Dwell On This: Better Your Airflow for a Cooler Home

Dwell On This: Better Your Airflow for a Cooler Home

Before you crank the AC, try these tactics first.
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At a Glance


  • This’ll be a breeze.


  • Invest in a few fans to get the air moving.
  • Or just bring home some new plant friends.


  • You'll be feeling fresher in no time.

Lest we forget, for much of human history, people have had to endure sweltering summers without air conditioning—and still do. Shotgun homes of the American South were designed to invite the breeze in from one side of the home, pushing hot, stagnant air out the other. Frank Lloyd Wright built his desert residence Taliesin West with great doubts about AC, calling it a "dangerous circumstance" requiring "a good deal of intelligent care"—instead, he extolled the power of natural cross-ventilation to gently cool the home and lower body temperature. We can’t all live in a Frank Lloyd Wright–designed residence, but we can borrow some of his principles to ease the burden we place on our climate control units.

Our homes can feel especially stifling because we tend to keep them sealed for most of the year. Obviously, we all know to throw open windows and doors to freshen things up, but you can supercharge the process by strategically placing a few portable fans to circulate the air. If you have a ceiling fan—or install one—setting it to spin counterclockwise during the summer creates a cooling downdraft, while opening chimney flues or attic vents can dissipate heat that gets trapped overhead.

But perhaps the most surprising cooling tactic is one that will absorb stifling humidity and beautify the interior. House plants like palms and ferns and thirsty xerophytes like cacti all act like solar-powered dehumidifiers while providing a pleasing canopy.

Cover illustration by Mar Hernández 

Gregory Han
Co-author of Poketo's Creative Spaces: People, Homes, and Studios to Inspire Find me at @DesignMilk /// @Wirecutter /// @dwellmagazine /// @dominomag