Last Updated Jan 22, 2018 · Written by Craig Gibson
As our planet continues to warm and temperature records ease up, you may find it increasingly difficult to get a decent night's sleep.
There is nothing worse than tossing and turning in a stuffy room and getting all clammy in the process. Unfortunately, all the evidence points to more extreme summer heat events.
Consider that Penrith, in Sydney's west, recently recorded a high of 47.3 degrees Celsius, the highest temperature recorded by a weather station in the Sydney metro over the last 80 years. Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) data indicates that Australia's climate is warming, with both mean surface air temperature and surrounding sea surface temperature rising. They also warn to expect more frequent and intense extreme heat events.
So, best get prepared because it looks like the trend is for warmer summers, and who can function without a decent night’s sleep? With this in mind, we have produced a range of tips to help keep your home cool this summer - with a focus on getting that all important shut-eye.
If you are looking for an environmentally friendly alternative to air conditioning, then introduce some plants to your home.
Plants cool the environment via transpiration, which is when they lose excess water into the atmosphere from their leaves. By releasing water they act as a natural humidifier, cooling themselves and you down. In terms of specific species, you are looking for shade-loving species such as indoor palms and figs. Other popular indoor plants that can help keep you cool include ferns and snake plant (mother-in-law’s tongue). These species also help purify the air, by giving off oxygen at night, and filtering out airborne toxins in your home.
A relatively cost effective way of cooling your bedroom is to install a ceiling fan, preferably one with adjustable speed settings.
Fans actually cool you by circulating the air around you, so are localised in their effect. But they are much cheaper to run than an air conditioner and allow you to acclimatise to the heat, rather than insulating you from it. In terms of energy consumption, a ceiling fan uses approximately 65 watts per hour versus the 2,200 watts per hour of an air con.
In terms of cost, you could pay anywhere from $169 for a small ceiling fan with a light in brushed chrome, to $429 for a larger fan with marine grade stainless steel blades, and $779 for a fan with brushed aluminium and timber blades. Fans with timber blades are more expensive, but quieter when they spin. If you're installing a ceiling fan in your bedroom for use while you sleep, opt for timber blades. And if you live near the coast stainless steel blades are less likely to rust than cheaper brushed chrome versions.
If you are worried about the fan keeping you awake as it turns above you then opt for a ceiling fan with a cathedral rather than bell canopy. These are designed to be whisper quiet and prevent the wobbling that occurs on older bell canopies, which are a source of noise.
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During summer heat passes through your glass windows, which are poor insulators, and makes your home feel warm and uncomfortable. This is especially true if your bedrooms get late afternoon sun.
This is when blinds (indoors), shutters (indoor + outdoor) and awnings (outdoors) can all help keep your home, and bedroom cool. The primary function they perform is shading, though they can also provide insulation against heat intrusion. Honeycomb or cellular blinds are some of the best at offering thermal protection. They work by trapping heat within their air-filled cells, preventing it from circulating into the home. These blinds are available in single, double or triple celled options with more cells meaning more insulation. For maximum insulation from heat opt for triple celled blinds.The bonus is that these blinds can also keep your home warm in winter by preventing the heat inside from escaping.
You can also accomplish this with interior or exterior shutters, with hardwood timber providing the best durability and insulation. Outdoor awnings can also provide invaluable shading, especially if your home/bedroom receives late afternoon sun. In terms of price, you can pay anywhere from $60 to $70 for blackout roller blinds, to $85 for light filtering/sunscreen blinds and $300+ for honeycomb blinds and fabric Venetians.
Read more: How Much Do Blinds Cost?
Don’t forget to read the label when it comes time to buying bed linen for summer.
The best fabrics are natural materials which are breathable, comfortable against your skin and able to wick (move) moisture away from your body. Here cotton, especially the Egyptian crop, is king as it is a very smooth yarn that is perfect for regulating temperature. In terms of weight and thread count, look for a rating of 300-400 as the best compromise of breathability which is not too dense. And opt for a lighter colour - these are going to absorb less light/heat which will also helps keep temperatures down.
If you are renovating your home or building a new home it is worth knowing about passive cooling, which is an integral part of environmentally friendly building design.
This is all about optimising the design of your home to take advantage of your local climate to cool your home. The objective is to minimise the use of any energy-driven appliances, such as air conditioning or ceiling fans. Here architects will ensure that your windows and doors are positioned to allow breezes to flow into the home, with openings on the opposite side of the house to allow hot air to escape. This often calls for an open plan building design, which helps facilitate this.
Other simple but effective techniques include installing whirlybird roof vents. These draw hot air out of the ceiling cavity and help keep the home interior cooler. You can also provide shade by having an extended roof or by having trees, tall plants or a vertical garden to shade the exterior walls of your home, especially those that get late afternoon sun.
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