4 Ways to Efficiently Beat the Summer Heat in a Rental

Right now, in many parts of the United States, the summer heat is just reaching its peak. For many apartment-dwellers and other renters, it’s an uncomfortable time of year. But those looking for ways to beat the summer heat in a rental often find that they don’t have very many options.

gray Nest thermostat displaying at 63

That’s because, in most areas, air conditioning is considered an amenity – not a habitability requirement. That means there aren’t very many rentals that come equipped with air conditioning, because landlords don’t want to deal with the ongoing maintenance costs.

Still, renters have to find some way to get through the summer heat without melting away. Fortunately, there are some ways for them to do just that. Here are the four best ways to efficiently beat the summer heat in a rental.

1. Passive Cooling Solutions

Although making a beeline for the nearest store to buy an air conditioner sounds like an easy fix, not every rental property can accommodate one. In some cases, the required electrical outlets might not be available. In others, lease agreements might explicitly forbid the use of high-wattage appliances. Whatever the reason, renters in that unfortunate position need not despair.

There are several passive methods that might be useful in their quest to beat the summer heat. Some are quite effective on their own, while others work best as part of a more comprehensive strategy. Here are a few that go a long way toward keeping you cool in a rental.

Stay Hydrated at all Times

When it’s hot, the simplest and most effective thing you can do to cool down is to make sure to stay hydrated. Doing this allows your body to cool itself by sweating as much as it needs to. Although it can be a little uncomfortable, this is the body’s way of regulating temperature. The hotter the air around us gets, though, the less heat you’ll be able to release in this way. That means once the temperature climbs into the 80s and above, you’ll have to take some more serious steps to stay cool.

Window Coverings

One of the most effective ways to beat the summer heat in a rental is to prevent that heat from building up in your apartment in the first place. The cheapest way to do it is to purchase some inexpensive blinds for your windows. Keeping blinds closed during the sunniest hours blocks a great deal of heat from entering your apartment. The trouble is, they’re not that efficient.

For some next-level heat blocking, consider adding a layer of heat control window film to every window. In many cases, you can lower the temperature of your apartment by several degrees this way, all while still allowing light to come in. It’ll also help make your unit more energy efficient. Best of all, some heat control window films install with no adhesives. That means they won’t damage your rental and you can take them with you when you leave.

Cool Water Evaporative Cooling

Another great way to beat the summer heat in a rental is to keep a spray bottle of water in your refrigerator. When the mercury climbs, spritz yourself with the cool water, and let nature take care of the rest. Doing this mimics sweating (without the discomfort), and as the water evaporates from your skin, you will cool off. You’ll also get an added comfort boost from the water’s low starting temperature. Doing this in concert with dressing in loose-fitting clothing is an excellent way to stay comfortable no matter how hot your rental gets.

2. Cross-Ventilation

If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with lots of windows, you might have a built-in heat busting solution. But first, you’ll need to figure out which way the wind is blowing. Once you know that, all you have to do is open as many windows on the windward side as you can. Then open as many windows on the opposite side of your rental. This will set up some cross-ventilation that takes in the cool air on one side and forces hot air out the other side.

If you don’t live somewhere with a regular breeze, don’t worry. You can achieve the same effect with some low-cost box fans. Just put one fan drawing air in on the cooler side of your rental (typically an eastern wall). Then set up another fan opposite to the first pushing air out. If you happen to have double-hung windows, try putting the exhaust fan in the open upper sash. Since heat rises, it’ll be most effective that way.

The same goes for situations when you only have a single window to work with. In that case, put an exhaust fan in the partially-open top sash. Then place a fan to draw cool air in through the partially-open bottom sash. While it won’t work as well as the previous setups, it will drop the temperature in your rental by more than a few degrees.

3. Portable and Window Air Conditioners

If you’re fortunate enough to live in a rental with no restrictions on air conditioners, you’re in luck. You’re just a single purchase away from beating the summer heat. But that doesn’t mean you should just go buy the first air conditioner you see for sale. First, you’ll need to do a little bit of math to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.

we're air conditioned for your comfort sticker

The first thing you need to know is the total square footage of your rental. If you only want to keep a single room cool in the summer, use the size of that room. Knowing this will allow you to buy an air conditioner that can cool your space efficiently. Just plug in the size of the space you want to cool into a BTU calculator. Then, make sure to buy a unit rated for the resulting BTU figure.

Doing this is more important than you might imagine. If you buy an air conditioner that’s too small, it’ll just run all day and never get your room to the right temperature. If you buy one that’s too big, it’ll cycle on and off faster than it should. That adds wear and tear that will kill your new air conditioner before it’s time. Needless to say, neither outcome is ideal.

No matter which type of air conditioner you buy, though, beware of its power needs. Many small air conditioners will work with a standard three-prong outlet on a 20-amp circuit. Others, though, require a specialized outlet that provides higher voltage. Since many rentals lack those kinds of outlets, be careful about which type of unit you buy.

4. Split-Unit Air Conditioners

In some cases, if you’re living in a rental that didn’t come with central air conditioning, it isn’t because the landlord is opposed to it. It could be that they didn’t want to shoulder the cost of installation. They may have thought that central air conditioning was impractical. Or, they may just have not gotten around to it before you moved in. The point is, there’s no harm in asking them if they’re willing to update your rental unit.

It might help if you suggest they look into a split-unit air conditioning system. They’re ductless, efficient, and easy to install. They’re also a great deal cheaper than traditional central air conditioning. And when you consider that the average split unit system will work for around 20 years with little maintenance, they’re a bit of a no-brainer.

To sweeten the deal, you might even wish to negotiate to split the installation costs with your landlord. If you’re lucky, they’ll accept your offer and won’t increase your rent by much when your lease renews. In the best-case scenario, the landlord gets a break on an upgrade of their property, and you get to stay nice and cool all summer. Everybody wins!

Beating the Summer Heat

So, there you have it. There are plenty of great ways to beat the summer heat in a rental. The best news of all is that you don’t need to choose just one. Remember, even if you have air conditioning, there’s no rule that says you have to use it all the time. Consider breaking out your spray bottle when the outside temperature is bearable. Keep your box fans for when it isn’t. You don’t have to maintain winter-like conditions indoors to stay comfortable.

In fact, making sure you’ve got quality window coverings or heat blocking film installed is something you should do in any case. Even when you’re using air conditioning, they help to cut down on your overall operating costs. They will also give you more flexibility in when and how you use your air conditioning. And since lower costs are the best friend of any renter, this isn’t a step anyone should skip.

So, as the temperatures keep climbing, now’s the time to take some of these suggestions and create a heat-busting strategy of your own. Depending on where you live, some may work better than others. In the end, if you make it to the end of September without a bout of heatstroke, you’ll be able to declare victory over the scorching summer sun. Stay cool out there!