Q&A: How can residents stay cool at home when they lack air conditioning?

Updated: 22 May 2020


Residents can use low-cost measures to cool their homes and themselves when air conditioning is not available.

Strategies include: closing windows and blinds during the day, creating nighttime cross breezes, drinking cool water before feeling thirsty, and wetting clothing.

What can be done?

Help educate residents on low-cost strategies they can use to cool their homes without air conditioning, including:

  • closing blinds/drapes/shutters during the hottest parts of the day to reduce direct sun exposure
  • when it is cooler than 35°C (95°F) opening windows on opposite sides of the building, then using an electric fan to pull cool air into the living space and a second fan to blow hot air out. This creates a cross-breeze.
  • avoiding cooking hot food indoors during the day when it’s hottest
  • unplugging large electronics, such as televisions, that produce heat
  • in low-humidity environments, using electric fans and a setting a bowl of cold water or ice in front of the blowing air to create a cool breeze

Note: As we improve our knowledge of COVID-19 transmission pathways, particularly in high-density areas, guidance that involves using air circulation and window coverings to minimize the risk of heat-related illness may be updated.

Help educate residents on the most effective ways to cool themselves down, including:

  • wearing lightweight, light-coloured and loose-fitting clothing
  • avoiding strenuous activities, especially during the hottest parts of the day
  • drinking cool water before feeling thirsty; avoiding alcoholic and caffeinated beverages
  • when it is not humid, wetting clothing or taking a cool bath or shower and allowing the water to evaporate from the body to cool off.
  • keeping water cool for drinking and bathing by storing it in the coolest and darkest place in the home, such as the basement/cellar

Provide residential assistance and incentive programs, including:

  • Use and, if possible, expand air conditioning installation assistance programmes for the most vulnerable people.
  • Distribute electric fans to those who lack them; but educate residents that fans are only effective if the air temperature is below 35°C (95°F), and best used in rooms with one person. Where ceiling fans are used, ask residents to ensure they are set to an upward air flow.
  • Support and expand utility payment assistance programmes; work with utility suppliers to ensure that no one’s supply is cut-off due to non-payment.
  • Support and expand programmes that provide low-cost building improvements, such as painting roofs in lighter colours and adding shading to sun-facing windows.
  • Expand government support for housing weatherization programmes (this is also known as ‘weather-proofing’) to increase insulation, add shading to sun-facing windows and affix reflective materials to roofs in order to reduce indoor temperatures.
  • Provide mobile water stations in areas that lack a piped water supply.


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