.
  3. Cut out the top of the caps but leave the threaded part intact. You are going to need these to secure the bottle to the board.
  4. Cut all your bottles in half. Recycle the side that the cap does not screw on to.
  5. Insert bottlenecks into holes.
  6. Screw rings from caps onto the other side. This will help keep the bottles in place. If you want a tight seal, you could always use some silicone caulk or glue, but most people do not feel the need.
  7. Put the panel into the window opening with the bottlenecks facing the interior of the home. As the wind blows on the other side, it helps cool the rest of the room.

Tip: Clear or white bottles are best with green coming in third.

Insulated Shades and Blinds

While you might think of shades as something to keep heat in, the truth is that they will also help keep your house cool. You can buy insulated panels or make your own if you have the time and know a little about sewing. If you have a lot of windows the cost can add up so if you have time in the winter to sew, consider some blinds for your windows.

Loose Clothing Made Of Linen and Cotton

It seems like the price of cotton and linen has gone up a lot but I still sometimes find a good deal. This year I found organic cotton from Peru, and it has performed well. While tighter clothes may look good, they are not going to help you out when it comes to keeping you cool. Clothing with drawstrings can be helpful if you have a hard time finding the fit you want. I have a hard time finding clothes that fit in the waist but are not too tight in the legs. This leads to stealing my husband’s pants when we need to spray the vineyard or something!

Large Brimmed Hats

The importance of a large brimmed hat cannot be stressed enough. There is a reason why in a lot of old pics people wore these. They keep the sun off of you and protect your eyes from the harmful rays of the sun. I like cotton, but straw is another good one. Synthetic fabrics don’t always breath well but are more waterproof.

Drink Lots Of Cold Beverages

Just because you don’t have AC doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a lot of delicious cold beverages. If you like sparkling drinks you can make your seltzer or soda, so you have total control of the ingredients that you are consuming. I like seltzer water and adding a little juice. If I buy it at the store, it costs a $5 a 12 pack. I can make my own for pennies. It encourages me to drink more water.

Cooling your internal core is one of the easier ways to stay comfortable. Even just drinking water that is 20 F cooler than the room or outdoor temperature will help.  Of course, having ice is nice.

Solutions For Cheap Ice

The last time I bought 40 lbs of ice, it was $8. Now if you are just using it for drinks that much will go a long way but if you are icing anything else down it doesn’t last that long. Keeping it in a cooler that is heavily insulated can help.

If your fridge can have an ice make than I recommended either finally hooking it up or buying an aftermarket one. When we bought our fridge, we just got one that we could add an ice maker to later.  You should look into it and see if yours is made to have one.  You can get more ice by emptying the bucket and making your unit cycle more, but there is a limit to what any icemaker can produce.

An alternative is freezing ice in your chest freezer. Trays can be annoying, but they are at least a way to avoid buying ice at the grocery store.

You can get stand-alone ice makers too if you don’t have a chest freezer or space for one. At $150-$200 for a small chest freezer new or even less used sometimes, I have a hard time recommending counter top ice makers unless space is an issue. You can do a lot more with a real freezer even if you have to empty trays.

Mist Yourself

Misters are a great way to cool off. You can use a spray bottle that you keep refrigerated or just pour some water and mist as needed. You can even add some essential oils or scents to the mist to make it an even more refreshing pick me up.

Plan out your workday with the heat patterns.

Do harder outside chores during the morning or evenings when it is not the heat of the day. It can be hard to change habits and schedules, but it is important to try to do fieldwork during cool times. This is one of the coping mechanisms that you see in hot climates. The siesta came about due to heat and splitting up the workday.

Cool off with a soak or swim.

Even if you are an adult, a kiddie pool can be useful. Living in the South, I learned a few things from my colorful family. I will never forget the solution they come up with. The way to say cool is to go to the discount store and get you a kiddie pool, cold drink cup, and proceed to set in it until temperatures decline. They would buy the inflatable kind because you can sort of spill out of those.

Stock tanks are more expensive but last forever if made of polymers rather than metal which will eventually rust out. When we were building the house, we had no running water except a spicket so we would run a stock tank full of water and bathe or cool off. In the winter or fall if the conditions were right, we would heat a 55-gallon barrel of water up using scrap wood picked up in the woods, and that would serve for bathing. It took forever to heat.

Cook Outside

Cooking of any sort will contribute to a hothouse. If you like to can up food, then you need to have an outdoor stove to do it on. The house we built is on the smaller side at 600 sq ft, so any baking or cooking on a large scale makes a difference. Even if you have AC, it can help reduce your energy bill if you cook outside. Exhaust fans on your stove that vent outside can also help.

A good grill is nice. I like the Camp Chef style stoves because they can be used as big propane burners or you can buy a grill box, and griddle insert and cook that way. I have limited patio space and do a lot of different homestead and prepping projects so having outdoor cooking appliances and tools that offer a lot of versatility is important to me.

