How to be cool
Much of the populated Australian continent is temperate, particularly compared to other areas in the world. While we're certainly a lucky country in that respect, this can also lead to a certain amount of laziness when it comes to energy efficiency. Here are our top tips for keeping cool when things start to heat up.
1. Shade and seal
In Australia, the areas of the home that are likely to attract the most sun are the north and west facing areas. For this reason this is often the section of the home with the most windows as home design generally focuses on attracting the most amount of light. However, this also means it attracts the heat as well.
When building a home, position and size the windows accordingly to let the most sun in during winter and keep it out when it's hot. For existing homes, you can apply glazing for the windows to help minimise the heat effect as well as keep the heat generated within the home during winter.
Blinds on windows that directly face the sun will help reduce the heat in the room, and sealing windows properly from draughts will prevent the cool air escaping as well as keep the hot air out.
2. Open the doors
Opening up the home once the evening breezes come in after a hot day is a great no-cost way to cool your home quickly. Think of it as out with the old air, in with the new. But make sure you close it up again before you turn in for the night, as the new day may bring a new wave of hot air. Appropriate fly screens will also encourage you to open the doors more often without worrying about the dreaded mozzies.
3. Close the doors
While you may be isolating your living spaces in the winter to avoid heating up rooms you won't be using, the same applies for efficiently cooling your living spaces – particularly if you use air conditioning. So if you won't be getting the cooling breeze until late in the evening, if at all, optimise your internal environment. Open plan areas may present great living spaces, but are difficult to keep cool – so if you have rooms in the home that you won't be living in during the day (bedroom, laundry, study etc.) simply close the door and allow the air conditioner to effectively and efficiently cool the rooms you will be spending time in.
4. Insulate before you bake
Effective sealing around doors and windows can make a big difference in keeping your home cooler in summer and warmer in winter, as well as allowing your appliances to work more effectively. But if you can add insulation, you will quickly notice the effect on your home and your energy bill. If you are renting, you may be able to convince the landlord to add roof insulation, and if you're about to carry out renovations on your own home, consider in-wall insulation.
5. Turn the aircon up (or down?) and save money
It's no surprise that our latest rundown on appliance use in the home shows that heating and cooling will give you the biggest savings when used efficiently.
Once the temperature hits the high 30s, the habit is to put the air conditioner way down to 20°C to get the room as cool as possible as quickly as possible – but if you can cope with setting the temp at something reasonable such as 24–25°C, you will not only save on wear and tear on the air conditioner's motor, you will save big on your energy bill.
The same principle applies in winter with the temperature at 17–19°C. Each degree cooler (or warmer in winter) can add about 10% to the unit's running cost.
It also depends on the external temperature. Generally you'll get better efficiency by aiming for a maximum temperature differential of about 8°C. So on a 35°C day, set your indoor thermostat to 27°C. Realistically people will still go for a cooler temperature, but try not to go too far beyond that 8°C difference. You can probably aim for a bigger differential if your house is very thermally efficient (such as well insulated or double glazed).
6. Take care of your air conditioner
While the most cost-effective way to feel cooler when the mercury rises is turning on the ceiling fan, air conditioners can provide better performance and work more efficiently if you carry out a couple of maintenance tasks such as cleaning the filter and ensuring the outside motor is well shaded.
The best way to cool your home is to give the hot air an opportunity to escape. Ventilation in the ceiling and vents in rooms with heat generating appliances such as the kitchen can help particularly in the evening.
8. Cool paint options
While darker colours may be in vogue at different times for home design, lighter colours lead to a cooler home – it's as simple as that. If you live in regions where the issue is mostly how to keep your home cool rather than keeping it warm, consider lighter tones for your home.
9. Keep your ceiling fans on
The breeze created through the use of ceiling fans can go a long way to making everyone in the home feel cooler, even though the temperature of the room may not be reduced. Ceiling fans cost a few cents a day to run and the latest DC fans cost even less and are almost silent on the lower settings.
10. Turn on the dishwasher just before you go to bed
Kitchen appliances can be a big heat generator, so if you hold off on turning on the dishwasher till you turn in, you won't be adding to the room temperature.