Tips to cool down the house

It’s taking a while but summer will arrive in all its hot gusto. Summer where it’s so hot you can’t sleep at night, and the flies are beating at your back door trying to find a cooler place to muck in.

Hot summer days might be great beach weather but if it’s turning your place into an oven, it’s time to cool things down.

Here’s ten ideas that could help.

1. Ceiling fans are back. We Australians are seriously in denial about the climate we live in. We love to roll out the electric heaters in winter, and in summer, whoever heard of a ceiling fan? Pfft! Oh c’mon, it’s a hot country, people. And one of the best ways to cool down is to install a ceiling fan in every room, except the bathroom and laundry, and potentially the kitchen too where it could get a bit greasy from all that cooking.

It’s a crying shame that ceiling fans have been given a bad name by the cheap-as-chips options that are as ugly as hyenas.

A good ceiling fan is a seriously great way of cooling down much of the time, especially at night. Luckily there’s some sleek designs on the market now, all curvy and gorgeous, and in a range of colours and materials. There’s plenty that can have lights fitted on them as well, and a range of products that carry low-energy globes.

Fans can be installed with remotes or wall controllers. If you are renting, consider asking the landlord to fork out for ceiling fans for you, or check out some pedestal fans. They can do a good job too, but you need a few so you that don’t find yourself dragging them from room to room.

2. Shade those windows. Afternoon sun from the west is a killer. If you have any west-facing windows try to shade them with awnings, screens and plants to block out the sun. For north-facing windows, it’s a also good idea to shield them from the summer sun too, but any shading plants should be deciduous to block out the heat in summer but let the rays in in winter.

Some houses have been built without eaves – the roof overhangs that are designed to shade the windows. If this is your home, you’ll definitely need to look at some shading to the north and west quick smart. The problem with the west though, is that summer western sun is low in the sky, which is why you also need awnings and other shadings. The good old canvas awnings do a pretty good job.

3. Shut it out. Sometimes it’s not the sun but the ambient air temperature that is heating up the house. Single pane glass has little insulation value, so it is worth looking at how you can create an airlock on windows to seal out the heat. Sometimes relief can come from surprising quarters.

When we bought our house late last year it came with two aluminium shutters – the type that you roll down at night. I always thought they were domain of older folk who have become paranoid about security. But it turns out that when it’s sizzling outside, they provide a perfect barrier from the heat. The only problem is, if it’s daytime and they are drawn all the way down you have to turn a light on. But that generates a lot less heat than the oven-hot air seeping through the window.

Other options to investigate are double glazing (but take care not to stop important winter warmth from entering), and plastic films that can be placed over the glass, marketed as window insulating kits. There are do it yourself versions.

4. Manage your air-con. Some days there’s no denying that it’s so hot that air-conditioning is pretty much a necessary evil. It’s true that some locations (e.g the coast) and some house designs (very smart ones) will allow you to get away with out air-conditioning, but for the rest of us, it’s a must-have.

There’s no need to run your system at arctic temperatures though. Try setting it at about 26 degrees and then using ceiling fans to do the rest. You’ll still keep comfortable and at the same time save a bucket on your power bill.

5. Do your research. If you are buying an air-conditioner, research what your needs are. Don’t buy something bigger than you need. And depending on where you live, evaporative air-conditioning could be an option. They use a lot less energy – but they do use plenty of water, so you need to factor that in too. Evaporative air-conditioners tend to work best in drier climates.

6. Open up at night. It’s easy to forget, but once the mercury outside drops below the temperature inside your home, you should open up the windows and doors to let all the hot air out. In some areas during heatwaves it doesn’t cool down enough in the evenings for this, but for most of summer it’s an ideal way to manage your own little climate.

If you are concerned about the security of leaving your windows open all night, investigate whether there’s anyway you can add window locks to keep them partially open once you head off to bed. As soon as it warms up outside the next day, remember to shut everything up again.

To make it easier to know when to open and close everything, you could place a thermometer inside the house and one outdoors in a shady spot. Or there are also wireless weather stations on the market that among other things track inside and outside temperature.

7. Insulate your ceiling. Yes, it’s true, insulation did get a bad name in the whole debacle with the Federal Government’s grants scheme. But don’t be put off. You wouldn’t sleep without a blanket in the middle of winter, and nor should your house. The great thing is in summer insulation will make a massive dent in your cooling bill.

8. Seal up the gaps. If hot air is leaking in under doors consider some simple weather strips to seal up the spaces.

9. Cooking with gas. On really hot days, cooking inside will only add to the heat load. It could be a day for salads and cold meats, or eating out. If not, fire up the barbie, or head to the local park or beach and use theirs.

10. Cool down the kids. Now that water restrictions have been eased in many areas, let the kids run free under the sprinkler on hot days, or take a dip in a paddling pool. Cool down your own tootsies in there too, and if you’re game, the kids can go wild with water pistols.

How are you keeping cool this summer? What are your tips to keep your home from overheating?

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