When the mercury rises, homes without air conditioning can get stuffy and uncomfortable, making it difficult to relax, eat or sleep. Try these heat hacks to stay cool and calm all summer long.
1. Unplug the TV and close the laptop. Electrical appliances emit heat, so switch off everything you’re not using and make sure they’re unplugged at the wall too. TVs and computers are the worst offenders, so ensure they’re all closed down.
Even if an appliance is on standby it can still emit heat, so unplug everything you can at the wall, including phone chargers, and take the opportunity to give yourself a tech break.
2. Make your own air conditioning. If you have a tabletop fan, you can turn it into a DIY air-conditioning unit by placing a bowl of ice water in front of it so the air skims over the ice and gets supercooled.
This is a good solution if children are struggling to sleep or if you need to sit at a desk or table to work, as it can provide a concentrated stream of “iced” air.
3. Freeze your pillowcase. A cool pillow is a real luxury on a hot summer evening. Superchill yours by wrapping the pillowcase in plastic wrap and putting it in the freezer before bedtime, then popping it back on just before you turn in for the night.
Sounds a bit odd, but it’ll provide icy relief on a muggy evening, and the soothing effect should last long enough for you to drift off comfortably.
4. Choose natural materials. Avoid synthetic materials, particularly in a bedroom, as they won’t allow your skin to breathe properly, which can increase body temperature, particularly in a warm bedroom.
Switch your bedding to cotton or linen, as natural materials can help regulate body heat and also wick away moisture from overheated skin.
5. Make an ice-water bottle. Take your hot-water bottle out of hibernation and turn it into an ice pack to cool down a bed. Fill it with cold water, place it in the freezer, then pop it between the sheets just before you head to bed.
You can also freeze wheat or rice bags to create a portable ice pack to place on the back of the neck while working or relaxing.
6. Turn off the lights. All lights emit heat, some more than others. To avoid overheating a room in summer, make sure you keep all lights switched off whenever possible and install energy-efficient lightbulbs to reduce the amount of energy given off as heat.
7. Limit shower times. Running even a moderately warm shower will immediately heat up a small bathroom, so keep showers short and cool on scorching days.
You can also fill the bath or sink with just a little bit of cool water, then add ice to create an ice bucket that’s handy for soaking cloths and towels to place on hot heads to bring down body temperature.
8. Screen sun-facing windows. Again, this might seem obvious, but make sure all sun-facing windows are screened during the day, with blinds or shutters tightly closed to filter out as much of the direct sunlight as possible.
If it’s a still day, keep the windows closed too, but if there’s a breeze, open windows or doors to keep the air circulating.
9. Keep the air moving. The key to cooling down a stuffy interior is to increase the flow of air, so as soon as the temperature starts to drop in the evening, open doors and windows to encourage a cooling breeze to sweep from the front to the back of the house. If the evening is very still, fans can help with this.
10. Spritz clothes and linens with cold water. If you need to cool down fast, spritzing cotton clothes with cool water is one way to lower the temperature at the hottest point of the day.
You can also bring the temperature of a room down by soaking a cotton sheet or lightweight towel in cold water and hanging it in a window to cool down the air as it flows through a room. Bear in mind, this will only work in dry heat.
11. Don’t use the oven. And if you need an excuse to step away from the kitchen, this is it! Using your oven or cooktop will increase the temperature of your home, and if you have an open-plan living and cooking area, the hot air from kitchen appliances will heat the entire space.
Use the hot weather as an excuse to fire up the barbecue grill instead, or stick to salads on the hottest days.
12. Impose a tumble dryer ban. Running the washing machine and tumble dryer on a hot day is a sure-fire way to raise the temperature indoors.
Limit the number of times you use your washing machine on really hot days to prevent the temperature from rising, and dry clothes on an outdoor clothesline instead of using the dryer. The planet will thank you too.
13. Screen a city balcony. If you live in an apartment that gets uncomfortably hot in summer, try creating a sun screen using leafy bamboo. This will have the double benefit of cooling down the balcony and rooms beyond by blocking direct sunlight, as well as providing a privacy screen.
Bamboo is a great choice for an urban space since it is quick to grow, is relatively easy to maintain and has a pleasing tendency to gently sway in the breeze and rustle reassuringly on a summer evening.
14. Create a cool canopy. If you have a large addition with lots of glass or a living area that gets superheated in summer, an effective, stylish and eco-friendly way to cool it down is to plant a leafy green canopy outside. This will absorb the direct sunlight and gently filter it so you get soft, dappled light rather than glaring direct sun. Not only will this help keep your living space cool, it will also help clean the air and create a soothing vista to gaze upon from the comfort of your cool and shady living room.
This falls into the long-term category rather than a quick fix, but if you start to plant a green screen this summer, your future self will thank you.
15. Deflect direct sunlight with a canopy. Another way to block the midday sun from streaming into your home and prevent a room from overheating is to place a canvas canopy or sail over any doors or windows that are in direct sunlight at the hottest part of the day. This also will create a shady outdoor spot to enjoy on a beautiful summer day.