Dealing with Extreme Temperatures, Part One: Heatwaves
August has been scorching so far – which is great news if you’re outside, but if you are indoors, chances are you might be melting! You see, in the UK, our homes are typically designed to keep us warm; so if a heatwave strikes, we have to be a little more inventive! Whether you’re a homeowner hoping to prepare your short-let for guests staying in soaring temperatures, or a guest trying to cool down, here are some tips on how to beat the heat.
Without air con, fans are essential!
While some offices are air conditioned, air conditioning within the home is not common in the UK – something that sometimes surprises our international guests! If you’re planning to visit one of our homes, please bear in mind that there most likely won’t be air conditioning available at the property (though, as you’ll see, there are other ways to stay cool – thankfully!).
Homeowners who are registered with UnderTheDoormat will know that fans are listed on our ‘must haves’ list (with good reason). These are really valuable bits of kit for circulating fresh air and cooling the home during warm weather – so please do ensure these are available for your guests during summer.
But which fan to buy – and where to put it? Larger tower fans tend to be more powerful, and often come with an automatic ‘rotate’ function, which means that air can circulate more efficiently around larger spaces. You can even buy ‘smart’ fans that are controlled by an app. As well as cooling the home down, certain high-tech fans will also capture pollutants and blast the room with purified air – a handy bonus!
In terms of positioning, you may wish to leave it up to your guests, but generally speaking it’s best to put your fan on the floor and point it upwards. This is because heat rises, so the coolest air will be at floor level. If you position the fan so that it’s facing outwards towards a wall, without any obstructions in the way, the fan will bounce cool air off the wall and back into the room. You can even place a bowl of icy water in front of the fan to speed up the process!
Think about your windows
When temperatures are soaring, it’s our natural instinct to fling open the windows and pull up the blinds: but this is actually counter-productive. Keep the hot air out by covering windows and keeping windows shut during the day. When the temperature begins to drop, open everything up and let air move freely though the home.
Blackout or thermal blinds are especially useful: if you keep these shut in the day, they’ll stop your house from turning into a heat trap. Venetian blinds or shutters are also great options, as these allow you to control the amount of light filtering into the room (and thus keep an eye on temperature).
Many period properties have sash windows, which are valuable during hot weather. Devised by the Victorians as a mini heat-filtration system, the idea is to keep both halves open equal amounts, allowing hot air to escape via the top and cool air to enter through the bottom. Worth a try!
Switch off anything you aren’t using
If you’re preparing your house for guests or just wish to cool it down for yourself, bear in mind how much heat is pumped into the air by appliances – even if they’re in standby mode. If there’s something plugged in that doesn’t need to be used any time soon, unplug it and put it away, or turn it off at the switch.
Consider light bulbs, too. Conventional light bulbs are both inefficient and hot: they give out up to 90% of their energy as waste heat (wasting energy and heating your room at the same time!). Change all your bulbs to low-energy light bulbs to avoid this problem – and keep the lights off as much as possible during the sunnier months.
Do you have insulation?
Many people don’t realise that insulation isn’t only good for trapping heat during winter – it can also keep warm air out. If you don’t have wall, roof or loft insulation and are considering it, now’s the time!
Invest in some cooling household items
Did you know that your choice of mattress has a real impact on body temperature while you sleep? Whilst there’s no need to invest in a whole range of new mattresses for the summer months, a cost-effective way to keep your bed cold is to purchase a breathable mattress topper – preferably made from feather down, which wicks away moisture.
And don’t forget about house plants! They bring moisture into the room, which can stop the atmosphere feeling stuffy as well as purifying the air (if you’re looking for house plant recommendations, check out ‘Indoor Plants for Beginners’).
Final pro tip: unearth that winter hot water bottle, fill it with cold water and put it in the freezer for your guests to use. It’s the perfect homemade ice pack to have on hand for instant cooling after a hot day exploring London!