Check out my post on “How To Design An Outdoor Kitchen” for some ideas no matter how basic or grand of an outdoor cooking area you have in mind.

A tripod that is capable of supporting a Dutch oven is a great way to cook a big pot of deliciousness up for a crowd of people using whatever wood you can gather up.


A good box fan can go a long way towards helping you keep cool. We have a lot of the smaller fans that have two different small fans that fit in windows. They are also excellent for circulating air into rooms and spaces that are hard to keep hot or cool.

It may take some trial and error to figure out where fans are most useful in your home. Noise levels of fans vary but are usually not so disturbing that someone cannot sleep. If you are a sensitive sleeper, then do some research and get a fan for your bedroom that is made to be low noise. You will thank yourself for it. The cheaper box fans are not the quietest and can get louder over time and with extended use.

Create a mini cooling unit with a fan and pan of ice.

Putting a pan or block of ice in front of a fan creates a DIY cooling unit that offers a lot of relief. As the ice melts, the fan blows the cold mist out creating a nice cooling effect.

Avoiding AC Saves Money & Helps You Get Used To Working In The Heat

We only put our window unit AC in when we think it helps us sleep at night. During the day I could care less, but unfortunately, that means we have to cool all day, and that adds up. Every month that I don’t use AC saves $40-$50 on the energy bill.

The other reason we avoid AC is that it makes it harder to get used to working in the heat after the cold winter. We have to work outside a lot running a 2-acre steep slop vineyard, keeping sheep, geese, chickens, cats, and dogs. Even though it is a seasonal thing that we go through every year, it still takes a bit of time to readjust when those temps start climbing.

Check your ceiling fans and make sure they are rotating counter-clockwise.

It is pretty easy to switch your fans to rotate differently, and it can make a big difference in how the air circulates in your home.

Reduce the time lights are left on and make the switch to CFL bulbs.

Incandescent bulbs give off heat. While this might not seem like a lot, it can add up. Think about it like this: we use 100-watt incandescent bulbs in the spring to keep up to 25 baby chicks or 12 baby geese as warm or warmer than their mother is capable of. That is a lot of heat to be throwing out into your house.

Be vigilant about shutting doors.

Even if you have a little bit of AC capability, shutting off rooms that you do not frequent and only cooling those you do will help save energy and make you more comfortable in the places you tend to spend the most time.

If you leave windows or doors open too frequently whatever things you have done to increase insulation are going to perform more poorly. Those with big families may need to insist on everyone reminding each other to keep things shut.

Consider cotton sheets and buckwheat pillows

The type of bedding you have when it is hot outside can make a big difference in how cool you stay and how well you sleep. Those of us that live in the South know all about how uncomfortable or even impossible. It is to get much sleep on those very hot muggy nights.

While microfiber sheets are inexpensive compared to cotton, the difference is nothing compared to how much better you are going to feel for investing in real quality cotton. Expect to pay a bit for cotton sheets that don’t pill up. It doesn’t pay off in the long run to get the cheapest.

Buckwheat pillows are widely available now. The hulls create natural airspace that allows heat to dissipate and keep your head nice and cool.

Get those sheets cold!

Put sheets in a plastic bag and place in your freezer or fridge for a few before making your bed for the night. The plastic bag protects your sheets while they chill and avoids them taking on any food smells.

Add an ice pack to your bed or chair.

Any commercial ice pack will work, but you can make your own by freezing a water bottle and wrapping it up to avoid moisture in the bed. If you have a flat or squishy enough pack, you can even put it underneath you when sitting at your desk.

Utilize your exhaust fans.

A lot of us have fans over the stove. If they vent to the outside, then you can take advantage of this for cooling your house off or avoiding the heat up that can occur when cooking and canning.

Exhaust fans in the bathroom can also help a lot, especially when they are dissipating the steam and heat from showering. The added humidity that bathing and showering causes are also something you want to avoid.

Sleep in the lower level of your home.

If you can sleep down in the lowest part of your home during the hot months, then it is something to consider. My husband and I built our house in an old Appalachian style where you sleep in the loft. It is very cozy in the winter, but in the summer we will put fans and a window unit in for the hottest times of the year. If you have a den or hang out room downstairs and the kids or you sleep upstairs, you may want to throw down a mattress in there on the hottest nights.

Kids especially can have some fun with this because it is a bit like having sleepover!

Camp out even if it is just in your backyard.

If you live in a place where it is appropriate, then consider fixing yourself up a backyard camp. This is a great way to have fun with young kids too. If you have acreage, then you have a lot of options, but there is something to be said for having a camp close to your house so you can use the bathroom and other amenities.

Camping out is a great time to practice all those survival skills that you have been reading about. There is nothing like getting real practice. Getting out and camping somewhere fun on the weekends or just when you have the time is a good way to beat the heat. A weekend spent up in the mountains can feel very refreshing and cool.

Sleep with windows open when possible.

Open windows at night when it cools off but remember to close in the morning before the temperature starts to rise rapidly. I realize that this may not be possible for some due to the security risk and safety issues an open window can pose.

