10 Things Living Without A/C Taught Me

I spent most of my formative years in an Amish community. it’s a long story, but basically, when I was 10, my dad decided that the Amish lifestyle was God’s preferred method of gaining citizenship in heaven. 

The particular community we moved into was unique in that, not only did we not have electricity, it wasn’t even available back in our  valley. The power lines stopped where the dirt road and buggy signs began.

Amazing what she learned by living without air conditioning!

Even if we’d wanted it, there was no way to have air conditioning during the hot, humid Tennessee summers. We lived though (for eight whole years, I might add). 

I’ll be honest: I have no desire to ever go back to that lifestyle. I love coming in from the out-of-doors to be blasted by a wave of cold air. But life isn’t perfect, so I imagine there will be a time when our AC unit gives up the ghost and we have to live without it for a few days, or a storm comes and wipes out the electricity for a few days, or any number of things, so I think it’s useful to know how to survive without it. And yes, you can survive! 😉 

Ten Things Living Without Air Conditioning Taught Me

1. You really do Adapt. You know how in the winter, when you suddenly have a warm spell and feel like your going to die of heat stroke and it’s only 50º? It’s that way in the summer too, but in reverse. You go outside and it’s 95º or more every day during July, so when you come back into the house where it’s only 80º, it actually feels quite cool. 

2. you learn to accept sweat. It’s like when you go outside in the summer to get some exercise. you know you’re going to sweat, so you just deal with it. It’s not the funnest thing in life, but it’s not going to kill you either.

3. You take a cold shower right before bed each night. It may not be the most delightful experience, but it brings your body temperature down enough that you sleep like a baby. 

4. You get up early, stay up late, and take a nap during the middle of the day because it’s too hot to do anything else. 

5. You take swimming very seriously. Especially if you don’t have the luxury of a nap during the middle of the day. Taking a few minutes to soak in a cold creek gives you the ability to take on the heat relatively comfortably for a few more hours. 

6. You learn to conserve your movements to keep your heart rate.body temperature down. When you know you’re going out to work up a sweat, that’s one thing, and you mentally prepare for it, but at all other times, keep that body temp. down!

What you can learn by living without air conditioning...

7. You learn the value of air movement. It doesn’t matter how warm the breeze is, any breeze is better than no breeze, so get those windows open!

8. You learn to value a big front porch. And you prefer one that’s large enough to put furniture on, because it will be your second living room all summer long. 

9. Watermelons are your BFF. They’re extra fluid, electrolytes, and a snack all rolled into one. Fortunately, we grew lots of watermelon during that time, or I’m afraid my parents would have gone broke buying them.

10. Water is the single most important thing in your life. The colder the better, but you’ll take it any way you can get it, and you’ll try not to sweat it all out at once.

All those things may not sound very pleasant, and you’re right, they’re not entirely, but you don’t necessarily have to go cold turkey to save money on air conditioning. For instance, we switched from central air, to a window unit in one room of the house (where we use to live) so that we could still cool off, but not waste money cooling parts of the house that weren’t in continuous use, and our bill went from over $200 per month, to just under $100. That’s a pretty awesome savings! 

Have you ever lived without air conditioning?

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  1. Yes! I have practiced all of this when my family lived without electricity for about a year and a half.
    Also, put your hair up, go barefoot, oh and you know when you’re really hot and sweaty it’s easier for tempers to flare so remember speak kindly and realize everyone else is just as hot as you are!
    So thankful we have air conditioning now ( and electric!) It sure makes sweating up a storm in the garden easier when you know you can come in to a cool house when you’re finished!
    Just found your blog, It looks to be a new favorite. Thanks!

  2. I grew up in Wyoming, and at that time, very few people had air conditioning. During the summer, it often gets to be around 100 degrees during the day, but the nights are always cool. One of the things that really helped was to open the windows in the evenings and through the night, then close them by about 8:00 the next morning, trapping the cooler air inside. Also closed the blinds on any window that got direct sun. It kept the house comfortably cool until late afternoon, especially if you used a fan.

    1. Yes, definitely. We had about three nights in a row that cooled off beautifully last week. Such a blessing! And you can bet we were pushing cool air in/hot air out with fans those nights!

  3. I grew up my entire childhood with no air conditioning- my parents were on a very tight budget and there was just not enough money to run the air conditioner. It was pretty brutal, but I agree with all of your tips here. We had box fans in the windows we would run 24/7. Any breeze was a breeze. At night it was cooler. I would take a shower in the middle of the day to cool off. I do not miss any of it and interestingly enough we now own an air conditioning and heating business and when our house gets below 73/74 degrees in the summer I am the first to notice it.

  4. I grew up without air conditioning. I’m trying to remember when my parents finally did get a couple of window units and I think it was after I moved out! I love in Manitoba, Canada, so we only have a few hot months, but they are very humid – not a dry heat at all – so it feels a lot hotter than it is. So like right now it’s 86 but actually feels like 97. Growing up it never occurred to me that we should have a/c! We ate a lot of meals that didn’t heat up the house, like sandwiches, and had a table & chairs set up in the basement where we often ate our meals. Some of us chose to sleep in the basement as well, and we kept some spare mattresses down there. Windows & curtains stayed shut during the day and were opened as soon as it was cooler out than in. There were a number of fans set up in the house. We slept with sheets instead of blankets. And you are very right about the adapting part! If it’s super-cold in the house, it feels ridiculously hot outside. If your house isn’t air conditioned, the difference isn’t so extreme. For that reason alone I am not the hugest fan of a/c – and I also want to enjoy Summer in our province where it’s only 3-4 months long!

