As the temps rise to 90+ I've been searching for ways to keep our house cool without using the A/C as much. Right now I have the thermometer set to 77* and a box fan set to low in the living room to keep the air circulating. So far its been keeping the house pretty cool. Here are some of the tips I found on a message board today.
1. If you cook, bake and can in the house rather than in an outdoor summer kitchen or campfire, do it in the evening so the house will have all night to cool off. But minimize cooking by serving salads, raw fruit, cool herb teas, and grilled or quickly heated foods.
2. Get cool air indoors. After the sun goes down and the outside air becomes cool, open all your windows and get as much of that good cool air inside as possible. Using fans, especially an attic fan, will help accomplish that quickly. (A fan doesn't need as much energy as does air conditioning, and it doesn't use chemical refrigerants!) In the morning, close all your windows to keep in the wonderful cool night air you collected.
3. Ceiling fans are inexpensive to operate and can help keep rooms cooler.
4. Hang heavy insulating blankets in all south- and west-facing windows, at least while the sun is shining on them. The more you can prevent summer sun from directly shining into your house's rooms, the cooler they will be.
5. A cool shower before the afternoon nap or bedtime helps keep both grown-ups and children cool.
6. Drink lots of pure water or water with a little fruit juice added.
7. Arrange your work schedule as they do in hot desert countries: Take a siesta or stay inside quietly in your coolest rrom during the hottest afternoon hours. Make up for it by working in the evening, when the temperatures are comfortable, doing what in winter you would have done in the afternoon. Plan to do hard mental jobs in the morning and expect to have brain meltdown during the hot hours, compensated for by that nap or undermanding time. It's a simple shysiological fact that we don't think and function as well under extreme heat.
Also there's an awesome post about getting your house in order over at Homemaker in Training.