7 tips to cool Summer living

Living in sunny Queensland has it’s perks.  I mean, we can get away with short sleeves for most of the year, leave the windows open all night or even have a night time swim (the clothed kind, but each to their own!).   We’re pretty lucky in that sense.  And then there’s the humidity, the sunburn, the mozzies..  but we won’t be talking about that in this blog.

Like any climate, if you’re not prepared it can get quite uncomfortable, affecting your mood, social life (ok, maybe in extreme cases!) and even sleep.  But we have a few tricks up our sleeve to face up to mother nature and help you stay cool this Summer.

Building design innovation has come a looong way and continues to evolve at a super fast speed to accomodate our diverse lifestyles.  New materials, textures and techniques continue to be invented all the time.  However when it comes to existing homes, reducing heat or cooling needs is a challenge, especially for older homes built before energy efficiency standards came into place.  So if you’re not designing your home from scratch, there are factors outside our control such as:

  • Aspect – a north/south aspect means less time of direct low angle sun light beaming directly onto the side of your home.  A higher sun beam transmits less heat through windows and walls.
  • Building materials – different construction materials retain and store heat differently.  Brick/concrete is ideal for humid sub-tropical climates as it absorbs and retains heat during the day and releases it at night.
  • Colours – we all know dark colours attract sun more than light.  Think of all the white buildings on the greek islands – they weren’t silly!)
  • Building design – ventilation and air movement play a huge role in cooling and heating.  Air enters at a cooler temperature through the lower parts of the house, heats as it rises and escapes through the higher parts of the home.  Unless your home has been built to move air efficiently through the home, keep reading..

 

So you’re still here?

Ok I’ll assume you can’t exactly change the structure or position of your home so let me get straight to the point.

 

1. Turn on the Air Con
  • Obvious, yes.  However without other effective cooling strategies, you could be throwing your money away on wasted electricity making your unit work twice as hard.
  • Avoid turning the unit on and off – it’s not a cost or energy effective strategy
  • Maintain your unit by cleaning the filter every 6 months

 

2. Close the curtains

Up to 87% of a home’s heat can be lost and 40% heat gained through windows.

  • Keep curtains and blinds closed during the day to block the heat and direct sunlight.
  • During the day, close windows once the outside air is warmer than indoors.
  • At night, when the mercury drops purge the accumulated hot air by opening windows and doors.
  • Consider glazing – there are range of films available for specific climates but you will also need to research and consider which windows need glazing. (see reference at the bottom of the article)

 

2. Turn off appliances 

An ideal house is designed to take advantage of natural daylight and reduce the need for artificial lighting however when this is not possible:

  • Eat salads and avoid using appliances during the hottest part of the day ie. lights, dishwashers, cooking appliances and dryers all produce heat.
  • Hang the washing out and avoid using a dryer altogether
  • Skylights contribute to energy efficiency, comfort and natural lighting.  A skylight can emit more than 3 times the natural light than a vertical window.

 

3. Stay low
  • If you have a two-story home, stay downstairs.  Sleep there too.
  • If you have an electric fan, turn it on.  It may not cool the temperature but circulating the air will help to keep your body temperature down.

 

4. Use plants
  • Use plants to shade your air conditioning unit – it will use less energy and perform better. (make sure they’re not disrupting air flow)
  • Use plants to screen walls, outside windows or areas that are directly hit by sun to create another barrier and absorb the heat – suitable plants will thrive!

 

5. Drink up
  • Keep your body temperature cool and refreshed with icy cold drinks.  Avoid alcohol and caffeine as these are de-hydrating.

 

6. Insulation
  • Insulation acts as a barrier to heat flow and helps keep heat in during the winter and the cool air in during the Summer.  Obviously it is more economical to install during the building construction stage however, can be installed on existing homes. Careful selection of insulation material can help to moderate the internal temperature of your home.

 

7. Materials
  • External: Choose light colours and smooth surfaces as these are the most effective at reflecting sunlight and reducing heat.
  • Internal: Breathable fabrics absorb sweat and keep your body temperature down

 

So there they are.  I hope this Summer is a cool and refreshing one for you and I hope you can squeeze in an evening swim or two before it’s over – clothed or not!

If you have any tried and tested tricks not covered here, I’d love to hear them.

 

Anastasia x

 

References:

http://www.hpw.qld.gov.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/SmartDesignQldClimate.pdf

http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2014/01/15/3925541.htm

http://www.yourhome.gov.au/passive-design/design-climate

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