Heat getting you down? Although the British summer may have reverted to the more usual cool wet affair when you read this, nonetheless, climate change means that the weather is increasingly prone to extremes.
So, we could all benefit from tips on how to keep cool when the temperature soars. And for some the phrase 'Phew, what a scorcher' signals real discomfort or threatens health.
Here are some ideas. Not all will be relevant to your own lifestyle or situation. Some are simple, quick and inexpensive while others will take more planning, time, and money to put into effect.
Hot outside? Close windows during the day, open them in the evening. This helps to keep hot air out and let cool air in. Windows facing upwind in the shade can also allow pleasant draughts to enter during daytime.
Quick! I need to cool down now!
1. Cold flannel - keep it in the fridge for greater effect when mopping your fevered brow.
2. Run cold water over your wrists for a few minutes: said to 'cool the blood'.
3. Drink plenty of fluids - some people swear by a cuppa in hot weather!
4. Take a cool shower - what bliss when you're overheated!
5. Feel cooler in bed with 100% cotton or Tencel sheets instead of polycotton - better for the environment too because no microplastics when laundered. Tencel fabric is made from eucalyptus wood pulp and is said to have a lower environmental impact than cotton.
Keep cool indoors
1. Close windows during the day to keep hot air at bay; open at night when things have cooled down outside. But make sure your home stays secure at all times!
2. If your house/window layout allows, open windows to produce a breeze through the rooms: open bottom part of windows upwind and top half of windows downwind. Well, worth a try!
3. Close curtains/blinds on south-facing windows; use white curtain linings to reflect the light.
4. Check that your loft is well insulated: this stops heat entering the rooms from the roof void in summer, as well as helping to keep the house warm in cold weather.
5. Use a table fan: these are cheap to buy and use relatively little electricity. Try putting a shallow bowl of cold water in front of the fan for an evaporative cooling effect.
6. Use the cooker, dishwasher and other appliances at cooler times of day and give the tumble dryer a miss - a washing line or clothers airer will quickly get laundry dry at no cost.
Things to consider:
- External shutters or canopies for south-facing windows - that Mediterranean look could catch on!
- Solar window film - a thin layer of tinted or clear plastic film applied to the glass is said to reflect heat, reduce glare and block UV radiation. Carefully weigh up the pros and cons before fitting.
Climbing shrubs create a 'green wall' and help to reflect heat from exterior walls.
Planning for a 'comfortable' heatwave
1. Paint exterior walls white to reflect light. Would you paint your roof white as well? See the White Roof Project for more info.
2. Consider a green roof. These can reduce cooling demands significantly. The Green Roof Guide will put you in the picture.
3. Create more shade around your house with trees and shrubs. Container-grown plants can provide instant shade for patios without problems of roots undermining the foundations of the house.
4. Grow a climbing plant such as clematis, wisteria or honeysuckle, which will insulate exterior walls as well as providing an attractive display of foliage and flowers.
Air conditioning (AC)
Air conditioning is still relatively uncommon in UK homes, although AC units are found in two-thirds of US households, responsible for a whopping 120 million tonnes of CO2 per year. It is estimated that by 2060 emissions due to space cooling will exceed those arising from heating.
Also, the hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) coolant used in many units is a potent greenhouse gas when old units are scrapped and the gas escapes.
A typical portable AC unit suitable for a room up to 30m2 will cost over £100 to run for 8 hours per day for 90 days; its total power consumption of approximately 700 kWh equates to nearly 300 kg CO2.
Evaporative cooler units use much less energy than other types of AC units, but are most suitable for dry climates as they increase humidity.