Nothing feels better on a hot day than a cool breeze. Encouraging cool air to enter your house forces warm air out, keeping your house comfortably cool. However, this strategy only works when the inside temperature is higher than the outside temperature.
Natural ventilation maintains indoor temperatures close to outdoor temperatures and helps remove heat from your home. But only ventilate during the coolest parts of the day or night, and seal off your house from the hot sun and air during the hottest parts of the day.
The climate you live in determines the best ventilation strategy. In areas with cool nights and very hot days, let the night air in to cool your house. A well-insulated house will gain only 1° F (0.6° C) per hour if the outside temperature is 85° to 90° F (29° to 32° C). By the time the interior heats up, the outside air should be cooler and can be allowed indoors.
In climates with daytime breezes, open windows on the side from where the breeze is coming and on the opposite side of the house. Keep interior doors open to encourage whole-house ventilation. If your location lacks consistent breezes, create them by opening windows at the lowest and highest points in your house. This natural "thermosiphoning," or "chimney," effect can be taken a step further by adding a clerestory or a vented skylight.
In hot, humid climates where temperature swings between day and night are small, ventilate when humidity is not excessive. Ventilating your attic greatly reduces the amount of accumulated heat, which eventually works its way into the main part of your house. Ventilated attics are about 30° F (16° C) cooler than unventilated attics. Properly sized and placed louvers and roof vents help prevent moisture buildup and overheating in your attic.