20 Tips for Staying Cool and Saving Money in the Summer


It’s hot!  So it is perfect timing to talk about how to stay cool on the cheap – both long term and short term.

1) Grow trees to shade the house.  If the outside is cooler then the inside is cooler too.  The bigger the tree, the cooler it gets.   If you stand under a massive tree on a really hot day, you can feel the cold air pouring onto you.

2) Increase your thermal mass indoors: more stuff inside.  The heavier, the better.  A greater thermal mass makes for greater thermal inertia.  The cool from the evening, or even a few days ago, will cool you during the warmest part of the warmest day.

3) Go away – the less you are at home, the less power/water you use. Plus, your own body is a heater – heating up that space.


Reed Blinds are great for blocking the sun.

4) Layers of shade inside and outside.  Not just inside or outside, but both.  Burlap can be used on the outside to shade — so can bamboo or reed blinds.  These layers will block direct sun access through the windows.

4.1) Let the shady air in.  Let’s suppose you have this space outside a window that is always shaded.  That area is going to be cooler because of the shade.  Then when you open the window the cool air comes in.

4.2) Layers of shade aren’t just for windows — shade the walls outside too!

5) Open your windows in the evening/morning and keep them closed during the day.

6) For every style of roof (yes, even the three tab stuff, or cedar shake, or metal) you could do a rooftop garden which will cool the house tremendously.

6.1) Roof misting cooling system. Keep the roof temperature cooler through evaporation. Even the slightest mist could use just a couple quarts of water and do an amazing job of cooling your home. If you have a metal roof, it is advisable to consult a metal roof installation expert to know more about how to increase the cooling of your home.

7) Vent your attic space. It can get to 140 degrees in there!

8) Use fans, pointed at the people, instead of air conditioning.

9) Drink more water!

10) Haybox Cooking.   This is where you start cooking, then put the pot into a seriously insulated box where it will continue to cook without having to keep adding heat.   This means you can cook in your home, while adding less heat to the living space.

11) Cook less.  This is the time of year to focus on meals that require zero cooking.  Because all that cooking heats up the house.

Clothes Line

Dry your clothes on a clothes line. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

12) Make that summer heat work for you: dry your clothes on a clothes line.   Plus the dryer adds heat to the inside.   As an added bonus, using a clothes line makes your clothes last TEN TIMES LONGER!

13) Cook outside.   Some people even build an outdoor kitchen for summer use.   It doesn’t have to be fancy.   Use your BBQ, Crock pot and/or Propane-burner to cook outside.

And while we’re at, let’s talk about a few quick tips to save energy in the summer:

14) Keep your fridge full and dust the coils.

15) With proper lawn care you can have a green lawn all summer without watering it.

16) Wash your dishes by hand – the right way.  Less water means less water bill AND less hot water which is less electricity/gas.

17) Put motion detectors on your outside flood lights.

18) Use permaculture techniques to reduce water needs for your garden.

19) Maybe it’s time to get a high efficiency front end loader washing machine – cut water usage by a factor of three.

20)  Save up to three gallons of water every time you pee (older toilets  use three gallons per flush!) by peeing outside.

Use the comments section below to add some tips of your own!


See the entire Paul Wheaton archive.

paul-wheaton-bioPaul Wheaton is the tyrannical dictator of Permies.com, the largest permaculture forum on the web. As a certified master gardener and permaculture designer, he’s built an empire around what he calls, ‘infecting brains with permaculture’. His forums are full of rich information, and there are a number of great free resources, guides, and articles that can be found on his sister site, Richsoil.com as well.

Most recently, he has worked with rocket mass heater experts Ernie and Erica in developing a DVD set on making your own rocket mass heater, and has produced another video series on permaculture gardening, which detail how to use hugelkultur, swales, and natural ponds to capture and utilize water without irrigation. His recent work with natural buildings based on Mike Oehler’s designs have resulted in the creation of the Wofati, a semi underground natural home design.

Crowned the Duke of Permaculture by Geoff Lawton and the Bad Boy of Permaculture by the Occupy Monsanto movement, Paul continues to educate and inspire at his property – dubbed Wheaton Labs – in western Montana, where he conducts experiments in permaculture and natural building, hosts workshops, and entertains the curious passerby. More information on stays at the property can be found here.