If there’s one thing us Brits never talk about, it’s the weather. Ok, that’s in no way true. Still, with this summer’s sweltering temperatures reaching record-breaking heights, it’s only natural for it to be the talk of the country - as much as we love the sunshine, our lives aren’t designed for such heat.
One aspect of this ill-preparedness is the design of our houses. Our British homes are primarily designed to keep us warm and cosy, not comfortably cool.
So, as we continue to navigate this historic hot spell, let’s take a look at some key ways to keep your house cool.
Shut the heat out
It may feel counterintuitive to close the windows up and prevent any breeze from flowing through, but typically on a hot day, the best way to keep the house cool is to keep the hot air out.
By keeping all windows closed (especially any south-facing ones) , drawing all curtains and pulling all blinds down, you can keep a significant amount of heat out (especially if other insulative measures are sufficient, but more on that later).
Once the sun has set, you can open it all back up and get some air flowing back through.
Create a through-breeze
While closing up all windows and window dressings is arguably one of the most effective ways to keep the heat out, sometimes you just need a little breeze to break it up.
If you must get a breeze going through the home, do it in a way that keeps the air moving. Open windows or doors at opposite ends of the house to create a through-breeze, and use some fans to keep it moving. Keep curtains or blinds partially closed to block any direct sunlight from beaming in.
Invest in fans and make them icy
Electric fans can make a big difference, but even more so when used strategically. Given that heat rises, the lower the fans, the better. Low level fans that point upwards circulate the coolest air available.
If you want to cool the room down further, try placing the fan in front of a bowl of icy water - the air from the fan’s blades will then collect the cool air above the bowl and send it into the room, reducing the overall temperature. It can also be quite relieving to sit or stand in front of it and feel the cooler breeze on your skin.
Sleeping comfortably in the heat
Even though the temperature does drop overnight, the summer heat can make it difficult to get a good night’s rest. As well as creating a through-breeze and using fans, a couple of extra ways to stay cool at bedtime are:
Taking a cold shower before bed
Getting to sleep in the first place can be the biggest struggle. By taking a nice, cool shower before bed, you can lower your body temperature for long enough to get off to sleep. Be careful not to shock your body by having too cold of a shower too quickly - sudden changes in body temperature can be harmful.
Use your hot water bottle as an ice pack
Just like a thermos flask can keep hot things hot and cold things cold, your trusty hot water bottle can double-up as a handy ice-pack.
So, fill one up with water and place it in the freezer for a few hours before bedtime. Then, while getting ready for bed, place it between the covers to cool your sheets, and once in bed, either have it against you or to the side, or place it at the foot of the bed to keep your feet cool.
Big ticket investments
There are a few larger investments you can make to help keep your house cool. While some may be a significant outlay, they are improvements that will serve you well year-in and year-out for both staying cool in summer and keeping warmer in winter, and will also make your home more energy-efficient.
Replacing light bulbs with LEDs
Many people just make these changes as and when a bulb needs replacing, but doing it all in one fell swoop is another way to go about it. Traditional incandescent light bulbs are not only extremely energy-inefficient, but they also emit more heat than LEDs. At least when replacing a blown bulb, go green.
Related: 6 ways to make your property more eco-friendly
Installing awnings and shutters
Installing shutters and awnings is a great way to create maximum shade from the sun’s hot rays, keeping the air directly outside your windows that bit cooler.
Related: Green Homes Grant: How Can Homeowners And Landlords Benefit
Replacing windows and doors
The insulative qualities of energy-efficient windows and doors is not just beneficial for keeping the cold out during winter. These windows and doors also help to keep the heat out during the summer months. Yes, they require a sizable investment, but they can significantly help to reduce your heating bills through the winter, and assist in keeping your home cool during the summer months, too.
They can also improve your home's EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating.
Related: Green mortgages: Improve your energy rating and save money
Upgrading your wall insulation
In the same way that energy-efficient windows and doors keep both the cold and the heat out, so too does high quality insulation. If your home’s insulation is due for an upgrade, doing so could improve your home’s energy-efficiency a good deal, and keep you cooler through the summer months.
Additional tips for staying cool at home
In addition to the above, here are some extra tips for keeping cool at home:
- Wear lightweight, light-coloured and loose-fitting cotton clothing
- Keep your feet bare or wear open-toe sandals
- Keep physical activities such as gardening or housework for the early morning or evening
- Avoid becoming dehydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- Also, limit alcohol and caffeine as these can dehydrate you much quicker
- Place some bowls of water around the house to help cool the air down - if you can make them icy then even better
- Keep your intake of food up - the heat can stifle our appetites but it’s important to eat cold foods and those that contain a lot of water, such as fruits and vegetables
Look out for each other
As well as staying mindful of the signs of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, check on any vulnerable neighbours to ensure they are handling the heat ok. If you live alone, ask a relative, friend or neighbour to check up on you during times of extreme heat.
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