Prepare for heatwave

Prepare for heatwave

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 event. 

For information on solar passive design features for your home to help keep it cool visit the Your Home website



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 ventilation

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 windows.

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 Energy, 2011).



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

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 bills.



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 Energy).



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 sunlight.

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).

Roof vents

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.