Peak July heat has officially arrived in the United States. Is your AC cranking?

Unfortunately, air conditioning is a double-edged sword. Not only does it use tons of electricity, but it also expels coolants that result in planet-warming emissions. So, the more A.C. we use, the hotter it gets.

But cooling isn’t just about comfort - productivity rises when the environment is cooler. For every 2 notches in the thermostat above 77 degrees Farhenheit, worker productivity falls 2%.

Short of canceling work and spending the hot hazy days of summer at the beach, what can the average freelancer do to minimize the impact of A.C. on the environment and her wallet?

It seems the sweet-spot productivity is a temperate 72 degrees. This means, if it’s 77 degrees or lower, you should be able to cool your office down to 72 without the use of air conditioning at all!

Here are a few sneaky ways to cool your home or office without AC:

  1. Set your ceiling fans to rotate counter clockwise to produce the wind-chill breeze effect and make you feel cooler.
  2. Keep the blinds closed - or invest in solar screens or window films. You can save up to 7% on your energy bill and reduce the temperature by up to 20 degrees.
  3. Hack a fan: Fill a mixing bowl with ice or an ice pack and put it at an angle in front of the fan. It works wonders!
  4. Ditch the incandescent lights: Incandescent bulbs waste about 90 percent of their energy in the heat they emit.
  5. Turn on the bathroom (or kitchen) fans: these fans suck hot air up and out.

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Too hot to hack it without A.C.?

Make your air conditioner more energy efficient.

  1. Make sure your air conditioner is an energy-star certified model
  2. Change or clean your filters monthly
  3. If you have a window box AC unit, choose a shady spot for it. The cooler the air the AC unit draws in, the less work it has to do.
  4. Don’t cool an empty room: if you’re not using the space, turn the air conditioning off or put it in energy-saver mode.
  5. Check your home for any unwanted air leaks. Air leaks usually account for 30% percent of a home’s cooling costs.

What are your tips for maximizing your energy efficiency while keeping cool in the summer?

A new soul and media geek, Laura writes about sustainability, technology, poetry and pop culture. Find her @Pennyscientist or on Freelancers Union.