It's a hassle anytime an appliance breaks, but few things are worse than your air-conditioner going out in the middle of a hot summer day. While you wait for the repair person, break out these old-school tricks for staying cool.

By Katie Bandurski and Jessica Bennett
Updated July 21, 2020
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The last thing you want on a sweltering summer day is for your AC to go out. If your air-conditioning unit breaks down, the first step is obviously to call a professional to schedule a repair, but then you'll have to find ways to handle the heat until the system is back up and running. Without air-conditioning, hot, humid temperatures outside can quickly make your home feel unbearably warm. To keep your home (and yourself) comfortable, use these tricks for how to stay cool when your AC is out.

Credit: Seth Smoot

1. Choose Breathable Fabrics

Trying to sleep in heat can be unbearable. To help you stay cool at night, opt for breathable fabrics on your bed. Strip away any heavy blankets, pillows, or duvets, and replace them with lightweight cotton or bamboo bedding. You can also find cooling pillows and sheets that help regulate temperature to keep you cool in bed. Choose similar breathable fabrics for your pajamas.

Credit: David A Land

2. Take a Cool Shower

Need to cool down ASAP? Run a cold shower or bath. The icy water will help bring your body temperature down quickly, and wet hair will keep you cool for hours. If you don't have time for a full bath, submerge just your feet and splash some water on your face.

Credit: Michae lPartenio

3. Stay in the Shade

Shaded areas are much cooler than those in direct sunlight. If you're outside, look for an overhang, patio umbrella, or large, leafy tree to sit under. When indoors, keep excess heat out by placing light-blocking treatments over windows and doors. Also, avoid using high-power light fixtures or large appliances that give off a lot of heat during the day.

Credit: Kim Cornelison

4. Head to the Basement

Because heat rises, the coolest part of your house is typically at the bottom. If you have a finished basement, hang out there as much as possible. Or settle for the ground floor in lieu of the upper level.

Editor's Tip: To keep yourself entertained (and as cool as possible) while your AC is broken, do something that expends as little energy as possible. Try reading a book, playing board games, or binge-watching a favorite show.

Credit: James Nathan Schroder

5. Turn On the Fan

If you have fans around the house, use them. Switch on all box, desk, and overhead fans in your home to keep air moving. For an added cool factor, place a bowl of ice cubes in front of an oscillating fan. The air will pick up the chill around the cubes and push it out into the room.

Credit: Brie Williams

6. Cook with Cold

Avoid adding extra heat to your home by sticking to cool foods. Anything that requires an oven or stovetop isn't a good idea when your air-conditioner is broken. Try no-cook recipes that feature fresh fruit and vegetables, chilled salads, or a cheese plate. And if you absolutely must use heat, use a toaster oven or outdoor grill.

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7. Stay Hydrated

Proper hydration helps your body regulate its temperature, so drink up! Try to drink at least 64 ounces of water and other fluids over the course of the day. Just be careful what you put in your cup; alcohol and sugary drinks can actually dehydrate you. Try water infused with fresh fruits for a refreshing way to stay hydrated.

Credit: John Merkl

8. Slather On the Sunscreen

As if you needed another reason to wear sunscreen: Sunburned skin is much warmer to the touch than properly hydrated skin and can cause you to feel hotter than usual. If you plan to spend any time outdoors, make sure you slather on the sunblock (including on your face!) and reapply every few hours.

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