How to keep cool without air conditioning

Use these strategies to bring down the heat in your home

Blue sky with clouds and bright sun behind oak branches with budding fresh green leaves in springtime.

Hot days can make it tough to stay cool, especially without air conditioning.

“Heat is a growing hazard that impacts many people,” said Lisa Gilmour, the City's Emergency Management Coordinator.

Too much heat in a home can put even the healthiest person at risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

While not everyone has the option of flipping a switch when the temperature climbs, Gilmour said there are other strategies you can use to cool your living space.

Block the sun

The sun heats the air inside a home. Floors and counters can also absorb that heat and release it over time. Gilmour suggests you use curtains, blinds, awnings, or window film to reduce the amount of direct sunlight hitting your home.

If you own your home, consider planting vines to act as a cooling buffer between the hot sun and your exterior walls.

Tree-shaded areas can be as much as 5ºC cooler than unshaded areas. For a longer-term fix, plant a shade tree. Over time, a strategically placed tree can help cool your home considerably during the day.

Open windows at night

“Temperatures drop overnight so take advantage of that by opening up your windows at night to let the cool air into your home,” said Gilmour.

Pay attention to wind and cross-breezes to maximize the amount of cool air entering your home. As soon as the temperature outside your home climbs above the temperature indoors, close your windows to help trap the cool air inside.

Add insulation

If you own an older home with wood chips in the attic, consider adding more insulation to keep your home cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. Both Efficiency Manitoba and the Government of Canada offer insulation rebate programs for qualifying homeowners.

Use fans

Fans don’t cool the air directly. They move air around.

“If you aim a fan in your direction, sweat will evaporate more quickly and help cool your body,” said Gilmour. “Just make sure to keep fans and cords out of the reach of small children.”

If you’re using a ceiling fan to cool down, set it to rotate counter-clockwise in the summer to create a downdraft. Remember that fans are most effective at cooling the body in dry heat, and decrease in efficiency as the humidity rises.

You can also place fans strategically around your home to move cool air in and push hot air out. For example, if the air in your basement is cooler, place a fan at the base of the stairs and point it at the main level.

At night, if you need a little help moving cool air into your bedroom from an open window, open a window across your home. Then grab a fan, face it outward, and turn it on. Window fans can also be helpful here. This approach uses air pressure throughout your home to push hot air out, while creating space to allow cool air to rush into the bedroom you want to cool.

Gilmour said place a bowl of ice or ice pack in front a fan can mimic a cool breeze without the A/C.

Move to cooler rooms

Rooms in your home may have different temperatures. If possible, temporarily arrange to sleep and/or work where it is cooler, such as a basement.

Eliminate heat sources

Replace incandescent lights with energy-efficient ones. The latter produces considerably less heat, and will save money in the long run. If possible, avoid preparing meals that require the oven, and do chores that can create heat and humidity at night, like the laundry and dishwashing.

Cool your body

Even if you’ve done everything you can to cool your home, you or someone you know may still be feeling overheated.

To cool your body, Gilmour suggests wear loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing made of breathable fabric. Our spray pads, wading pools, and heated and non-heated pools can also offer relief. If all else fails, get to a cooler spot, such as a basement, or a friend or family’s home with A/C.

“Drink cool water before you feel thirsty, splash yourself with water, and take cool showers or baths until you feel refreshed,” she said

If you believe you or someone you know is suffering from heat stroke, call 911 as this is a life-threatening condition.

She stressed the importance of checking in on loved ones, especially those more vulnerable to heat such as infants, children, older adults, those with chronic illnesses or physical impairments, and those that are more active in the heat.

“If you notice the signs of heat illness, it’s very important to cool down as quickly as possible,” said Gilmour.

Other options

We're taking steps to provide heat relief to residents and partnering with several community centres to offer cooling spaces to residents during select hours.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring more cooling options to people from within their communities,” said Gilmour, adding that you can also cool down at our leisure centres and libraries during regular operating hours.

We also have three hydration stations located throughout the city where you can fill your water bottle up 24 hours a day. They can be found at Central Park (near 406 Edmonton Street), Selkirk Avenue at Powers Street (near 469 Selkirk Avenue at the Bell Tower), and at the Broadway Neighbourhood Centre (near 185 Young Street).

Gilmour recommends people keep a close watch on the weather forecast and consider setting up notifications for weather alerts so they can be prepared. 


Originally posted August 10, 2022

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