The answer is the proper use of fans. Although we have a working air conditioner, we choose to see how long we can go without it. Call it a macho challenge. So far it's been one and a half years. It is currently 100 degrees outside with a heat index near 110 but it's only 85 degrees in my living room. The fans makes it feel even cooler than that. That might still be uncomfortable for some but when you come in from the outside it feels like the house is air conditioned.
If you live in a two story home close all windows and window coverings downstairs. Keep your doors closed as if you were using your AC. Use your ceiling fans if you have any, and regular fan(s) blowing air at you in the most commonly used area of the house (e.g. living room). This will be the coolest part of the house during the day and your cooling center. Upstairs put as many fans in every window you can EXHAUSTING air to the outside. Use windows that don't get direct sunlight. Close windows and window coverings that get direct sunlight and any other windows your'e not using fans in. The upstairs is the heat repository (15 degrees warmer than your downstairs) and you have to remove that hot air constantly during the day.
In the evening when the outdoor temperature is cooler than your downstairs temperature, open all doors and windows and turn all your fans to blow inwards.
For a one story dwelling, do the same thing...keep everything closed, exhaust the hot air in all the available windows that are not in direct sunlight, close and cover the others, keep the doors closed and use floor fans to keep you comfortable. An hour before bedtime open everything up and turn the fans to blow air inwards.
It works and cost a fraction of the energy and $ that using an AC does. Plus you're not adding to a possible electrical blackout where nothing works and everyone is miserable.
If you're faint of heart or health and can't stand the heat, stick with your AC.
How to Survive Without an AC
Published: August 1, 2006, 4:50 pm