18 easy ways to keep your house cool this summer
07 June 2021 | OVO Energy
Here in the UK, our weather is notoriously fickle. Often after seemingly endless weeks or months of dreary winter weather, we’ll suddenly have a glorious heatwave.
The thing is, as happy as we are to see blazing sunshine, we Brits aren’t that well prepared for hot weather (even though it’s happening more often). Most of our homes are designed to keep us warm, not cold – and it’s rare for us Brits to shell out for air-conditioning!
So, we’ve been busy thinking up some tips to help you stay cool this summer: from how to cool down your room quickly, to how to sleep during a heatwave. What’s more, some of these tips will mean you don’t have to rely on energy-guzzling electronics that do zero favours for your energy bills, or your carbon footprint. Lower bills to go with your lower temperature? Sounds like a good deal to us!
How to cool down a room without air-conditioning: 8 tips for cooling down fast
1. Close the windows and draw the curtains
Tempting as it is to fling open the windows at the first sign of heat, it could backfire on you. To keep your house cool, you need to keep the hot air out, so this means keeping windows – particularly south-facing windows – closed and covered with blinds or curtains during the day. Then at night time, when the temperature has dropped, you can open everything up, to give your house a good airing.
2. Create a cross-breeze through the house
Okay, we know we just said you need to keep your windows closed. But sometimes, you simply need to feel a breeze on your skin. If you must throw the windows open, do it strategically, so you get a flow of air moving through the house.
This means opening windows at opposite sides of the house and keeping doors open so the air can move through freely. You could also position a fan towards a window, so that it’s pushing the hot air outside. If you can, keep curtains and blinds closed, to deflect any direct sunlight.
Pro-tip for those with sash windows: make sure both the top and bottom are open equal amounts. The theory (well according to the Victorians, anyway), is that cool comes in through the lower opening, and warm air is pushed out through the top.
3. Place some bowls of water around the house
Leaving bowls of water lying around might look a little untidy, but doing so can help cool hot air. Any hot cats or dogs that live with you will probably also be grateful!
Similarly, trees and plants act as natural air-conditioners and pump moisture into the atmosphere, so consider investing in a nice houseplant to help your efforts. Just remember to water it!
4. Unplug and switch off your devices
A surprising amount of heat is generated from appliances around the house. Switching them off can help avoid internal heat gains. Turn them off when they’re not being used (don’t just leave them on standby), and make sure the backs of fridges and freezers have plenty of ventilation space. As these appliances in particular can pump a lot of unnecessary heat into a room.
If you can, hang your clothes up to dry, rather than using a tumble dryer, and hand-wash any dishes. These steps might take a bit longer, but they’ll stop electrical appliances from heating up the house even more (not to mention, chop a bit of money off your energy bills). Find out more about how to wash your dishes in an eco-friendly way.
5. Change your lightbulbs
Conventional incandescent light bulbs are surprisingly inefficient. In fact, they give off up to 90% of their energy as waste heat1. Switch to low-energy light bulbs to reduce overheating (not to mention save money).
6. Don’t use the oven
We all know the saying: can’t stand the heat? Get out of the kitchen!
Cooking hot meals can, of course, heat things up in your home. Try swapping to cold meals like salads and sandwiches, to keep temperatures down. Again, this will have the added benefit of using less energy, so it’s a win-win for you and the environment!
7. Invest in a fan (and use it wisely)
Fans can prove a summertime godsend, but they tend to consume a lot of energy (even when on standby) so it’s important to make sure you’re making the most of them.
Since heat rises, the coolest air in your house is going to be at floor level – so set your fan on the floor, and point it upwards. Position it so that it points outwards towards the opposite wall, unobstructed by large objects. This will bounce cooler air off the wall and back into the room, where it mixes with warm air, to help cool the temperature.
It’s also a good idea to set a timer on your fan, to make sure you’re being as energy-efficient as you can.
8. Even better: try an ice fan
Need to get cooler faster? Try placing a bowl of ice and cold water in front of your fan’s blades, so the air blows across it.
