10 Genius Tricks for Using Fans to Stay Cool Even Without AC

Julia Pelly
Written by Julia Pelly
Updated February 16, 2022
Father having fun with daughter imitating airplane at home
Photo: Westend61 / Getty Images

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If you’re living without air conditioning, a forecasted heatwave is your worst nightmare. Sweltering temps? Heavy, humid air? It’s enough to have you considering ice cream for dinner just to find some relief.

Luckily, you don’t have to sweat the dog days. To beat the heat, you must use the fans you already have in a new way. All you need is some strategic fan placement and a few other can’t beat hacks to start chilling—literally.

1. Check the Direction of Your Ceiling Fan

The direction your fan circulates in will determine if your fan is working to cool you down or simply blowing hot air. The blades should spin counterclockwise during the hot months to help push cold air downward, so you can catch the breeze while drinking icy lemon water on the sofa. 

Pro tip: Changing the spin direction between seasons is also a good time to clean your ceiling fan. The hottest days always feel better when the air is fresh and dust-free.

2. Create a Crosswind

Electric fan cooling air on a patio
Photo: luengo_ua / Adobe Stock

Engineer a refreshing one-two punch by pushing hot air out while also pulling cooler air inside—like a lucky island homeowner taking advantage of tradewinds. 

Close all windows, drapes, and blinds to block the sunlight during the day. When the sun sets, open your windows and grab two standard fans. Place one fan facing out of a window in the room you want the coolest.

Then, use a second fan to create a strong airflow toward the first fan. Do this by placing the second fan facing inward, either in front of a second window or pushing air into the room you're trying to cool. This setup removes stale, hot air out and brings in fresh, cool air.

3. Take Advantage of Your Tall Windows

If you have tall windows, place your fan as high as possible and turn it to face out the window. You can even grab a ladder or stool for some extra height. Remember, hot air rises, so this will help push as much hot air out of the house as possible.

If your windows don’t open, create temporary coverings using tension rods draped with pieces of room-darkening fabric. They might not make your home the most trendy, but they’ll help keep out the rays of heat.

4. Make a DIY AC Unit

Place a clean floor fan on the ground (or as low as possible). Then, put a large bucket of ice directly in front of the fan. You can also use a large, shallow roasting pan. The fan blows air over the ice, melting it and creating a refreshingly cool mist as it evaporates the sweat from your skin. 

If a big bucket of ice sounds like a lot of work, use a wet towel draped over the front of the fan. Try to keep one window open, too, so hot air can escape.

5. Angle Your Fans Just Right

While it might feel oh-so-good to close your eyes and let the fan’s breeze hit you right in the face, pointing the fan directly at you (or anyone else you’re trying to keep cool) isn’t the way to go. Instead of letting your body absorb the cool air, angle your fans slightly upward to create a heat-lifting breeze that will keep you cooler for longer. 

Pointing your fan towards the opposite wall will also let the air bounce back and keep on circulating, helping you regain and maintain comfort.

6. Take the Breeze Outside

Your fan's cooling power doesn’t stop once you go beyond your four walls. Even if it’s sweltering outside, a shady, breezy spot might be more refreshing than your indoor options. To boost nature's breezy efforts, consider bringing your fan outside with you.

As a bonus, a good fan will keep mosquitos and other flying pests away as you do your best to relax. Mosquitoes can't land in a crosswind and hate flying against it, so they'll avoid breezy areas.

7. Pair Your Fan With a Dehumidifier

Our bodies are designed to help us beat the heat by producing sweat that cools us down as it evaporates. However, our sweat can’t evaporate as fast when the air is extra humid—making it difficult to get that much needed relief.

Using a dehumidifier will suck the moisture out of a room, making it easier for your body to cool itself when the temperature rises. When you pair a dehumidifier with a fan, you’ll get a double dose of chill.

8. Don’t Let Your Linens Work Against You

Even your most complex fan system is no match for a set of heavy, heat-trapping linens. Ditch the cumbersome clothing and blankets and switch to a light cotton or linen blend that will let your body breathe. 

You can use your linens to boost your chill by storing your sheets (or even your t-shirts) in the freezer for 30 to 60 minutes before you use them. Not only will you get some quick relief when you pull on a chilled top or crawl into your ice-bath bed, but your fan will keep them cool longer and help bring down your core temperature.

9. Catch More of the Breeze by Adding Mist

Ceiling fan in motion mounted on wooden ceiling
Photo: Belphnaque / Adobe Stock

If you’ve ever felt the relief of dashing through a lawn sprinkler on a hot day, then you know how refreshing a little mist can be. Keep a plant mister by your side and spritz yourself every few minutes to help catch the crosswind of your dual or oscillating fans. 

When you mist your face or body with a little bit of water, you help create the same instant cool-down effect typical of a cool breeze on a wet forehead.

10. Keep Other Electronics Off

Your small electronics do a lot of good: they keep your room bright, make it possible for you to connect to work, and help you do any other number of daily tasks. Unfortunately, they also raise the temperature of your living space and make it harder for your fans to do their job. 

During the daytime, minimize the use of overhead lights and lamps and be choosy about what other small appliances you switch on. At night, turn everything you can off, pull the plug, and relax.

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