Cooling Down Your Space Without Air Conditioning

I currently live in New Mexico, where daytime summer temperatures are usually between 90 and 100 degrees fahrenheit. However, there is one thing I am missing in my place that I have normally had access too, and that’s air conditioning. It’s a really small space that I work in, but it warms up rather quickly in the afternoon due to the temperature outside and the fact that the majority of glass faces due west — getting the brunt of that hot afternoon sunshine. I decided not to buy a real air conditioner for the place because it’s only a rental, nothing would correctly fit in the windows, it would keep my energy costs down, and I wanted to see if I could go without for the summer. But some of these days get incredibly hot when sitting at home in front of a computer screen trying to work! So what did I do to try to combat the heat? I made my own air conditioner out of a box fan, a big bowl full of water, and some refreezable ice packs that most everyone has somewhere in their freezer. It’s basically just a cheap evaporative cooler (or swamp cooler) with a total cost of about $45.

All I did was set up my box fan behind the bowl full of water and ice packs, and voila – I was blowing cooler air into my space. I rotated the ice packs in and out of the freezer as they melted down, so I always had at least a few icy ones in the bowl to keep the water cold. Every few hours I had to refill the bowl a bit as the water evaporated, but I really only needed to use the “unit” during the afternoon so it wasn’t too much work. I may have lowered the temperature near me by only a few degrees, but it made all the difference in the world. Combine that with the heavy curtains I hung in front of the french doors to try to stop the sunlight, and I made the space a lot more comfortable to be in during the afternoon.

So if you are still trying to combat that hot afternoon summer sun at home and don’t have air conditioning, you may want to try to make your own evaporative cooler using parts you probably already have at home. It’s cheap to put together, uses barely any energy (your freezer is already running to keep food cold, so you can’t really count that, and box fans are efficient), and it could save you some money on your cooling costs this summer. It’s worth a shot even if it only drops the inside air temperature by a few degrees!

Still looking for more information on cooling down this summer? Check out Lower Your Cooling Costs And Go Green and Cooling Your House Without Electricity for more tips!

4 thoughts on “Cooling Down Your Space Without Air Conditioning”

  1. We live in Portland, OR; for the most part temperatures are more moderate than New Mexico. We have not turned our air conditioner on in three years. Instead we use fans to circulate air. We position on fan at the bottom of the basement stairs and use it to drive the cooler air from the basement up to the ground floor. Other strategically placed fans move the cooler air through the house. Every summer there are a few days when even this doesn’t seem to make much difference. When that happens now, we will be using the cool water method you describe.

  2. If you hang a piece of burlap in front of the fan with the bottom edge of the burlap affixed within a waterproof window box planter that is filled with water you might humidify AND cool. Fasten it securely from top and bottom so it doesn’t flap and set the fan back a little ways. The burlap wicks the water, though modern burlap may have too much synthetic in it to wick adequately. The original swamp cooler. I’m not sure how far back you have to set the fan so that it doesn’t just dry out the burlap. And perhaps there’s a fabric that’s more absorbent. Dipping the burlap periodically would keep it from drying completely.

    There are probably many ways to improve on it, but it’s cheaper than AC.

  3. Nice idea! I love creative solutions that reduce energy consumption. If you live in a dry climate you get the extra bonus of humidity. It is a DYI swamp cooler.
    Unfortunately that solution wouldn’t work here in NY 🙁
    It is too humid already and that would just add to the discomfort. I’ve looked into dry DYI AC ideas but haven’t come up with much. There are some cool desiccant ideas out there using saline water that absorbs humidity but it is a little complicated.


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