1. On hot days, heat comes straight through unprotected windows
The answer is to shade your north and west facing windows. Awnings, deciduous trees and pergolas with deciduous vines are particularly good options, because they give you shade in summer and sun in winter. If these aren’t an option, you could consider putting a reflective film on the glass. This works well in summer, but means you get less sun in winter — unless you get the clever stuff you stick on with Velcro dots and can then take down.
2. A bit of opening and shutting can make a big difference
Shut your windows and curtains on hot days, then open up the whole house when it gets cool in the evening. Thick curtains with ‘block out’ backing or solid blinds (not ones with gaps in them like Venetians) will make a bit of a difference to your summer cooling and a lot of a difference to your winter heating. Also, if you have bits of your house which you just can’t keep cool, shut the door to these areas so they don’t heat the rest of the house.
3. Use a fan first
Fans are a good money saving tip — they cost virtually nothing to run, while your air conditioner can guzzle electricity.
Evaporative coolers don’t use as much energy as refrigerated air conditioning, but a personal choice.
4. Set your thermostat to 24°C
Hot weather can make you want to set the cooling all the way down to 21°C. But cooling to just 24° should keep your home comfortable and save you money — setting your thermostat just 1° cooler can up your cooling bill by 15%.
5. Just cool the room you’re in
Shut the doors to the room you are cooling and seal the gaps so your nice cool air doesn’t sneak out under the door. Weather strips are a cheap and easy way to do this, and will also keep the heat in when you want it, in winter.
6. Get yourself some insulation
It doesn’t just keep your house warm in winter, it also keeps it cool in summer, particularly if you combine bulk insulation (big batts) with foil insulation (thin sheets). Ceiling insulation can cut your energy use by 45%, which means it pays for itself in reduced energy bills. And with the price of energy set to rise, insulating now is a smart way of avoiding excessive energy bills in the future.
7. Hang out in the great outdoors
When it gets cooler in the evenings, cooking in the backyard or at the electric BBQ at the local park can be a lot nicer than cooking in a sweaty kitchen. Sit out on garden furniture and make your outdoor space a nice place to hang out.
8. Try some old tricks
If you just can’t cool your house properly, try using a spray bottle to spray water on your face, carrying around a wet face washer on the back of your neck, wetting your sheet before going to bed or setting up a kiddy pool on the veranda for your sweaty feet.
9. Look after your cooler
If you’ve got an air conditioner, keep the outdoor bit of it shaded (e.g. with plants) and clean its filters regularly.
10. Want to make longer-lasting impact?
Here are some suggestions that don’t quite fit into ‘quick and easy’ but are worth thinking about:
- If you’re thinking of buying an air conditioner, think about ceiling fans and good insulation first. Then make sure you get one with a high star rating for energy efficiency, and one which is the right size for the room you’ll be cooling.
- Paint your roof and walls a light colour! This will keep your house cooler, by reflecting heat (but you might want to check with your council — some have rules around roof colour).
- If you’re getting new windows, go for ones which open wide, so you can get lots of cool air into the house quickly. Also avoid aluminium frames, because heat passes through them easily.
- Outdoor paving can store heat, making your house cool down slower in the evenings. You could replace it with plants, or a drought tolerant lawn, or simply try to shade it.