Unless you live in a ground-floor apartment or have built-in air conditioning, summer means you'll be stuck with a warm apartment all season long. As an apartment-dweller, you have few options for effective cooling. It's probably not a wild guess to assume that your lease agreement doesn't allow you to tear through the walls to install an air conditioning system. Instead, you'll just have to use a bit of creativity to cool your apartment off the old-fashioned way with lots of fans and open windows.
The 8 Best Ways to Keep Your Apartment Cool Without Air Conditioning
- Keep your blinds and curtains closed during the day.
- Open your windows at night and use fans to draw cool air inside.
- Install ceiling fans, or purchase portable fans from a home goods store.
- Keep your refrigerator and freezer closed.
- Turn lights off when they are not in use.
- Minimize your use of cooking appliances.
- Avoid using the dishwasher and other kitchen appliances.
- Turn off and unplug electronic devices when they are not in use.
1. Use Blinds and Curtains
If you have blinds on your windows, don't forget to shut them when you leave for the day. Keeping the direct sun out of your apartment is a great way to reduce the incoming heat.
If your lease allows you to make minor modifications to your walls, consider installing some heavy, dark curtains. It's fairly easy to install a curtain rod directly on the wall with the assistance of a friend. Blackout curtains help prevent sunlight and UV rays from entering the room, and also trap heat inside during the winter.
2. Cool Off With Nighttime Air
Using nature as an air conditioner is the best thing to rely on, assuming the temperature outdoor temperature drops below the indoor temperature. When it's cool outside in the evening and early morning hours, leave your windows open and place a big fan directly in front of the screen to draw the cool air into your apartment. If you have a windowsill, box fans work really well for this. If possible, open multiple windows to get a nice draft going. Just don't forget to close your windows when it starts to warm up again outside.
Make sure to open windows at both ends of the apartment to ensure free airflow. If you live in a two-story apartment, opening windows at the top and bottom will allow hot air to be released in the upper level while cool air is pulled in through the downstairs windows.
If your outdoor temperature isn't dropping much, try opening the windows and turning the fans to face out. This way, you'll at least get rid of some of the stagnant hot air in your apartment.
If you're concerned about security, it's very easy to block your window from opening enough for a person to fit through. Simply block the window track with an object, such as a wooden rod or hanger. You can leave your windows open all night and feel safe. You can also buy window stoppers that work just as well and are easy to install. It's especially important to take this extra step if you live on the ground floor of your apartment complex.
3. Fans and More Fans
Fans are your best friends during the summer. Even though fans don't actually reduce the temperature (in fact, fans raise the temperature slightly), they do a good job of circulating the air, making you feel cooler and refreshed.
Ceiling fans are really good at circulation, but unless you have permission to install one in your apartment, you're out of luck. Fortunately, your local home goods store will have any number of quality and affordable fans in a variety of different models.
If you already have ceiling fans in your apartment, it's important to make sure they're rotating counter-clockwise during the summer. This pushes cool air downward and helps you feel cooler without actually affecting the temperature of the room.
Remember to outfit your apartment before a major heatwave arrives; you'll have a hard time finding a fan to buy when everyone else suddenly realizes how hot the weather is.
4. Close Your Fridge and Freezer
Keep your fridge and freezer closed tightly and open them only when you really need to. Avoid grazing or browsing the contents of your fridge for long periods of time during hot days. If you make your fridge and freezer work harder than normal by opening them frequently, the air temperature around the appliances will increase. Think about what you want to pull out before you open it; you can even make a list of the contents in your fridge and freezer to reduce unnecessary openings.
5. Keep Lights Off
Light bulbs, especially incandescent and halogen bulbs, can generate a surprising amount of heat. This is especially true in smaller rooms, and in upper-level apartment units. Lamps and other table-level light fixtures will radiate more heat than ceiling lights. If you don't need the light, turn it off.
Compact fluorescents and LED bulbs produce less heat than incandescent bulbs, so consider switching your old lights for these more modern options.
In general, it's best to keep lights off during the hotter parts of the day. This prevents your apartment from overheating due to excess electricity usage, and also saves you some money on your electricity bill.
6. Avoid Using Cooking Appliances
Your cooking appliances, including your oven, slow cooker and bread maker, are not your friends during the summer. For some meals, you can use a toaster oven instead of a real oven; toaster ovens will generate far less heat than traditional ovens. Check the recipe or package before you buy to see the recommended heating option.
You can also rely on your stove and microwave during the summer. On really hot days, save yourself the trouble and just eat out in an air-conditioned restaurant, or make yourself a delicious, cold sandwich.
Try to avoid cooking during the hottest hours of the day. It's best to wait until the evening, when you've given your apartment a while to ventilate and cool down. Precooking large batches of food or meal-prepping in the evening can save you from having to cook meals during the hottest hours of the day.
7. Minimize Use of Other Appliances
The dishwasher generates a lot of heat when it cleans your dishes, especially during the drying phase. Try to run the dishwasher only during the evening or morning. If you really need a dish, wash and dry it by hand.
If you have a washer and dryer in your apartment, avoid using them during the day, especially the dryer. Consider hanging your wet clothes up in the bathroom to air dry.
8. Turn Off and Unplug Electronics
Televisions and computers produce a great deal of heat, so it's best to leave them off whenever possible. Don't fall asleep with your television or computer running, as this can drive up the temperature in your apartment. For a refreshing summer activity, turn off your electronics and read a book about Antarctica while sipping on some lemonade.
Also, when your electronics are off, unplug them. Even if you turn your electronics off, they can still generate heat when plugged in. If you need to use your computer, remember that a computer will have a harder time staying cool in hot temperatures. You can use a fan to cool off both you and your computer.
Air Conditioning Options for Apartment Dwellers
Although window air conditioning units are not nearly as refreshing as a real air conditioning system, there are a number of different options available. If you have windows that open from top to bottom, you have quite a few affordable air conditioning unit options. The most common window units fit between the bottom frame and window.
Portable Air Conditioning Units
For apartment dwellers with side-to-side windows, your options are usually limited to portable units. Most portable units are not as effective as window units, and unfortunately, they also cost a lot more. Unlike window units, portable units sit on your floor. These air conditioners use an exhaust hose to vent the hot air from your apartment to the outside. In addition, the units pull water from the hot air. For most portable air conditioners, you will need to periodically dump this water from a tray or bucket included with the unit.
Portable air conditioners do offer one great benefit: you can move the unit from room to room as needed. After using it in the living room during the day, you can bring the unit into your bedroom at night.
Maintaining a bearable temperature in your apartment during the summer is a challenge. If you're smart with your windows and fans, you can improve your comfort level. However, if you just can't get your apartment cool enough to bear, consider seeking pleasant temperatures elsewhere, such as at a mall or in a movie theater.
Stacey on August 17, 2016:
Ha, you don't live in Florida I take it. Good tips, though. I'm stuck with an AC that can't keep up, in an apartment that doesn't allow window units, at all. And swamp coolers don't work in Florida...
Kelsey Elise Farrell from Orange County, CA on May 26, 2015:
This post is great for those of us without central air and who don't want to break the bank on using a window unit. Voted up!
Donna Baudlery from US/Canada on May 27, 2014:
this is a cool post on tips to ease the warm season.. starting to warm up indeed! and i do have a portable air conditioner tucked during the winter.. it seems it needed some brush-up!