Preparing our homes for summer

by Andrew Tidswell, Blackwood Sustainable Communities Group
This article appears on page 12 of The Blackwood Times, Issue 308, November 2020

sun direction diagram

With our summers experiencing more and longer heatwaves, there are things we can do to make our homes more comfortable. The Covid-19 impacts have seen us spending more time at home so it is helpful if we can make the places we spend most of our life as cool and pleasant as possible in hot weather without having the air conditioning working flat out, costing us money.

The first thing to appreciate at home is which way faces north and the sun’s path during the day. The roof takes the biggest heat load, so having good insulation under the roof and over the ceiling is the best way to keep the heat out. Insulation is probably the most cost effective thing we can do to make our homes cope with the heat and cold. Having a light coloured roof is also very effective in keeping the heat out. The current trend of dark roofs hugely increases the heat entering our homes and requires a lot more costly air conditioning to keep a comfortable inside temperature.

Windows act as heat traps which is great in winter but bad in summer, so stopping the sun shining on the glass in hot weather reduces the heat entering the house. This is
especially important for windows that face east, north and west, which is why it is important to know the way your house faces. Keeping summer sun off north windows is generally simple with overhanging eaves, verandahs, pergolas (with shade cloth or vines), and external blinds. In Adelaide’s climate, having shading that protects against direct sun from about mid-October to mid- April is usually sufficient.

Keeping the sun off west-facing windows is really important as this is when the sun is hottest. External blinds are really the most effective way of dealing with this. Internal blinds and curtains have only a limited effect as once the sun’s rays have passed through the glass they are trapped inside the house.

More people suffer serious effects from heat stress each year than any other natural phenomenon. As our climate is getting hotter with more consecutive days of high temperatures than ever before, making our homes able to modify the effects of the external temperatures simply and economically will be an important part of a sustainable living future.

Managing our health and well-being in hot summer conditions is also important and that will be the subject of a future article.

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