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10 energy efficient ways to keep cool in the heat

By Rachel England Friday 01 August 2014

This summer is shaping up to be a scorcher, but we Brits aren’t so good at dealing with hot weather, relying on energy-hungry fans and air-conditioning units to see us through. Here are 10 tips that’ll help bring your temperature – and energy bills – down to a much cooler level.

Icecream

Use your windows

Seems like a no-brainer, this one, but using your windows properly can help circulate air around a house and reduce some of the mugginess associated with a heat wave. Sash windows should be opened equal amounts at the top and bottom; because heat rises this helps push hot air out while drawing cooler air in. The same principle applies to two storey houses. Keep upstairs windows open to get rid of hot air and leave downstairs windows open to pull in cooler air, and create some much-needed circulation. 

Block out sunlight

Glorious, beaming sunlight can be something of a scarcity in the UK, so it’s tempting to throw the curtains wide to let light in. All this does is heat up rooms, though, so keep curtains and blinds drawn during the day, and come the evening, open them up to make the most of the natural light for as long as possible.

Unplug

Light bulbs and electrical appliances emit heat. While it might only be a small amount, it’s enough to push an already hot house into truly unpleasant levels of sweatiness – so unplug! Eke out as much use as you can from natural light before flicking on electrical lights, and swap old light bulbs for new, energy-saving ones. They emit hardly any heat and you could save on your annual energy bill - check out our ultimate beginner’s guide to energy saving light bulbs.  

Cook smarter

Avoid using stoves and ovens if you can help it – they’ll just push the temperature in your kitchen up. But when needs must, be sure to:

  • Cover pots and pans to minimise indoor humidity (doing this reduces the amount of energy used, anyway)
  • Turn the oven off a few minutes before the allotted cooking time (the oven will stay at the right temperature for a while after you turn it off, but doing this uses less energy and means the kitchen will cool down quicker) 
  • Check on your food’s progress through the glass door, rather than opening it up and releasing a great waft of heat into the room

Eat right

Lighter foods are definite winners during a heat wave, so stick to cool, easily-digestible meals to keep your body temperature down, and avoid protein-heavy meals, which can increase your metabolic rate. That said, some experts believe a spicy curry can help keep you cool. Curry contains capsaicin, a heat compound in chilli peppers that stimulates sweat production, and as you sweat, you enhance evaporative heat loss, which helps you feel cooler. 

Sleep easy

Sleeping during a heat wave is no mean feat, especially in the UK where we’re not really geared up for such a challenge! Make things a little easier by choosing cotton sheets, which help ventilation, and going to bed with a cool, damp flannel. No-one wants to sleep under a heavy duvet when the weather’s hot, so use a thin sheet instead, and for maximum cool points pop it in the fridge or freezer before bedtime. 

Take a cool – not cold – shower

It’s tempting to set your shower to arctic levels when you’re hot and sweaty, but this can be counterproductive, as your body will react to dramatic change by trying to preserve heat. It’s much better to have a tepid shower that is cool enough to lower your core body temperature but warm enough to allow blood to the surface of the skin. You won’t need hot water to do this, so remember to turn down your boiler’s water thermostat – a tank of hot water sitting in your house will only add to the heat problem. 

Leave the chores (for now!)

Washing machines and tumble dryers are heat-generating appliances so use them early in the morning or in the evening, rather than in the heat of the day. Better yet, use the washing machine first thing and then skip the dryer altogether by hanging laundry outside.

Use a fan effectively

If you do end up reaching for a fan, make sure you’re getting the most out of it. Create a cross breeze by positioning it across from an open window, or point it downwards towards so it pushes cooler air up into the rising heat. When things get really hot, position a shallow pan or bowl of ice in front of the fan – the airflow will pick up cold water from the surface of the ice as it melts, creating a cooling breeze.

Consider heat-wave friendly investments 

The terms double-glazing and insulation are usually bandied around during winter when we’re keen to keep the heat in and the cold out. But a well insulated house works all year round, and in summer proves its mettle by keeping heat outside and precious cool air inside. Insulating your home is an investment, but it’s one that will save you money and pay off whatever the weather.

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