This will send icy water droplets all around the room, which should feel like a relief on your parched skin. Voila: a homemade, DIY air-conditioner!
How to sleep in the heat
Staying cool at night is vital for a good night’s sleep. We’ve all been there, tossing and turning during an endless night, and it’s not a great feeling. So here are 6 ways to keep your bedroom (and yourself!) cool this summer.
1. Take a cold shower before bed
Sometimes the best way to fight the heat is to trick your body into thinking it’s cooler. One way to do this is to have a quick cold shower right before you hit the pillow for the night.
Remember not to make the water too cold, and don’t do this right after you’ve come in from intense heat. A sudden change in body temperature can be dangerous!
2. Swap your duvet for a sheet
Light, breezy cotton sheets trap less heat than the thick duvets we usually have on our beds. So to get prepped for summer, swap your bedding for something thinner.
3. Put your pyjamas in the freezer – yes, really!
It might sound a bit silly, but hear us out. You can make your bed feel nice and cool by putting your sheets and PJs in the freezer for just a few minutes before bedtime.
Though it won’t last all night, this should create a cooling effect for just long enough for you to fall asleep. But don’t overdo it, or you’ll have hardened icicles for bed sheets!
4. Turn your hot water bottle into an ice pack
Did you know that you can use a hot water bottle to cool down? It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true. Just stick a hot water bottle full of water into the freezer a few hours before bed.
Once frozen, it’ll emit cold in the same way that it warms you up if you use hot water. Stash your ice pack in the bed before you get in, or place it under your feet, to help you regulate your temperature as you drift off.
5. Sleep close to the floor
Heat rises – so common sense tells us that if you stay closer to the floor, you’ll be less hot. You could try using a Japanese futon, or an air mattress, to sleep lower down. Bonus points if you can sleep on the ground floor, or in the basement.
If you have one, you could also try sleeping in a hammock. By suspending yourself above the ground, you’ll have air flowing all around you.
6. Get bed sheets made from natural fibres
Synthetic materials don’t absorb as much moisture as natural ones, so they’ll leave you feeling sweaty. Getting a cotton sheet, or one made of natural fibres, will help you stay drier.
Buckwheat pillows are also excellent for hot nights. They encourage air flow, unlike traditional cotton pillows, and don’t hold onto heat.
How to keep a room cool that faces the sun
Got a south-facing window with sunlight streaming in? It might look pretty, but it could also be heating up the air in your home. As well as all the tips above, try these 3 slightly more involved ideas to keep your room cool all summer long.
1. Get some energy-efficient windows
The biggest up-side to energy-efficient windows is usually that they keep the heat inside your home. So when you have the heating on during winter, you’re not losing energy to the outside world. But during summer, they’re also better at keeping the sun’s heat outside!
2. Plant some leafy shade outside your window
Trees and plants aren’t just lush to look at. They’re not even just good for the health of the planet. They’re also excellent at keeping you cool.
If you’ve got green fingers, think about planting some trees, or tall, wide plants outside your south-facing window. The shade should help to protect you from some of the sun’s heat. Find out more about the best trees to plant at home.
3. Install an awning or window cover
To maximise the shade over your window, think about getting an awning, or some shutters. This will give you even more protection against the sun’s harsh rays.
Insulate your home properly, to keep it the right temperature all year round
These tips all offer quick solutions to keep your house cool – but sometimes it’s worth thinking more long-term. Especially as heatwaves are becoming more common in the UK, with climate change leading to hotter summers in the near-future.
Most people associate building insulation with cold weather, and keeping heat in – but it’s just as good at keeping the heat out, too. Check out our straightforward guides to roof and loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, and solid wall insulation, and you’ll be reaping the rewards all year round!
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Sources and references:
2 100% of the renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates and how these work. A proportion of the electricity we sell is also purchased directly from renewable generators in the UK.
3 Each year, OVO plants 1 tree for every member in partnership with the Woodland Trust. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so tree-planting helps to slow down climate change.