How to Keep an Old House Cooler in the Summer

And none of these hot weather tips involve running an air conditioner.

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Old vintage fan inside a hot room with curtains

As summer temperatures start to rise, you might be dreading the heat—especially if you live in an old house. Old houses, while charming and full of character, often lack the modern conveniences that make newer homes more energy-efficient and comfortable during the hot months. But don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to keep an old house cool in the summer. Here are some tips to help you beat the heat.

Install Window Treatments

Insulated window treatments are a simple and cost-effective way to keep your old house cool. They work by blocking the sun’s rays, reducing the amount of heat that enters your home. Consider installing blinds, curtains, or shades made from light-reflecting material. You can also use thermal curtains that have a special lining to block out heat.

Quick Tip

During the hottest part of the day, keep your window treatments closed to prevent the sun from heating up your home.

Use Light-Colored Bedding

Dark colors absorb heat, so switch to light-colored bedding during the summer months. Not only will this make your bedroom feel cooler, but it can also help you sleep better. Opt for materials like cotton or linen, which breathe better than synthetic materials and wick away sweat.

Position Fans Strategically

Industrial-sized fans can be a great way to circulate air and create a breeze in your home. Also, ceiling fans can help circulate cool air throughout a room, while box fans placed in windows can help draw in cool air during the evening or early morning. Remember, fans cool people, not rooms, so turn them off when you leave the room to save energy.

Declutter Antique Collections

If you’re an antique collector (or maybe even a hoarder), you might have rooms filled with items that are absorbing and radiating heat. Decluttering your antique collections can help improve air circulation and reduce the amount of heat these items store.

Quick Tip

Consider rotating your collection seasonally, keeping only a few key pieces out during the summer months. Not only will this help keep your home cooler, but it also gives you a chance to appreciate different items in your collection throughout the year.

Use a Dehumidifier

High humidity can make your home feel hotter than it actually is. Using a compact dehumidifier can help remove excess moisture from the air, making your home feel cooler. Plus, it can help prevent mold and mildew, which are common problems in old houses. Place dehumidifiers in particularly humid parts of your home, like the basement or kitchen, for the best results.

Check Your Home’s Orientation

Older homes were often built with the home’s orientation in mind to take advantage of the sun’s path. If your home has more windows on the north side, try to use these rooms more during the day when it’s hot. Conversely, try to avoid using rooms with lots of west or south-facing windows during the hottest parts of the day.

Cook Outside

Using your oven and stove can generate a lot of heat, which can make your house feel hotter. During the summer months, try to cook outside as much as possible. Grilling on a portable grill is a great option that doesn’t heat up your home. If you must cook inside, try to do so during the cooler parts of the day, like the early morning or late evening.

Restore Original Features

Many old houses were designed with features to help cope with the heat before the invention of air conditioning. These might include:

  • High ceilings
  • Transom windows
  • Wrap-around porches
  • Thick walls

If your house has these features, restoring them to their original function can help keep your house cool. For example, transom windows, which are small windows above doors, can be opened to improve ventilation.

Plant Shade Trees

If your property allows for it, planting shade trees can be a great long-term solution for keeping your old house cool. Deciduous trees, which lose their leaves in the winter, can provide shade during the summer while allowing sunlight through in the colder months. This natural solution can help reduce your reliance on air conditioning and fans.

Types of shade trees

Maple Trees: Maples are known for their broad, dense canopy that can provide ample shade. Varieties like the Red Maple or Silver Maple are popular choices.

Oak Trees: Oaks are large, sturdy trees that can provide excellent shade. The White Oak and Red Oak are both good options.

Elm Trees: Elms have a vase-like shape that can provide a wide area of shade. The American Elm is a classic choice.

Honey Locust Trees: These trees have a light, airy canopy that provides dappled shade, allowing some sunlight to filter through.

Linden Trees: Also known as Basswood, Lindens have large, heart-shaped leaves that provide dense shade.

London Plane Trees: These are large, fast-growing trees that are often used in urban environments for their shade and resilience.

Ginkgo Trees: While not as dense as some other trees, Ginkgos are unique and attractive trees that can provide some shade.

Seal Cracks and Gaps

Old houses often have cracks and gaps around windows and doors that can let in hot air. Sealing these gaps can help keep your house cooler. Use weatherstripping for doors and windows that open and caulk for gaps and cracks in stationary parts of your home. This not only helps keep your home cooler in the summer but also warmer in the winter.


On old wood windows, you should never use caulk where the glass pane meets the wood. Reglaze the windows instead.

Insulate Your Attic

A well-insulated attic can really help keep an old house cool (or cooler than it would be without the insulation). Heat rises, and in an old house, that heat often escapes into the attic. By insulating your attic, you can prevent this heat transfer, keeping your home cooler. While this can be a more expensive upgrade, it can make a big difference in your home’s comfort and energy efficiency. Just don’t overdo it: Your attic still needs to be able to ventilate.

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