You definitely don’t need air-conditioning.
Given the unpredictable nature of UK summers, warm weather will come as a blessing to many. For others, though a heatwave heralds physical discomfort and trouble sleeping. In some cases, it can even exacerbate health conditions, proving especially dangerous to older or more vulnerable people. As the climate crisis increases, we can expect more frequent periods of intense weather like this.
The UK is not traditionally set up to deal with hot temperatures, so when things start heating up it’s tempting to reach for all kinds of electrical goods to help cool things down – air-conditioners are becoming an increasingly popular choice for Europeans feeling the heat, but using them is pretty counterproductive. They require energy to work and emit huge amounts of wasted heat during operation, both of which contribute to climate change which is what’s making everything so hot in the first place!
But you don’t have to resign yourself to a summer of sweatiness for the sake of the environment – there are several ways you can help keep your house cool, all without adding to the wider problem.
- Work your windows
It might be tempting to fling open your windows at the first sign of rising temperatures, but don’t. To keep your house cool, you need to keep the hot air out, so this means keeping windows – particularly south-facing windows – closed and covered with black out blinds or curtains during the day. Then at night time, when the temperature has dropped, you can open everything up to give your house a good airing. There are window restrictors easily available if you are worried about security.
If you’re really keen on letting some air in, though, make sure your windows are working in the most efficient way possible. Create a gentle through-draught by opening windows at opposite sides of the house and keeping doors open so air can move freely, and if you have Victorian sash windows, keep the top and bottom sections open equal amounts. They’re designed so that cool air enters through the lower opening, while warm air is pushed out of the top.
You’d be forgiven to raising an eyebrow at this one, since insulation is usually associated with keeping the heat in during winter, but in the summer months it works to keep heat out, too. It’s a year-round investment and one that’ll help reduce your energy bills whatever the weather. Find out how much you could save here.
- Switch off appliances
A lot of heat is generated from appliances around the house, so switching them off can help avoid internal heat gains. Turn them off when not in use (don’t just leave them on standby), and make sure the backs of fridges and freezers have plenty of ventilation space – these appliances in particular can pump a lot of unnecessary heat into a room.
Also, conventional incandescent light bulbs generate light quite inefficiently, giving off waste heat in the process. Switch to low energy light bulbs and LEDs to reduce overheating and save money – find out more in our guide to efficient lighting here.
- Use water to your advantage
Setting out bowls of water can help to cool down hot air, and can be particularly effective in a bedroom at night time. Similarly, trees and plants act as natural air conditioners and pump moisture into the atmosphere, so consider investing in a decent houseplant. Just remember to water it!
- Fan efficiently
Of course, sometimes it’s just so warm you’re left with few options but to fall back on electricity. Fans can prove a summertime godsend for the sleepless, but make sure you’re using them as efficiently as possible. Since heat rises, the coolest air in your house is going to be at floor level, so set your fan on the floor and point it upwards. Position it so that it points outwards towards the opposite wall, unobstructed by large objects. This will bounce the cooler air off the wall and back into the room, mixing with the warm air to help cool the overall temperature. Placing a bowl of cool water in front of the fan makes it even more effective.
- Install an awnings
If you have bi-fold doors or south facing windows that are turning your home into a greenhouse then consider installing awnings or wooden shutters to create shade. They’re popular in Mediterranean countries for a reason!
The bottom line
Summers in the UK are only going to become more unpredictable, which means periods of higher and often unpleasant temperatures due to global warming. These tips and tricks will help you keep heat at bay from the get go, so not only will you be able to enjoy a cooler home, but you won’t be unnecessarily contributing to increasing temperatures in the first place.
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