Creative Ways to Cool Off Without Air Conditioning

When it comes to cooling off without A/C, creative might be interpreted as "old-school." Swamp coolers are part of a long history of cooling off without the use of the refrigerants and coolants found in air conditioning. A/C is nice, sure, but it costs a lot to run continuously, and it’s not good for the environment. While a swamp cooler is inexpensive to operate, even in an industrial setting, there was a time not long ago when even a swamp cooler wasn’t an option. So, how did people stay cool? After all, Native Americans lived on the hot, dusty plains for centuries; ancient civilizations survived and thrived for hundreds of years. But if there’s a will, there’s always been a way. Without A/C. Here are some of the ways they did it.

Hang wet sheets and linen

Hang wet sheets and linen

It may sound simple, but like swamp coolers, wet linens reduce air temperatures by the process of water evaporation. Before A/C, this was a common way to deal with the heat. Not that you should hang wet sheets in your shop (yuck!), but it’s actually a pretty effective means of cooling. Water evaporates off the wet sheets, and the wind creates the cooling breeze. It’s amazing that a swamp cooler is essentially a more powerful version of hanging linen. While sheets won’t cool much in terms of square footage and certainly aren’t a good idea at work, they once helped people make do with the heat.

Run water through walls

Ancient A/C: run water through the walls

The ancient Romans can never get enough credit for their innovations, can they? In addition to their famous water-carrying aqueducts, this was one of their more interesting uses of water. The system was clever enough: run pipes through the walls and pump cold water throughout. The constant flow of water was like ancient air conditioning. Of course, only wealthy citizens could afford it. As you might expect, the average home of the "plebian" or "commoner" was probably much hotter and less comfortable. While both use water, the water-in-the-walls method is different from the swamp cooler method because the cooling process is done by water itself, not evaporation. As an unrelated side note, the Romans also used lead pipes to carry their water, which they drank from daily. Mmm... lead...

Don’t work. Nap when it gets hot.

It’s not lazy, it’s smart! Work schedules were different for people in hot climates. The Ancient Romans, for instance, worked six-hour days that ended around noon. They spent the hottest part of the day at the baths or napping in the shade. This probably did not apply to some farmers, slaves and other laborers. More recently, American city-dwellers were once known to gather in parks to find some shade, a nice breeze and a place to lay their heads. Missing the heat is one way to beat it, right? A swamp cooler would make that nap even more refreshing.

Take a nap during hot weather

Shower but don’t dry off

This one might sound a bit strange, but it works. If it’s really hot out, and you don’t want to waste money on A/C, take a cold (or lukewarm) shower right before bed and don’t dry off. In addition to the cooling effects of the shower, you’ll cool off further as water evaporates off your skin. Plus, you’ll probably be asleep well before your skin is dry. It’s one of the most effective methods out there relative to how cheap it is. The downside is that you only cool yourself off; the ambient temperature of the room won’t change.

Homes were built differently

Homes were built differently

Today’s small, square windows are a luxury afforded by air conditioning. In hot climates, home windows used to be taller. Tall, open windows on the first and second floor create a breeze throughout the house, and high ceilings let the hot air drift up while the air toward the ground remains comfortable. Porches were also a major hub of daily life during the hottest parts of the day, especially in the South. People napped, socialized and hung out on porches that were much larger than generally seen today.

Best modern solution: a portable swamp cooler for home and office

Given all the above methods for cooling, none are as effective as portable swamp coolers. Swamp coolers cost the same as industrial air conditioner units but save thousands of dollars over time in electricity. Some people look at initial costs and freak out; with air conditioning, that’s justified. It’s expensive. With swamp coolers, however, you’re looking at the long-term cost of ownership, which is much, much less than A/C. So, unless you want to be hanging wet linens or napping all afternoon in the supply closet, get a portable air cooler and live better.