  5. I was hoping one point would be that heat turns you into a super hero. The struggle is real! This is our second summer without air conditioning, and while it is humbling, it is also just the way things are for us. I’m all about the spray bottle, and cooling towel. Nice work on the 8 years!

  6. My family if a big family and are ac just broke so we are buying a new one right away but it will take 2 weeks so that sucks if anyone can tell me how you sleep like this I need tips my sis and I room gets the hottest because we are over the garage. Please help me out I’ve looked and everything.

  7. We purposely live without using our air conditioning. We estimate the savings every summer and put that money into an investment plan.You really notice just how cold stores and homes are when you are accustomed and acclimated to the heat.In an extended summer power outage people who are very dependant on AC(and that is the majority of the USA) will be in crisis.It is frightening to consider.

  8. I did. Here in California it swelters during the summer, and in the house I live in (I rent a room in a house) the central AC is broken. On days it doesn’t hit 95 or higher, it’s bearable. But when it goes above 95, I start to sweat like a waterfall. I tried to do without on those days but in the end I caved and bought a portable AC. I suffer from anxiety and I cannot sleep in a heatwave.

    1. Be grateful for your wonderful California weather. Heat is a terrible thing, but when you add 90% humidity to that 95f temp in your home – things are MUCH worse. living in the south-eastern US (where even in the winter we do not drop below 50% humidity), has taught me that dry heat is a blessing if you have to deal with high temps.

  9. I’m 37 and have never lived in a house with air condition in my entire life (I have mostly only lived in old farmhouses). I still live in Virginia where at 1am in the morning, it is currently 83 degrees (F) and 90 % humidity INSIDE my home (with the windows open). The walls are damp year long, my clothes are damp for half the months out of the year, and I still function. You are proud of living tough for “eight whole years”, but I think I got you beat by an extra 30 (and do not see an end in sight)!

    I think people forget that when we suffer, there are people who have had is vastly worse than we could imagine (even I am guilty of this). Humans are extremely durable, and not long ago how I have been living (without heating or AC) was absolutely normal – the Amish community you spent years at, would seem sophisticated to many 120 years ago.

    Modern people today are very soft only because they have had the option to be. I have read many articles posing the naive question of: “Could you live without AC in a Hot & Humid Climate?” The answer they usually give is follows: [insert random warnings of heat stroke dangers and scare mongering] then “…only for a matter of hours for most, and for the bravest no more than a day before your discomfort affected your health and thinking!”

    My own answer as someone who has survived umpteen thousands of times longer than the 1-4 hours, they gave the average person (by comparison) would be: “YES! Ofcourse you could live without AC if you HAD too! People did if for thousands of years.” And my answer to ‘How Long Would You Last?’: “Every single day of your life that you were still above ground, breathing and taking care of yourself, your family and surviving!”

    This sort of logic is the same I see when I hear people say they could not live on under $50k a year, or 30K a year, or 20K a year (like 1 in 5 Americans do) …. or that they would not make it if they could not eat (often what they wanted) every single time they were hungry (like the 34 Million Americans who experience food insecurity) …. or they would not survive without vacations (for which many like myself have never even been on a ONE in our lives) … or they would not be able to handle losing a loved one (something that through human history was much more prevalent) … or they would not be able to survive if they had to live in a rural area (I don’t have to tell you the absurdity of that one)…

    The fact is a good portion of the world lives with these things I just listed as a very real reality that they face every day of their lives. The fact is that for most human history many of the things I listed where normal parts of the majority of human beings’ lives. The Fact is somewhere along the way (in recent times), we in the United States forgot how cruel nature can be, and how durable these vessels that we inhabit where designed (and evolved) to be!

    Maybe that’s why modern people have such a lack of reverence for those who came before us, and our own histories? Maybe that is why they have to be remined that it is no achievement to live without heating or AC, or without being able to stuff yourself with whatever food you want or pause life and take vacations from our problems and buy lots of things.

    We are built for a much rougher existence than many are living today – and while many call that progress, I have to wonder (given the modern state of peoples live, their minds, and their bodies) if this has been a bad thing for our species. It’s just not natural to be this adverse to discomfort and this scared of the natural state of things when all the luxuries are stripped away.

    I hope this reply finds you well and thank you for your time. 🙂

  10. I have gone through a number of summers in Eastern Oklahoma without air conditioning. I sleep on the floor when it is too hot. The hard surface lets the air circulate more. It is hard to get used to sleeping without a sheet, but I managed to do it. I also got used to wearing tank tops at home. (Previously I’d been too modest to do this). I also use fans and avoid eating big meals, but even though I do these things, my productivity still goes down in the summer. Also, washing the face every few hours and extra cold showers make it more bearable. But it is so humid that even showering right before work doesn’t keep me from perspiring.
    Also, one has to be careful with using technology in the heat… we once ruined my sister’s laptop by watching DVDs when it was 100 degrees. Our friend found pieces had melted inside the laptop.

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