Really hoping I’m wrong, but the weather gods are predicting another hot dry summer. Not the news we want to hear on the back of one of the worst droughts remembered in NSW history. Warnings or not, typically summer brings scorching temperatures that can even zap the life out of a blue tongue lizard! The shorts, singlets and thongs get a dust off from the back of the wardrobe and sweat beads the brow as the mercury shoots through the roof. Personally, I am a lover of summer and not only because of icy cold G&Ts. There is, however, little joy in coming home at the end of a busy day, hot and energy deficient, to a house that is hotter than outside. In desperation you crank up the AC (no matter the cost) to cool the core and recharge. So I thought I’d share some cool tips on how to keep your home comfortable this summer without sending your energy bill north.
COVER YOUR WINDOWS: Avoid turning your home into a hothouse by getting into the habit of covering your windows first thing in the morning. Did you know 30 per cent of heat comes from direct sunlight through your windows? Ideally, external blinds work best as they stop the glass heating up, but by dropping the blinds or drawing the curtains you can noticeably drop the indoor temp too. If you feel like you are living in a cave, concentrate on protecting the windows on the Eastern and Western sides, as this is where most of the summer heat will penetrate. While window furnishings in yellow, orange or red are the best heat reflectors, they are not on my go-to designer list personally, so stick to light colours instead.
CROSS-VENTILATE: The mercury usually drops as the sun goes down, so this is a good time to open up those windows and let the breeze in. Opening windows on opposite sides of a room, or even the house, will create cross breeze. Firing up the ceiling fans will also help circulate that fresh air around and keep the mozzies at bay (they don’t like moving air). Changing the rotation of your fan to anti-clockwise will push the hot air upwards and cool air down.
GET YOUR GRILL ON: Stop cooking inside. If you’re not on a watermelon diet, then make sure that barbecue gas bottle is full because the man of the house will be busy cooking for the next four months – outside!
A/C: A dirty filter in your air conditioner equals a waste of time turning it on. A good clean and a service before summer will make sure it is running efficiently. Try setting your thermostat between 24-27 degrees or as high as you feel comfortable with. Even by nudging the temperature up by 1 degree can shave as much as 10 per cent off your next energy bill.
BETWEEN THE SHEETS: Go for linen or cotton. It is breathable and cooler against the skin compared to satin or silk sheets. Opt for lighter colours to reflect heat.
CHILL: Eat outside at night, sip icy cold drinks (I knew a G&T had its benefits), put a damp cloth on your pressure points or even freeze a hot water bottle to help get your core temperature down.
SWITCH YOUR LIGHTS: If you still have incandescent light bulbs – get rid of them. Although they were phased out some years ago, many homes still use them. Replace them with low energy options such as LEDs. They’ll not only produce little heat, but will trim your next power bill significantly – win win!
BLOCK IT UP AND INSULATE: Cool air can be lost through your roof cavity if it isn’t insulated – up to a whopping 40% per cent, in fact. Even insulating walls and floors (if on bearers and joists), can reduce the heat inside the home by 20-25 per cent. Block up draughts under doors and around windows to stop warm air creeping in or cool air escaping.
SHADY TREES: Planting deciduous trees for shade on the eastern and western sides of the house act as excellent shady filters blocking the summer rays from coming through the windows. Even better, they are perfect for sitting under on a late summer’s afternoon with that icy cold G&T.
*This article was originally written for DOWNTOWN MAGAZINE.