Make changes to your home to increase your thermal
comfort during an extreme heat event
The way your home is built and designed will make a difference
to how easily you can keep cool during an extreme heat event. The
type of house you live in (top floor flats are more prone to
overheating), the way it is constructed and the aspect of your
house or building (with west facing living areas more prone to
overheating) are important elements. Although these aspects of your
home cannot be changed there are many actions you can take to
retrofit your home to help keep cool during an extreme heat
For information on solar passive design features for your home to
help keep it cool visit the Your Home
WINDOWS, BLINDS AND CURTAINS
Shield windows exposed to the sun - changing the way
your rooms are shaded both inside and out can keep your home up to
70 per cent cooler in summer.
Take note of the amount of direct sunlight your home receives at
different times of the day, so you know which rooms contribute the
most to heat build-up from direct sunlight. Following this consider
installing external blinds, shutters or other shading on these
windows. This will help keep the room cool during the day. Awnings
and louvers are particularly useful because they block the sunlight
but allow for air circulation around windows. A temporary option is
using reflectors to deflect sun from windows. These are often used
in cars to keep them cooler while in car parks exposed to the sun,
and the same principle applies in the home. Identify the windows
with greatest exposure to the sun and set reflectors in place. They
can be removed in the evenings or after the heat wave passes rooms
that get a lot of sunlight to help reflect the heat. The tighter
the curtain is to the wall, the better it will reduce heat gain.
Two-layered or lined curtains are most effective for both summer
cooling and winter heating. Avoid dark reflective curtain linings
and if possible, metal Venetian blinds as they absorb heat and may
make rooms hotter, however if you have metal blinds ensure the more
reflective side of the blinds is facing outwards.
Open windows at night (if safe) for
Opening windows at night is helpful to ventilate your home as
the air at night-time is generally cooler. If open windows pose a
security concern consider installing screens or grills to allow you
to maintain your security and allow for night time ventilation.
Check for air leaks and seal any gaps
Homes with air conditioning should be well sealed to stop cool
air from escaping and warm air from entering. Check for any obvious
leaks and replace or add weather stripping around doors and
If you have a window-mounted air conditioner, check that the
unit is fitted tightly to the window so there are no gaps.
Install ceiling fans
Consider installing ceiling fans to use in conjunction with air
conditioning or as a more affordable alternative. Use a fan and
open up your home to create cross-breezes instead of switching on
your air-conditioning. Ceiling fans cost approximately 2 cents per
hour to run compared with air-conditioners that, depending on the
size, can cost between 13 - 55 cents per hour to run (Ergon
Effective landscaping can block direct sun and radiant
heat from entering your home
Pergolas or verandas: Paving directly under north-facing windows
reflects heat into the house, so adding pergolas or verandas in
these areas can provide extra summer shade.
Trees: Trees, vines and shrubs can be used to shade your home.
To be most effective, trees should be strategically located on the
north and west sides of your home. Deciduous trees are best,
because they shade in summer and allow light and radiant heat to
pass through in the winter. When choosing deciduous trees, ask your
local nursery to recommend varieties that are native to your
environment, fast growing and tall enough to be effective.
Vines provide shading and cooling, and are quick to grow.
Trellises should be placed on the hottest side of the house, and
should leave a gap from the wall to protect the wall and provide a
buffer of cool air. Consider planting native varieties of vines
such as Guinea Flower, Hardenbergia/Coral Pea or Bower Vine.
Certain vines, such as deciduous Clematis and Wisteria, grow well
in pots where open ground is unavailable. Ask your local nursery
which vines are best suited to your climate and needs.
Install insulation in your home. This will help keep it cool in
summer and also keep it warm in winter.
Install ceiling insulation with a minimum rating that suits your
location to keep the heat out of your home. This well help to
ensure your air-conditioning can work more efficiently.
Insulate your water heater
Water heaters radiate heat which can be easily contained by
insulation and prevent excess heat from being released inside your
home. You can purchase water heater blankets designed to insulate
them or use regular insulation and tape it around the heater.
Ensure you don't cover any vents. This insulation will also improve
the efficiency of your water heater resulting in lower energy
Keep the filter clean and set it to 25°c
Clean the filter pads on your air-conditioning regularly. This
helps to ensure the air-conditioning runs efficiently and therefore
costs you less money to run.
During summer, set your air-conditioning to 25°C. It's the most
comfortable and energy-efficient temperature setting for summer.
For each degree you drop, the air-conditioner uses about 10% more
electricity, which can quickly add up on your energy bill (Ergon
EXTERNAL WALL LININGS
Exterior walls can have a big impact on the indoor
comfort of a home
Ensure external walls (especially west-facing) are light
coloured. If you have a dark coloured west-facing wall consider
painting it a light colour.
This way they can reflect heat and keep your home cool.
As your roof is a large surface area that is exposed to
the full sun consider painting it a light colour to reflect
Light coloured metal roofs reflect sunlight and keep internal
temperatures down. It is estimated that cool roofing products made
of highly reflective and emissive materials can remain
approximately 28-33°C cooler than traditional materials during peak
summer weather (EPA).
If you have an attic, a lot of heat can be accumulated in the
space and radiated down into the house. Consider installing a roof
vent that will allow heat to escape and help remove moisture form
the attic in wetter months. Roof vents are generally inexpensive
and easy to install.
Replace carpets with wooden floors or tiles to expose
the cooling effect of the ground.
If you are renovating or replacing flooring considering using
cooler materials such as wood or tiles. In the colder months of the
year you can place rugs on the floor to help retain the heat.