10 ways to keep cool this summer (without air-conditioning)

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After a long, wet and cold Winter, we are finally embracing Summer! We’ve been craving the warmer weather, however we’re now faced with trying to stay comfortable during the heat…ahh the joys of living in a temperate climate! There are ways to keep you and your home cooler, without immediately installing energy-guzzling air-conditioning.

‘Why wouldn’t I just switch on the AC?’
As an architect with a passion for sustainable buildings, I know that it is possible to design homes that are a lot more comfortable than the ‘wooden tents’ many of us inhabit. If our homes are designed to be more energy-efficient, then we can save a large amount of money in terms of running costs, and there are also huge savings in terms of reducing carbon emissions. Our climate is changing, so these extremes in weather will increase, and our comfort levels will be challenged, and we’ll resort to more heating and cooling – can you see the vicious cycle here that we’ve got ourselves into?

‘So, what can I do?’
If you’re planning a new home or renovation, then of course it’s much easier to get the design of your building right from the start! There are ways to upgrade or retrofit existing homes too, and look at your behaviour.

1. INSULATION: We all hear about the importance of insulating our homes for winter to keep us warm inside – and this is equally important in summer. Think of your home as an ‘esky’ – we ideally want insulation to the roof, walls and floor, so we can have more control over the temperature inside. This creates a buffer between our ideal comfort range (around 21degrees C), and the extremes outside.

2. DRAFT-PROOFING: We want to seal those sneaky gaps where unwanted hot/cold air can get in or out. Then you can have control over when you open your windows/doors (when there’s a cool breeze).

3. SHADING: Windows are considered a weak spot in the fabric of the building envelope – like cutting a hole in your esky. Double-glazing is helpful to reduce heat loss in winter, but in summer we also want to keep the direct sun off the glass. Think of how your car turns into a sauna on a hot day. Shading to the outside of the windows works best – whether that be eaves, awnings, verandahs, external blinds, shade cloth, deciduous vines or trees.

4. ‘SHUTDOWN MODE’: On those really hot days, close your curtains and blinds inside if possible to help keep that heat out. Don’t open the windows during the day (especially when there are hot northerlies blowing.) Keep your lights switched off too as your globes can emit a lot of heat.

5. NIGHT PURGE: If your home has heated up during the day (especially if you have internal thermal mass), then leave your windows open at night to take advantage of cooler breezes. If mosquitos or safety are concerns, install some good quality insect screens and/or security screen doors.

6. FANS: Turn on fans only when you will be in the room with them. You can create your own ‘evaporative cooling’ by placing a wet sarong in front of an upright fan, or a gentle water mist. Don’t forget to check that your ceiling fans are set to ‘summer-mode’ if you swapped them over during winter.

7. YOUR BODY: There are also lots of old-school ways to keep you more comfortable. Undress, or wear breathable natural fibres. Keep a spray bottle handy with some essential oils added to the water for a refreshing mist. Dampen a cotton scarf (or tea-towel) to keep your neck cool. Sit with your feet in a bucket of iced water. Get some ice-gel wristbands. Freeze a ‘hot’ water bottle to sleep with.

8. COOKING: Use your BBQ to cook outside. Or stick to a raw-food diet, antipasto, sandwiches, etc.

9. ESCAPE: Go to beach, lake, river, local swimming pool or water park – anywhere there’s water so you can cool down. Don’t forget to slip, slop, slap, seek, slide! Or escape to a public place with cooling such as the cinema, library, art gallery, museum, shopping centre, or I can recommend the frozen section of the supermarket (or the cool-room at the back of a bottle-shop!).

10. EVAPORATIVE COOLING: Evaporative Cooling units use less energy than Air Conditioners, but you have to understand how they work (requiring air flow and water consumption), get an efficient model that’s the right size for your home and ensure you are in the right climate (they are better suited to dry rather than humid zones).

Hope you can see how easy it can be to make some of these changes, so you can keep your cool over summer!

Do you have an air-conditioner or an evaporative cooler? Or do you rely on low-energy solutions like fans and some of the above suggestions? Let me know in the comments below!

Ballarat Sustainable Architect Green Builder


Talina Edwards Architecture: elemental design is a Ballarat-based studio, with a passion for sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes.Click here to ensure you won’t miss out on our news!

4 thoughts on “10 ways to keep cool this summer (without air-conditioning)

  1. Gwen Levey

    Dear Talina,
    I found all of your keep cool tips interesting. I have never had a ceiling fan. What is ‘summer mode’ for a fan?
    Regards Gwen Levey

    Reply
    1. talinaedwards Post author

      Hi Gwen,
      Most ceiling fans have a small switch on them (above the blades on the shaft of the fan) that can be switched from Summer to Winter mode. This means the fan spins on the opposite direction. So in summer it is meant to help push more air down onto you so you feel a cooling effect, and in winter it is more a gentle movement to redistribute the hot air that has risen – in winter you want it on a low setting as too high and you’ll feel the air movement as a cold draft. Hope that helps!
      Thanks, Talina

      Reply
  2. Colleen Orchard

    We are in an old weatherboard house with no air-conditioning. On very hot days we keep doors and windows closed and blinds and curtains closed. The house usually stays fairly cool until about 4pm. We then have a fan in the loungeroom and one in the bedroom when we go to bed. We do not open doors and windows until after sunset and I close them up early the next morning. By the end of a heatwave I am usually sick of cold salads.

    Reply
    1. talinaedwards Post author

      Hi Colleen,
      Sounds like you’re already doing a lot of these tips to help keep you comfortable!
      Old weatherboards often don’t have much in the way of insulation, so if you are able to in the future, I’d recommend getting some insulation installed as this will help all year round.
      Thanks for your comments,
      Talina

      Reply

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