Green Ways to Stay Cool in a Heat Wave

We’ve been posting a little less often than we’d like. With the kids home from school for the summer we have less time for things like writing blog posts.

The past few days of much hotter than usual weather for our area has made us think about some tips for staying cool while still being good for the environment. I have to admit that we’ve had a few of our highest electricity-usage days all year, but we’re working to keep the usage as low as practical, but maintain a comfortable environment.

Use Ceiling Fans – Ceiling fans should blow down in the summer (and up in the winter). They will help circulate the air and move the air that your body heats up away from you, helping you feel cooler. Fans are an economical use of energy. Use them with or without air conditioning, to keep the air moving and you feeling cooler.

Use Exhaust Fans – When cooking, turn on the exhaust fan. When it’s cooler outside than in, like first thing in the morning or at night, run an upstairs window fan on exhaust. It will pull the hot air out of the house and suck cooler air in downstairs, cooling your whole house naturally. A whole house fan is best, but Jon found some window fans at Ocean State Job Lot for $30 each that claim they will turn over all the air in a 2000 sq ft house in under 10 minutes. Not sure if they’re doing exactly that, but they definitely help.

Use Window Fans – When you go into the room, switch the window fan from exhaust to blowing in, so that you can directly benefit from cooler air outside.

Turn Off Air Conditioners When You Leave the Room – if you’re done in a room for a while, turn the A/C off. It doesn’t take long to cool a room down and it doesn’t make sense to keep it cool while you’re gone. My rule of thumb is if I’ll be out of the space for an hour or more I turn off the AC.  Of course, you need to have A/C units that are sized appropriately for the space you are trying to cool or they will not be able to cool it back down during extreme heat waves.

Drink Cold Beverages – Hot beverages will heat up your body and increase your need for cooling. Try iced coffee and ice tea for a caffeine boost. Put an ice cube in your child’s bottle or sippy cup too. They’ll love it!

Where Shorts and T-Shirts, or Less – Dress informally when home, and even when going out if you can. This is the time to pull out your low-cut tanks and shorts. Loose clothes are cooler than tight. Cotton and natural fabrics are cooler than synthetics.

Don’t Cover the Cloth Diapers – My toddler has been running around in his cloth diaper with no pants for days – even when we go to the store and events. It has opened the door for people to ask about cloth diapers and provide teachable moments. (Diaper leaks are less noticeable though, so pick ones that are less likely to leak!)

Keep Fruits in the Refrigerator and Freezer – Really cold fruit is more appealing in hot weather, and cools your body naturally. It’s an appealing snack when it’s too hot to eat. Fruit juice ice pops are a good snack too.

Eat Cold Meals – Yesterday we had fruit and tuna salad sandwiches for dinner. Shrimp cocktail is a good start at dinner, as are taboule and hummus. Think about lunch for dinner or appetizers as your meal. A well-balanced meal doesn’t have to be hot!

Cook in Your Toaster Oven and Microwave – Neither appliance heats up your kitchen the way your stove and oven do. If you’re using an A/C it won’t have to work as hard if you don’t heat up your whole kitchen baking.

Go to the Movies – The movie theaters need to keep the A/C on to keep the screens and other equipment in good working order. Take advantage of this and stay cool at the movies – you may even want to take a jacket! Don’t forget to turn off YOUR A/C if you go out!

Above all, stay healthy. If you have young children, older people, people with health issues, etc, they should stay cool and air conditioned. However, this doesn’t mean you have to keep them COLD. Use the tips above to stay cool and healthy while conserving energy.

Happy Green Cooling!


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  1. We’re staying cool at our pest control office by using sheets over the windows and fans instead of air conditioners. If every office did this we could massively decrease our energy consumption.

  2. These are great ideas. Recently read an article that stated painting your roof white or getting lighter colored shingles can decrease the average temp in your home 5 degrees.

  3. Dan,

    While I am not opposed to having a light color roof if you are in the appropriate climate, I’d recommend first putting in the appropriate amount of attic insulation. Insulating an attic costs about the same as painting the roof white (much less than replacing the roof) and provides more comfortable inside temperatures during the summer and winter.


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