7 Ways to Beat The Heat for Free or Cheap This Summer

A construction worker lays in a wading pool in a backyard.
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Trying to stay cool during the dog days of summer can really turn up the heat on your energy bills. Depending on where you live, your home’s size and how hot it gets, you could be spending anywhere from $100 to $500 a month running an air conditioner.

If you’re worried about cooling costs (or don’t have air conditioning), don’t sweat it. Because we found plenty of ways to stay cool without spending your hard-earned cash.

Why Extreme Heat Can Be Dangerous

Feeling the heat lately? Extreme heat is an extended period of temperatures above 90 degrees. Heat is also compounded by humidity, making sultry summer heat waves a serious health risk for older adults, children and those with health conditions like heart disease.

According to the US Department of Homeland Security, extreme heat is responsible for more deaths annually than any other weather-related hazard. Learn to recognize the following symptoms of heat-related illness such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

  • High body temperature (above 103 degrees)
  • Red, hot, or flushed skin
  • Rapid pulse
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Muscle cramps
  • Severe sweating
  • Paleness and weakness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting or unconsciousness

If you feel sick or suspect heat illness, seek medical attention immediately. Find shade and stay cool until help arrives. If you suspect heat stroke, avoid drinks, especially ones with alcohol, until medical personnel can assess the situation.

7 Free (or Cheap) Ways to Beat the Heat

  1. Find a cooling center.
  2. Go for a swim.
  3. Cool off at the mall.
  4. Housesit during hot weather.
  5. Go to the movies.
  6. Check out the library or a museum.
  7. Hang out at a coffee shop.

1. Find a Cooling Center

Cooling centers throughout the country offer communities an air-conditioned place to find respite during heat events. Most cooling centers also welcome pets.

You can check the National Center for Health Housing to find a cooling center near you or dial 2-1-1 in most states to be connected with heat relief resources.

2. Go for a Swim

There’s nothing like submerging your body in icy cold water to take the edge off a hot afternoon. Cruise on over to your city or county website to check out free or discounted community pools, splash pads or water parks.

You can also head to a lake or beach at a local state park to cool off, but be sure it’s designated for swimming. And if you plan to be outdoors, go in the early morning so you’ll get to enjoy the coolest part of the day. Don’t forget to protect your skin from the sun with plenty of loose, light clothing, a hat with a wide brim and a big bottle of sunscreen.

3. Cool Off at the Mall

You don’t have to be a mall rat to enjoy a wide expanse of indoor air conditioning and top-notch people-watching. Chances are there’s an indoor mall near you where you can lounge and maybe even soak up some free Wi-Fi.

Pro Tip

Worried you won’t be able to resist the siren call of shopping? Follow our guide to curbing impulse buying.

4. Housesit During Hot Weather

Reluctant to turn up the AC at your place? Turn someone else’s house into your own personal oasis instead.

Housesitting is a great way to generate a little extra income while staying cool this summer.

5. Go to the Movies

While going to the movies isn’t free, you can get cheap tickets to matinees and maximize your time in those cool, dark theaters by showing up an hour early and staying through the credits.

Grab cheap movie tickets and discounted snacks with our guide to scoring more than a good seat at the theater.

6. Check Out the Library or a Museum

Libraries are fantastic community spaces to beat the sun and enjoy free Wi-Fi. Score bonus points for finding all sorts of free stuff to check out, from board games to sewing patterns.

If you live near a city, chances are good there’s an air-conditioned museum that offers free or discounted days during the summer.

Pro Tip

Here’s how to snag free museum passes (and more) at your local library.

7. Hang Out at a Coffee Shop

While a steaming hot cup of coffee doesn’t sound like the way to spend a summer day, remember coffee shops have cold drinks, too.

Slow-sipping something iced while you catch up on email or tear through a good book is a sweet (and inexpensive) way to stay cool.

8. Stay Hydrated

Whether you ride out the next heat wave at home on your own dime or let someone else foot the bill, drink plenty of fluids. It’s also smart to avoid high-intensity activity, especially outdoors, and to wear loose, lightweight clothing.

And remember, if your house feels hot to you, it’s probably worse for your pets. Make sure they have plenty of water and shade, and access to a cool indoor space if possible.

How to Beat the Heat at Home

Want to have the heat beat this summer? Weatherize your home. A well-insulated home with weather stripping on doors and windows makes the most of the energy dollars you’re already spending.

Remember to keep drapes and blinds closed and consider adding heat reflectors on windows. And don’t rely too heavily on fans as a primary cooling method. Fans increase airflow, but they don’t significantly reduce temperatures.

Pro Tip

Can’t afford to keep it on ice this summer? See if you qualify for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Kaz Weida is a senior staff writer at The Penny Hoarder covering saving money and budgeting. As a journalist, she has written about a wide array of topics including finance, health, politics, education and technology for the last decade.