Consider your landscaping and plant some shade trees.

While I don’t recommend having really large trees that can damage your home, there are a lot of mid-sized fruit trees or ornamentals that can help provide some shade for your home or give you a nice place to sit during the heat of the day. Beating the heat can be beautiful and provide you with some good stuff to eat.

Consider sleeping alone or at least not sleeping with pets.

I cannot imagine how hot it would be sleeping with our Great Pyrenees in the bed. A cat sneaking in and curling up is bad enough sometimes. While I am not going to sleep in a separate bed from my husband, the dogs have their places. Even if you love to sleep with your dog, you might consider making a change or at least not get your next dog in the habit of co-sleeping with you.

If your dog is already used to sleeping with you, then you should at least make sure to get them a good dog bed to help make up for the change a little bit.

Pace yourself when working or exercising. Heat stroke is no joke and can happen fast.

Taking it a little slower can help keep your temperature lower. During hot times you can get more done if you pace yourself.  I have been in a position where I made myself ill working too much out in the heat, and it took me a solid day to recover. While this was not a real heat stroke, I do feel that I came closer than I ever had and it was a big wake up call.

Look for the following symptoms of heat stroke when out doing things.

  • high body temperature
  • Hot and flushed skin but a lack of sweat
  • Rapid pulse
  • Abnormal or difficult breathing
  • strange behavior
  • Hallucinations. Ever wonder why in the movies people that are super thirsty see an oasis? Well if you get heat stroke, you may see anything!
  • Confusion

What to do if someone is suffering from heat stroke

  • Get them to a cool place. Any place that is in the shade is better than nothing, but an air-conditioned room is ideal and will offer faster relief.
  • Offer them water or a drink that contains electrolytes. Matt and I use Emergen-C powders to add to our water to make sure we get some electrolytes when working outside. If you don’t consume much salt, you can run low on that too if you sweat a lot so adding some to a drink or eating some in food is a good idea. Preppers and homesteaders that cook a lot from scratch tend to eat less salt than what people get in the average diet in the USA.
  • A cool but not cold shower is recommended. A water temperature of no colder than 59 F is recommended.
  • If symptoms do not rapidly improve within an hour or they become worse, seek medical attention.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol if overheated since they both contribute to dehydration.
  • Seek immediate medical help for those that have other conditions or if someone is unconscious.

What do you do to stay cool without AC? Do you wait until the last minute to turn it on? This year we waited until it started getting hot in July. 

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5 Responses to “Beat The Heat: Inexpensive and Fun Ways To Survive With No AC + How To Recognize Heat Stroke”

  1. Open windows at night if you can, let the fresh, hopefully cooler air in. Close windows/blinds/drapes in the morning and use fans strategically to move air around in the house during the heat of the day. I was raised without air conditioning, this was our strategy. The only time I run the AC is when the humidity is high. If you own your property, I cannot emphasize use of shade trees enough. They not only help cool the house in the summer, even in winter without leaves, they also help block cold winds and snow. If you are doing a new build, or even purchasing a new home, consider the orientation of the home on the property, and window placement(as well as tree placement).

  2. A lot of us lived poor in Austin, TX in the 70’s because it was such a wonderful place, but mighty hot, we used to throw our mattresses down outdoors and run an extension cord for a box fan, a great way to sleep, especially with a light cotton sheet to keep the skeeters away. I live in the country now and my house has gallery porches, a big shady porch is the best thing in the world.
    I have spent my life working and playing outdoors and have to say that the advice for heat stroke in this article is criminally wrong. It is good advice for heat exhaustion, symptoms are profuse sweating, weakness, dizziness, nausea and the treatment is immediate and extended cool down for the victim. Heat stroke is a medical emergency of the same gravity as a heart attack, your first response is to dial 911 and summon immediate professional help. You may find a heatstroke victim unconscious but more commonly they will be irrational, uncontrollable and often violent because their brain is being irreversibly damaged as their body temperature rises and you will not be able to control them.

  3. the first suggestion for cooling a room is retarded beyond all belief. if anyone thinks this could work your too moronic to be considered human.

  4. You can hang wet laundry in your home for evaporation or soak your feet in a cool foot bath. I also found an idea to keep warm in winter. You keep a piece of cardboard the size of your sunny window and tinfoil tape it on one side and put gorilla black duct tape on the other. If foil side ie facing outside this method keeps heat out. If black side is facing outside, the warmth comes inside. It works for us.

  5. I made and use an Eco Cooler and have a few suggestions. You can make cardboard more water-resistant and a little sturdier by painting it with enamel paint (I used white), then coating it with a polyurethane finish. Make sure to cover the cardboard completely, including the edges. I used one coat of paint and three coats of polyurethane, allowing it to dry completely in between coats. When assembling, place small squares of screening or netting over the top of the bottle, then screw the caps on, to keep bugs out. Use the bottom halves of the bottles for your window herb garden.

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