1. Open your windows—the right way. The fastest, and easiest, fix for cooling your house is opening your windows. But you have to do it the right way: Too wide, and you get no air movement, too little, and you just swelter. To learn an easy trick for creating drafts with strategically opened windows, see 3 Secrets for Keeping Your Home Cool in Summer.
2. Grab an ice pack. Ice can work wonders in cooling you off, and not just when it’s floating in your iced tea. Using ice in front of fans or frozen ice packs in your pillow at night are two low-energy ways to beat the heat. For more quirky tricks for keeping yourself from overheating, see 8 Cheap and Easy Ways to Stay Cool.
3. Plant something. You could spend big bucks on fancy awnings or efficient shutters for your windows, but you can get (almost) the same cooling effect with shade plants in your garden. Sunflowers, morning glory, and even hops that you can use to make your own beer are fast-growing shade plants that you can enjoy within weeks of planting.
4. Look up. Your roof may be the last thing you think about when you’'re sweltering in the heat, but a study in the journal Climatic Change found that, collectively, U.S. homeowners who adopted "cool roofs" could save $1 billion annually in energy costs. To learn more about what a "cool roof" is, and how you can get one, see To Save Cash and Cool the Planet, Start at the Top (of Your House).
5. Turn it off, or up. When it finally does get so hot that an air conditioner is necessary, learn how to use it efficiently. You may think that it’s more energy-efficient to let it run all day long, whether you're home or not, to keep a room at a consistent temperature. But that’s not the case. To learn why, see Leave Your AC On or Turn It Off?.
photo: (cc) toasty/flickr