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How to hack your home cooling

Expert tips to help you beat the heat and save money this summer.

Last updated: 17 October 2023

We're facing a double whammy this year: a long, hot summer plus electricity prices that have risen faster than the mercury. You're probably already in a cold sweat thinking about how much it'll cost to keep your home cool.

But before you start searching for blow-up paddling pools and ice machines to get you through the hot season, take a look at some tips from our home cooling experts that'll help you keep your cool while keeping a lid on your energy bills.

It'll require a few small changes to your home and your habits, but once your next electricity bill arrives you'll be glad you made the effort.

Change your habits

A few small changes in habits can help keep your home cooler in summer and keep your energy bills down.

1. Turn the air con up

Setting your air conditioner to arctic might seem like the best way to beat the heat, but it can blow out your energy bill and increase wear and tear on the air conditioner's motor.

And the bigger the difference between the outdoor and indoor temperature, the more it'll cost you. 

Our experts recommend trying to keep the temperature difference to around 8°C for maximum efficiency. So on a 32°C day, set your air conditioner to around 24°C.

The bigger the difference between the outdoor and indoor temperature, the more it'll cost you

Of course, you don't really want to be sitting in a 37°C house on a 45° day, but just bear in mind that every degree above that 8°C difference adds 10% to your air con running costs – and over a long, hot summer that will really add up.

Fortunately, there are some other hacks you can use to cool things down so you're not relying solely on your air conditioner. Keep reading for more tips.

2. Keep it clean

Give your air conditioner some love and it'll return the favour. It can't be its best self if it's dirty and neglected, so give the filters and louvres a clean and check that everything's working well. 

And to make sure your air con lasts the distance this summer, it might be time to call in a professional to service it. It'll help your system last longer and work more efficiently, so it's well worth the money. 

Now's the time to jump on the cleaning and maintenance – you don't want to find out that it's on the blink at the start of the next heat wave.

Here's how to clean your air conditioner

3. Be a fan

Before you switch on the air conditioning, try a lower-tech option first. Fans are a cheap and simple way to beat the heat, and they're cheap as chips to run. It'll only cost around $30 to run a fan 24/7 for an entire summer.

Fans can also give you a bit more wiggle room in terms of cooling. A 2022 study found that a fan can buy you an extra 3–4°C before the room becomes so hot that you need the air conditioning – that'll mean less time running the air con, which is good news for your electricity bill.

And if you use a fan along with your air conditioning, it'll move the air around more effectively so it won't need to work as hard, saving you even more. 

"Ceiling fans make your body feel cool (although they won't lower the actual room temperature) and so the effect is very immediate, focused, efficient and cost-effective," says CHOICE home cooling expert Chris Barnes.

"Pedestal fans are the least effective option – but at times are unavoidable, particularly for renters on those unbearable days."

3. Keep an eye on the thermometer

"Use the environment to your advantage," Chris says. "If you're on the east coast, open your doors and embrace the southerly; if you're on the west coast, make the most of the Fremantle Doctor."

Use an indoor-outdoor thermometer to monitor the temperature difference. If it's cooler outside than in, open up all the doors and windows; if it's hotter outside, close everything up to keep the heat out.

5. Run appliances at night

Kitchen appliances can generate lots of heat, so if you wait until bedtime to turn on the dishwasher (or delay the cycle), you won't have to deal with the heat in the kitchen.

You can also turn your slow cooker on overnight so you're not heating the house during the day – and as a bonus you'll have a delicious cooked lunch ready to pack in the morning.

Check out our expert dishwasher reviews to find the most energy-efficient dishwasher on the market.

Change your home

Changing habits can be hard, but there are plenty of small changes you can make to your home that'll help keep you cool this summer. Many of these hacks are quick, easy wins that you can DIY. 

And for those that require professional help like insulation, they'll set you up for years to come. Plus, they'll also keep your home warmer in winter – bonus!

6. Insulate it

It's not very sexy, but insulation is actually a lot more important than you might think. Adding insulation into your ceiling alone can reduce the heat by up to 35%, which will make a big difference to your energy bill at the end of summer. 

Wall and ceiling insulation will keep the cool in and the heat out in summer, and vice versa in winter – so you'll save on both heating and cooling costs. 

7. Seal it

To keep the cool air in and the heat out:

  • use insulation strips around windows and under doors
  • close off draughty fireplaces and unused pet doors
  • close off any areas of the house you're not using – there's no point cooling the spare room if you don't have guests.

8. Ventilate it

Consider adding roof cavity ventilation like whirly-birds and under-eave vents to remove some of the hot air.

The more heat you can remove, the cooler your house will be – which means less money you have to spend on cooling.

9. Shade it

Whatever you can do to stop the sun hitting your home's walls and windows, the cooler your house will be in summer. 

Whether you're building or just making some small adjustments, these add-ons will help keep the heat out: 

  • Eaves
  • Pergolas
  • Awnings
  • Blinds
  • Shutters
  • Curtains

You can also plant deciduous trees near windows and glass doors – they'll keep the sun off in summer but let it shine through in winter.

10. Double glaze and paint it

Double glazed windows will keep the heat out in summer and keep the warmth in in winter.

Darker exterior paint colours may be in vogue, but they'll make your home hotter. Consider lighter tones to help keep your house cool.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.