Brits are not designed to handle hot weather, as the most recent heatwave shows. Temperatures that other countries might consider slightly warm reduces most Brits to walking puddles or red lobsters. However, being outside in the sweltering heat is far more preferable to being stuck inside. Since Britain usually experiences colder weather, all our buildings are designed to keep as much heat in as possible, which unfortunately means we suffer in the event of authentic summer weather. The worst of the heatwave seems to be over now, but here are a few ways you can be prepared if things start to heat up again. Since experts recommend we avoid going outside between 10 am and 4 pm during a heatwave, we should all know how to keep our houses cool.
It’s easy to assume that opening a window will let some air into a room that is slowly becoming a sauna. However, there are smarter ways to cool down a room than to let in more sunlight. During the peak sunlight hours, try keeping your curtains closed around the house, particularly south-facing windows. Around 30 percent of the unwanted heat that comes into your homes gets in through the windows. Keeping the curtains closed can lower indoor temperature by 20 percent. Another way to cool down your house is to invest in window tint, which will keep the solar heat out and keep your cold air conditioning inside the house. These measure will prevent your house from becoming a miniature greenhouse, and into an effect shelter from the heat. Open the curtains and windows in the early morning and evening to let the cooler air circulate around the house. You might even find it helpful to sleep with the window open at night when a cool evening breeze is circulating through the house.
Effective insulation will slow the rate that heat escapes from your house in winter, and will also slow the rate that heat gets into your house during the summer, sort of like a flask keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold. The best time to install insulation is during winter, because the last thing you want is to be up in the loft during a hot day. You should also add new insulation along your walls and ceiling for maximum efficiency. Use caulking or weather stripping to make sure doors and windows are properly sealed. Once you have effectively insulated your home, you may also find that you don’t need to turn your fans and air conditioning on as much to fight the increasing heat. It might also be a good idea to hire a professional company to help you; the last thing you want is to turn a money-saving project into an expensive repair if you do something wrong.
Our expectation of cold is more obviously reflected in our textiles. Our houses are usually decorated with fleece blankets, heavy curtains, and flannel duvet covers to help us stay snug during the middle of winter. When summer finally arrives, you need to swap these heavy fabrics for something lighter; not only does seasonally switching up your bedding freshen up a room, it’s a great way to keep cool. Cotton is a smart choice for your bedsheets because it breathes a little easier. Changing your curtains for a light material is better for letting in the cold air during the evening and early morning. You should also buy yourself one or two buckwheat pillows; buckwheat hulls have a naturally occurring air space between them, they won’t hold onto your body heat like conventional pillows, even when packed together inside a pillow case. A few seasonal redecorations to your bedroom can help you sleep during the worst heatwaves.
When there is no breeze coming in through your windows then the best thing you can do is create your own indoor wind. Unlike houses in warmer countries where heat is expected, British homes are not automatically fitted with air conditioning systems. Instead, you need to find a fan that suits your decor and budget. For those with a bigger budget, the Dyson Cool range of fans don’t have propellers and blades that whirr and with their beautiful sleek curves these fans can take pride of place in even the most modern home. Failing that, you can’t go wrong with a traditional chrome desk fan; it might not be as quiet, but the white noise can be effective in sending you off to sleep. If you want to make the air a little colder without increasing the speed, then try placing a bowl of ice in front of the fan. The air the passes through the ice will be extra cold, and heavenly against your sticky skin. Alternatively, you can strategically place the fans near the window and face them outwards; this might seem counterproductive, but when facing the window the fan will actually push the hot air away from your home.
Pretend the oven is broken
There’s a reason most people recommend using the oven to heat up a cold house in the middle of winter; it’s hot and it makes the whole house hot. This kitchen appliance might be your best friend during winter, but in the middle of a heatwave you’re better off pretending you don’t have an oven. Besides, when it’s hot the last thing you want is to eat food that’s hot and overly filling. Salads and cold food go down a treat in summer because they require very little preparation and they don’t heat you up from the inside. Additionally, fruits and salad contain more water than our usual meals, so they’re actually helping to keep us cool. Look around for some delicious and light meals to try this summer, and if you do feel the urge to cook something then you’re better off using your microwave or grilling in the garden. Summer is BBQ season after all. However, if you do have to cook indoors, then you should cover your pots to minimise indoor humidity, use the range hood or microwave vent fan to vent hot air outside, and turn the oven off a few minutes before your food is cooked to reduce oven heat.
Turn it off
It’s recommended that you turn off all electrical appliances you’re not using to save on your electricity bills, but in the middle of the heatwave there’s another reason to keep everything turned off. You may have noticed that Lights, computers, TVs and mobile phones left to charge all give off heat. It’s why offices are the worst places to be when it’s too hot. Anything that you don’t need to use should be turned off at the plug. Washing machines and dishwashers can also contribute to the humidity in your home, so it’s best to either wash the dishes by hand or wait until evening to complete your errands. Not that you’re likely to have them on with the sun out, but you should also make sure your lights are switched off. Even energy saving bulbs give off heat.
Houses with large windows are particularly vulnerable to the heat. You can’t control where the sun hits, but you can put in as much shade as possible to defend against the worst of the sun rays. Although this won’t have an immediate payoff, a well-placed tree can make a world of difference for the comfort of your home, and add colour and beauty to your garden. More immediate payoff could include adding awnings, shades, and shutters to your windows and patio. It might be expensive at first, but awnings can reduce heating gains by 65 to 75 percent, particularly when placed on south- and west-facing windows. You should also borrow ideas from our Mediterranean neighbours and paint your property white to reflect and release the sun’s heat energy rather than absorb it and store it.
Effective use of water
Even with all your precautions, sometimes it’s best to cool your body temperature as well as your room temperature. Drinking cold water and standing in front of the fan will go a long way to keeping you from sweating all over the furniture, but there are other ways you can use water to keep cool. Run some cold water in your bathtub, or a kiddie pool, and soak your feet whenever the heat gets to be a bit much. If you’re having a hard time sleeping because of the heat, having a cold shower before bed can help you fall asleep a little easier. However, you can also fill a hot water bottle and put it in the freezer during the day, then sleep with it at night to stay cool while you sleep. You could also stick your sheets in the freezer (after putting it in a plastic bag, of course) so the whole bed feels cool. Maybe you’ll even be able to cuddle with your partner again if you take some precautions against the heat