As spring hurtles towards summer, hot temperatures won’t be far behind. Now is the time to think about staying cool—before the heat settles in for good. If you know the tips and tricks to keeping your home energy efficient this summer, you’ll be prepared well in advance.
As an added bonus, these tips work both ways: they’ll keep the heat out in summer and in during winter. Here’s what you can do now to keep yourself cool when the mercury rises.
1. Get smart about insulation
Insulation is material that prevents heat and cold from getting into your home. There are two main types of insulation: bulk and reflective. Bulk insulation includes glass wool and polyester, while reflective insulation uses aluminium foil to reflect radiant heat.
You can insulate under the floor, in the ceiling, or behind the wall. According to YourHome.gov.au, up to 60% of heat can sneak in through uninsulated ceilings and walls. Remember that insulation alone doesn’t do the job; shading is also important—more about that shortly.
2. Seal up draughts
Draughts are usually more noticeable during the winter, when cold blasts of air catch you off guard. But if those draughts aren’t sealed up, heat can get in the same way. In fact, draughts account for up to 25% of a home’s heat gain in summer.
Put on your detective hat and do a full inspection of your home, looking for spaces where air can get in. This might be cracks between walls, windows, doors, and skylights. Also check unused fireplaces, vents, and exhaust fans.
3. Get window wise
Windows can have a seriously big impact on your home’s heating and cooling abilities: up to 87% of heat gain in summer comes through windows and skylights!
If you’re building a new home, it’s a great opportunity to choose energy-efficient windows. Consider the size and location of the window, along with the size, type of glass, and frame.
Most of us, however, are looking for ways to improve our existing windows. Double glazing is worth thinking about, especially in rooms without internal shades. Air gets trapped between the window panes, effectively acting as insulation.
The Window Energy Rating Scheme (WERS) provides an energy star rating to let you know which windows are most energy-efficient. You can also check the Australian Window Association website for advice on which windows are best for your climate.
Good windows aren’t the only thing that can help keep heat out; window frames can also contribute to energy efficiency. Swap your metal frames for timber or PVC and you may be surprised at the difference it makes. Be sure that your frames are snug in the wall, as any gaps can let in unwanted heat.
4. Made in the shade
Something as simple as a shade can keep your home energy efficient in the hot summer months. Aim for adjustable shades rather than permanent ones, so you can still soak up the sun in winter. Shade the north and west sides to protect against the sun at its strongest points.
Shade options include external shading like awnings, or internal shading like blinds and shades. You could even plant trees outside to provide shade or add a film over your windows.
5. Set your air conditioner
The lower your air conditioner, the higher your costs and the less energy efficient your home becomes. Experts suggest keeping the thermostat between 24 and 27 degrees; every degree you raise it can help you cut costs by as much as 10%.
Combined with the other energy saving tips for staying cool, you may find that keeping the thermostat up isn’t as hard as it seems. At night, you may even want to shut off the air conditioner entirely and open the house up to evening breezes.
6. Cool only the rooms you use
You’ve probably heard this before, and that’s because it’s a great tip: only cool the rooms you’re using. Close the doors to rooms that don’t need to be cooled, like the bathroom or laundry. If you have ducted air conditioning throughout the house, use the zoning controls to manage the air distribution.
The exception to this tip is evaporative air conditioners, which work best when doors and windows are open to encourage air circulation.
7. Upgrade to energy-efficient appliances
By law, reverse-cycle air conditioners must have Energy Rating Labels. Normal labels have six stars, but there are also 10-star labels for appliances with higher star ratings. The higher the rating, the better.
Energy-efficiency ratings make it easier to compare like with like, so you can clearly see which options can save you money. Remember to get the unit installed properly to ensure that it functions as it should.
When shopping for reverse-cycle air conditioners, models with inverters can save you up to 30% on energy.