As we head into summer, it’s time to start thinking about the best ways to keep your home cool – and making nature do most of the work.
Ten ways to beat the heat
1. Summer shading on the east, north and west
Well-designed houses have eaves on the north that are wide enough to shade windows and glass doors from the high-set sun as it passes overhead in summer.
They also have shading on the east and west windows and doors. However, as the sun is lower when it is coming from the east and west, eaves alone won’t cut it on those faces of the building.
If your home lacks the right shading, now is a good time to address it before the sun starts trying to really fry you. In the winter you’ll still want to get the sun in, so look for options that don’t block the sun permanently. As mentioned above, eaves on the north side work well, and on the east and west, you’ll need screening – anything from deciduous trees, shrubs and vines to moveable screens and blinds can help to block out the low sun.
We have pull-down canvas blinds at our ’50s style home. They are very effective at blocking the heat but leave the room very dark. Newer blinds block a lot of the sun but still let a good amount of light through.
However, if you just want to block the sun, and are not so fussed about the looks, something as simple as some shade cloth strung up will help to do the job.
2. Ceiling fans
One of the cheapest investments you can make to cut your cooling costs is ceiling fans. They cost very little to run (about the same cost per hour as an old incandescent 60 watt bulb) but can make you feel a lot cooler and reduce your reliance an air-conditioning.
The added bonus is, if they have a reverse switch, they can also be used in winter to cut heating bills.
If you are looking at fans with light kits in them, be aware that some of the lighting solutions can be quite poor, so it pays to shop around and test them out in the store before you buy them.
3. Roof ventilators
There are some pretty sophisticated roof ventilators on the market now that expel hot air from the roof space in the day and draw cool air into the home at night.
Check out brands such as Smartbreeze, Solar Whiz and Solectair.
4. Cool the house overnight
Remembering to open the property up at night to let the cool night air in is essential to cutting your power bills. It’s free and takes minimal effort.
Things to do now include adding window locks to your windows so you can lock them part of the way open overnight if you are concerned about security.
If you have a property with windows above the ground floor, window locks that allow the window to be locked open no more than 10 cm, or secure mesh instead of a flimsy flyscreen, are vital to prevent young children from falling out while playing or leaning on the flyscreen of open windows. Locks are pretty cheap and can be picked up from a hardware store. For more information see Kids Can’t Fly.
With the temperature extremes Australia faces, insulation is an absolute must. Now is a good time to consider adding insulation to at least the roof space if you don’t have it, or looking at whether you have adequate levels and need to top it up.
If you are installing the insulation yourself, be careful about doing it on a warm day as roof spaces can be a lot hotter than the outside air temperature. You’ll also need to know about the dangers of using foil insulation and staples near electrical wiring.
Sustainability Victoria has some good information on insulation here.
6. Seal up gaps
On hot days the best thing you can do is shut your home up early to keep out the heat to delay or avoid using an air-conditioner.
It’s a good idea to check the home now for gaps around windows and doors, and to consider installing thick curtains or insulating honeycomb blinds that can be kept drawn on warmer days to ward off the heat, especially if you are heading off to work and therefore won’t be bothered by the house being kept dark.
There’s plenty you can do with your airconditioner to make sure it is running efficiently.
Keep it serviced, and try to run it at about 25 degrees or more. Every degree warmer you run your air-conditioner in summer is estimated to cut 10 per cent from the cost of running it.
In hot, dry climates, there’s the option of evaporative airconditioning, which guzzle a lot less energy than their refridgerated counterparts. Unlike refridgerated models, which work best when a house is sealed up, evaporative models require the house to be opened up somewhat so the damp air produced by the unit can be flushed out.
8. Double glazing/low-e coating
If you are installing new windows or doors, it is well worth investigating ways of making them more thermally efficient. You’ll need to look at both the materials used in the window or door frame, as well as the glass within it – including its thickness, whether you will opt for double-glazing, and whether to have a low-emissivity coating.
9. Take heat outdoors
Try to barbecue or cook outside to reduce the heat load being created in your home.
And if you are cooking inside, having a decent exhaust fan in the kitchen will help to move the hot air out of the home faster. Look for one that vents externally, rather than just shifts the air around the kitchen.
10. Take a look at your garden.
Outdoor paving and cement can store heat, making it harder for your house to cool down at the end of the day.
If you have pavers or cement that heat up, consider ways to shade those from the sun with plants, shade sails or umbrellas.
If you are doing work in the garden, look at your options to reduce the amount of hardscaping, and replace it with mulch or with plants including native grasses and groundcovers. This could also reduce stormwater run-off when it rains, helping to keep nearby waterways cleaner.
Source: Carolyn Boyd, Talking Property – domain.com.au