Top 10 cooling tips

Try these simple strategies to beat the heat, and bills, this summer.

Keep your cool

Summer is coming, which means larger energy bills from keeping your home cool. With a few small changes to your home – and your habits – you can keep cool while keeping a lid on your energy bills.

"You may only need these tips a few weeks of the year, but when you need them you'll really need them," says CHOICE's cooling expert Denis Gallagher.

Top 10 cooling tips

Change your habits

  • Air con: Aim for 8°C difference to outside temperature and maintain your air conditioner
  • Temperature: Open windows when it's cooler outside; close when it's hotter outside.
  • Lights: Turn lights off and replace halogens with LEDs.
  • Fans: Use ceiling, pedestal and tower fans to stay cool.
  • Night: Turn on appliances like dishwashers at bedtime.

Change your home

  • Insulate: Insulated ceilings can make houses 35% cooler.
  • Seal: Use insulation strips around windows and doors.
  • Vent: Add whirly-birds or under-eave vents.
  • Shade: Shade the house with awnings, blinds, pergolas and deciduous trees.
  • Pain and glaze: Paint your house a lighter colour and have the windows glazed.

Change your home

If you're building a house, there are ways to make a new home energy efficient, but even for existing homes there are a few hacks to keep cool in summer. Many of these will also keep your home warmer in winter – bonus!

1. Insulate it

In-wall and in-roof insulation can help keep the cool in and the heat out in summer (and vice versa in winter). Un-insulated ceilings can make houses up to 35% hotter.

2. 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.

3. Ventilate it

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

4. Shade it

A well-shaded home can block 90% of the sun's heat in warmer months.

Install artificial shading like:

  • 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.

5. Glaze and paint it

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.

Change your habits

A few small changes in habit can help keep your home cooler in summer.

6. Turn the air con down

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.

You'll generally get better efficiency from your air conditioner if you aim for a maximum temperature differential (the temperature difference between inside and outside your home) of around 8°C. So on a 32°C day, set your air conditioner to no more than 24°C.

On scorching days, most people will still want a cooler temperature, but for maximum energy efficiency, try not to go too far beyond the 8°C difference – each degree cooler adds about 10% to your air conditioner's running cost.

Your air conditioner will be more efficient and effective if you give it some love, like cleaning the filter and ensuring the outside motor is well shaded.

To find the best air conditioner for your home, take a look at our reviews:

7. Keep an eye on the thermometer

"Use the environment to your advantage," Denis 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 inside and outside your home. 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.

8. Lights out

"Turn off the lights if you're not in the room – not only do they use energy to create light, they also create heat, which your air conditioner has to work harder to remove," says Denis.

"Replacing halogen downlights with LEDs can help keep the temperature down and reduce your power bills too."

9. Be a fan

"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 Denis.

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

But pedestal fans are cheap to run. We calculated that it would only cost around $30 to run a fan 24/7 for an entire summer. And you can choose exactly how and where to position them to maximise their effect, which you can't do with ceiling fans.

To find the best fans to keep you cool, take a look at our reviews:

10. Night-time is dishwashing time

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.

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