7 ways to keep cool in NYC without air conditioning

By Samantha Leffler  | July 19, 2017 - 8:59AM

Whether you're trying to consume less energy for the sake of the environment, save money on your ConEd bill, or are one of the hundreds of thousands of people across the five boroughs who don't have air conditioning (including the many New Yorkers living in public housing), you'll want to think of new ways to stay cool during the muggy days of July and August.

As the second half of a particularly sweltering summer approaches, we’ve got seven tips to keep you feeling refreshed sans A/C.

Find a good fan

This may be the most obvious tip, but not all fans are created equal. First off, ceiling fans are best, but installation can be tricky. For something simpler, tower fans are a great option if you’re working with very little floor space, while an efficient window fan has the ability to circulate air easily in a large room.

With your fan(s) in place, there are some simple tricks you can employ that will have your home feeling like an igloo (just go with it) in no time. Though it sounds crazy, filling a bowl with ice and positioning it at an angle in front of a large fan will make a space even cooler because the air whipping off the ice is extra-chilled.

The placement of the fan can also make a world of difference. Believe it or not, positioning the fan so it's blowing air out the window moves hot air away from you while drawing fresh air inside.

Invest in good blackout curtains

That abundance of natural light in your apartment may be a real treat in the dead of winter, but as the weather gets warmer, windows (particularly those facing south and west) might as well be your portal to the surface of the sun.

To cut down on the heat making its way into your home, consider investing in some blackout curtains or shades. They can reduce the amount of heat transferred via your windows by up to 24 percent, according to experts, and allow you to use whatever cooling system you have in place more efficiently, meaning you’ll also save energy. It’s a win-win!

Pro tip: open the shades when you wake up in the morning to boost your body’s production of vitamin D, but lower them again just before you head out for the day so your apartment isn’t a sauna when you return home.

Adopt an open-door policy, and keep windows closed

While we certainly don’t recommend leaving your front door open, opening doors within your apartment allows cool air to flow freely about. When you keep doors closed, the airflow into the room is drastically reduced and the space becomes pressurized, forcing all the cool air out.

Windows, on the other hand, should only be open at night when temperatures are typically at their lowest. Close them during the day to trap this cooler air inside and to keep humidity out.

Purchase some plants

As it turns out, house plants are more than just a way to spruce up a room. They can also absorb some of the sun's energy and keep your home cool. Stick to plants that require plenty of sunlight (like lavender or sunflowers) and place them in front of sunny windows for optimal results. Here are a few plants that will survive (and thrive!) in NYC.

(Note: If you live in a house you can take this idea one step further and plant deciduous trees near parts of your home that get too sunny. The broad leaves will shade your house, thus protecting you from the sun’s rays.)

Stay away from the stove

Sure, a home cooked meal is nice, but using the stove when your home already feels like a professional sauna is just a recipe for disaster—it will make your living space hotter. Work on your cold-food repertoire, embrace your Seamless addiction or, occasionally, go the grill-pan route. What's summer without a couple of burgers, right?

Power down electronics

In a similar vein, cutting down on the use of electronic devices will also cool things down. Since electronics and other small appliances give off heat, even when powered down, keep everything unplugged when it’s not in use in an effort to lower the temperature.

If all else fails, get your cool-down elsewhere

If the heat in your apartment gets unbearable, and the tips above aren't quite cutting it, make like New Yorkers of yore (who had their own, creative ways of beating the heat) and go spend some serious time at the movies, or hop on one of NYC’s now air conditioned forms of public transportation. There are also always New York’s fancy (and air conditioned) food markets, which seem to be popping up all over, and don't forget our pools, either— both public and private. After all, what’s cooler than that?

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