Topic Digest: Living Without Air Conditioning

For those of you who would like to experiment with A/C-free living (or for those of you who are already doing it but are encountering difficulties of various kinds — or, for those of you who are doing it, love it, but are having trouble explaining your choice to the people around you), I’ve compiled a digest of articles on this topic. Enjoy! I’ve been living without A/C by choice for just about my whole adult life, and I found these articles enjoyable and empowering.

(FYI, I found these articles by googling “people who live without air conditioning are healthier,” and the search brought up many many more articles than I’ve linked here! So you can find a lot more than what I’ve shared below.)

I don’t need air conditioning and neither do you (The Washington Post): Clinical social worker Olivia Snyder lives on the fifth floor of a Philadelphia apartment building with southern exposure and no air conditioning. It gets so hot, she says, “I don’t want to turn on the burners, let alone the oven.” But window units offend her. “Air conditioners are ugly. I really like the view,” she says. Also, “I hate sleeping with the noise. I’m super-weird about noise.” … There are a thousand reasons my family does without central air. Actually, several thousand. …

Mama Remembers the South Before Air-Conditioning (Southern Living magazine): “Living without air-conditioning used to be normal to Southerners,” Mama says. “But everybody’s gotten so used to being cool all the time that people can’t even go outside without burning up. We never used to complain about the heat. We just said, ‘Well, it’s summer.’ And we drank a lot of water.”…

Can We Live without Air Conditioning? (JSTOR Daily): Currently, as the world gets hotter, AC use expands. But all this cool comfort comes at a cost. … Susanna Robbins reviews how air conditioning helped transform the South and Southwest into the Sunbelt. She notes that air conditioning radically changed traditional architecture and social and labor relations in these desert and sub-tropical regions, most notably in ending the “easy-going lifestyle” best suited to broiling hot days.

How to Live Without Air Conditioning (Boston Globe): Can Americans kick our addiction to cool? Maybe more happily than we think …

24 Tricks to Survive Hot Summer Nights (without A/C) (

How Did People Survive Before Air Conditioning? ( the porch, like the fireplace, is a charming but somewhat vestigial architectural feature. But in the past porches were incredibly important, not just for shading the windows of a home, but also for providing a place where people could sit outside, out of the glare of the sun, and perhaps enjoy a breeze. These days, when it’s hot, people flock inside, but in the past it was the opposite: temperatures indoors and out were more or less the same, and the porch was much less stuffy than the rest of the house. This led to a whole culture of people sitting outside on their porches after supper, which has essentially disappeared.

Can you live without air conditioning in your life? Is it a need or just a want? (discussion thread on Quora): I am from the southern part of India which is known for its tropical climate. Summers are generally warm and sultry with quite high levels of humidity. The AC was a fairly recent addition to Kerala’s homes. Even now, most homes don’t have an AC. They are quite okay with it too. One noteworthy aspect is that back in the days, houses were built with lots of outlets for cross-ventilation. Even in the summers, the insides of the houses remained comfortable. (Includes some really nice photos of traditional houses in India and the Middle East that were designed in the days before A/C and are very comfortable without it.) 

10 Things Living without A/C Taught Me (Frugal Farm Wife blog): good commonsense advice — adjust your routine according to the season; learn to accept sweat; conserve your movements and more.

Europe to America: Your Love of Air Conditioning Is Stupid (Washington Post): “The bottom line is that America’s a big, rich, hot country,” Cox told The Post. “But if the second, fourth, and fifth most populous nations — India, Indonesia, and Brazil, all hot and humid — were to use as much energy per capita for air-conditioning as does the U.S., it would require 100 percent of those countries’ electricity supplies, plus all of the electricity generated by Mexico, the U.K., Italy, and the entire continent of Africa,” he added. …”If everyone were to adopt the U.S.’s air-conditioning lifestyle, energy use could rise tenfold by 2050,” Cox added, referring to the 87-percent ratio of households with air-conditioning in the United States. Given that most of the world’s booming cities are  in tropical places, and that none of them have so far deliberately adopted the European approach to air-conditioning, such calculations should raise justified concerns.

Living Without Air Conditioning Can Damage Your Brain: I figured it wouldn’t be fair to only present one side of things, so I’m including this article … by a guy who runs a heating and air-conditioning company.

Becoming Native To This Place: Essay by Wes Jackson, founder of the Land Institute and author of the book by the same title. This absolute jewel of an essay (it’s very lengthy but worth reading every bit) appears on the website of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics. Although it addresses a far wider terrain than artificial climate control or the lack thereof, I simply had to include it in this post for you. Jackson talks about the very nature of place, of people and cultures that are truly committed to the land they live on, and how it would behoove each of us to get back to that mentality and really commit to whatever place we call home. I particularly love the passage where he talks about coming across old garden-club newsletters in an abandoned farmhouse: The August 1936 program was dedicated to coping with the heat: roll call was “Hot Weather Drinks”; next came “Suggestions for Hot Weather Lunches”; a Mrs. Rogler offered “Ways of Keeping Cool.” By modern standards these people were poor. There was a kind of naiveté among these relatively unschooled women. … But the monthly agendas of these women were filled with decency, with efforts to learn about everything from the birds to our government and to cope with their problems, the weather, and diseases. Here is the irony: they were living up to a far broader spectrum of their potential than most of us do today! I am not suggesting that we go back to 1923 or even to 1964. But I will say that those people in that particular generation, in places like Matfield Green, were further along in the necessary journey to become native to their places, even as they were losing ground, than we are today.