When summer is a scorcher, there are lots of no-cost or low-cost ways to help make you and your house feel cooler.
Close curtains and blinds
Something like 30% of unwanted heat comes in your windows so keeping curtains and blinds closed will help, especially during peak sunlight hours and on windows that face the sun. Some roller blinds are designed to let you see out while still blocking those rays. Having them thermal lined is also very effective. If you’re on a budget consider only thermal lining the rooms with direct sun.
White or light coloured curtains and blinds are better at reflecting heat and light away from your home. If you have thick, dark curtains, closing them will only trap heat in the room.
Water regulates the body’s internal cooling system. Drinking a nice, cool glass of water will keep you hydrated and therefore cooler. You may have heard the old wives tale that hot drinks cool you down better. In reality all that happens is you heat up and sweat, the sweat evaporates and that’s how you cool down.
Basic science – heat rises. If you have a multi story home it will be hotter upstairs than down.
Fans and air con
Fans don’t actually cool the air, but they create circulation that helps us feel cooler. Believe it or not, ceiling fans need to be adjusted seasonally. During summer, set it counter-clockwise and run it at high speed to blow air straight down.
Try this amazing electric fan hack for really hot days - grab a bag of ice from the petrol station and pile it up in a big bowl. Position it at an angle in front of a fan. As the ice melts the fan whips the chilled water off the top creating a delightfully cool misty spray.
To save on energy, try using the fan or dehumidifier functions on your heat pump and save the air con for only the very hottest days.
There are reflective films you can put on the outside of the glass to bounce the heat away. The cooling effect is further helped along by not allowing big furniture to absorb the heat and then act as radiators.
Turn off appliances and lights
When you can of course. Obviously the fridge has to stay on, but as this generates a lot of heat you could open a window nearby to try and counter it.
BBQ as much as possible. Cooking inside only creates more heat.
This is the obvious thing to do, of course. But you can be strategic about which windows you open for best effect. Open them on opposite sides of the house for a good through-draught.
This doesn’t really fall under the ‘low-cost’ category but it’s such a good investment with benefits year round. In summer, an un-shaded single-pane window can account for a HUGE percentage of a home’s accumulated heat. Double-glazing can reduce solar heat gain through your windows by around 13%. On top of that, you can choose glass with improved thermal properties and tinting that can reduce heat gain by more than 50%!
As the saying goes - prevention is always better than a cure. The best way to deal with solar gain in summer is to stop it in the first place. If you’re in the position of renovating or building new you can factor things into your plans that will keep you cool in summer. Like high windows to create a draught that pulls warm air out of the top of the room, good insulation, a light coloured exterior, roof overhangs, external shutters, window screens, pergolas and awnings in spots likely to get a lot of sun exposure.