Staying Cool in The Summer Heat

by Kelly · 4 comments

in A Frugal Home

This post was first published in its original format on June 26, 2008. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, however, I thought that it might be a good time to revisit some frugal ways to stay cool! I’ve used the original post as a starting point, and added some more ideas.

Summer is here and, at least where I live, it came in with a flourish and a bang. No lazy Spring days for us, with their cool, breeze-kissed mornings and balmy afternoons. Grenoble is known for its lack of seasonal transitions-  here we go direct from snow to sweat, without passing go and certainly without collecting €200.

Looking for ways to survive the canicule*? Staying cool in the summer can be expensive, if you use air conditioning in your house and car or try to cool off by going to the movies or the mall. Here is how we manage to stay as cool as possible- frugally.

Play with air

Create a cross breeze or, as the French call it, a courant d’air. Open windows on the opposite sides of the room or the building. Our apartment layout features rooms on either side of a central hallway that runs the length of the living area, so by opening windows on both sides and propping the doors open so they don’t slam shut, we get a really nice cooling breeze going through.

I also like to dry laundry just outside the windows; the air cools as it blows through the wet laundry and enters the house. If you don’t want to dry laundry the old-fashioned (and time consuming) way, you might consider hanging a wet towel or sheet in front of an open window. I’m not sure how this would work in climates with high humidity (something tells me not very well) but in our relatively dry heat it works wonders.

Keep it dark

Is one side of your house more exposed to the morning sun? Lower the shutters, close the blinds, do whatever necessary to keep the sun out. Later you can open that side of the house and shutter the other. At night open all the windows wide to let in the cool night air.

We have no screens on our windows, but we do have metal shutters. By closing these to various degrees we can control the amount of light coming in. At night we close the shutters completely and then safely leave the windows open. I also made curtains for all the rooms before we moved. Most of them are made of fairly light color and weight fabric, but the ones in our room are slate blue canvas lined with light muslin. They keep our room really dark, and thus, nice and cool. I’ve been considering making some similar ones for our daughter’s room- but more for early morning light blocking than anything else. She’s been waking up with the sun lately…and lately that’s been really early!

Turn it off

Electric appliances and machines give off a great deal of heat. Turning off the TV and (god forbid) the computer can drop a room’s temperature by several degrees. Don’t just turn them off, unplug them at the source. When certain appliances are plugged in they stay in sleep mode, burning watts and producing heat. Unplugging them helps tremendously.

And don’t turn things on in the first place! Now is not the time to run the dryer, or even worse, the oven. Use the sun to dry your clothes or cook your food, if you’re really inspired.

Watch your food and drink

Try not to use the oven or stand over the stove frying things. Eat fresh, cool foods. Today at lunch we ate a lentil tomato salad, fresh cool cantelope, sliced ham and cheese. No cooking involved. Drink lots of water which, while it might not help you feel cooler, will certainly help you feel less cranky about the heat.

I’m a big fan of summer salads– I often make a whole bunch on Saturdays and Wednesdays and then we eat them for the following two or three days. Today at lunch we had Greek Salad, Potato Salad and chopped vegetable salad. This afternoon I’m planning on making carrot apple raisin salad.

Get naked

Not you, although that’s certainly your choice, but your house. Take away heavy cushions on the couch or thick rugs on the floor. My tile floors can be chilly in winter but they certainly feel good against my bare feet in the summer. Sprawling on the couch is made more comfortable by the absence of heat trapping pillows. I also let my kids run around in minimal clothing; the younger they are, the fewer clothes they wear!

*Heat wave, or dog days of summer.

How do you stay cool frugally? Any tips?


1 Shannon July 7, 2010

Some really great ideas in this post! You made a really good point about not only turning electronics and appliances off, but actually unplugging them! It makes such a big difference and helps the environment as well. Not to mention, it encourages us to get out of the house and enjoy the sunshine!

– Shannon from

2 finallygettingtoeven July 7, 2010

Thanks for a great post reminding us what we should be doing to keep the house cool. Each one helps considerably and we tackle most of them.

3 Suzanne July 8, 2010

On the food side of things, don’t forget about the trusty crock pot! They are really great for cooking without heating up the house.

4 Kelly July 10, 2010

Too true. I love the crockpot, especially for things like beans that I can freeze and use later!

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