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How to cool down a room and ride out summer heat in comfort

family sitting on sofa turning on air conditioning - how to cool down a room

From zero-cost fixes to clever cooling hacks, here's how to lower the temperature at home in a heatwave

The warmer weather can mean many things – barbecues, alfresco dining, opportunities to socialise outside – however, a heatwave can also result in something significantly less desirable: an uncomfortably hot home.

If you don’t have air conditioning, or if it’s on the fritz, trying to sleep at night can become unbearable, and so does working from home, cooking and even just relaxing. Fortunately, there are some smart ways to cool down a room without using air-con, and some tricks you can use to cool a room at night, so you can still get some rest after the sun goes down.

We’ve quizzed experts on the best techniques to try and how each one works, from the quick fixes to those that require a bit more of an investment.

Keep windows and curtains closed during the day

During the day, it might seem like it makes sense to fling your curtains and windows open for some fresh air, but in a heatwave, it’s better to keep them closed. “It’s easier to stop heat entering a home than it is to cool it down again”, says Joanna O’Loan, knowledge manager at Energy Saving Trust. “Closing blinds and curtains when the sun is shining through a window, and only opening them when the sun has moved away, will prevent the heating effect of sunlight through the glass.”

The same applies to opening windows. If your room is already cooler than the outside then keep the windows closed to keep the hot air out. Only open your windows once the temperature drops – late in the evening or early in the morning.

READ NEXT: Best portable air conditioners

Do your cooking outdoors

Keeping excess heat out of your home is key, so avoid using your oven, air fryer or microwave. Sticking to salads and cold meats is an option but, if you’re craving pizza or a steak, you could try taking your cooking out to the garden, patio or balcony – some of the latest barbecues and outdoor ovens can cook a wide range of tasty meals, plus all the ambient heat stays outside.

man cooking skewers on outside barbecue - how to cool down a room

Open your loft hatch

An oldie but a goodie, this tip relies on the fact that heat rises, meaning that upstairs becomes hotter than downstairs throughout the day. By opening your loft hatch, the accumulated hot air will escape through your roof more easily. Then, if you open your windows in the evening, it will be even more effective as this will increase airflow.

Create a cross-breeze

Opening your bedroom window at night sometimes fails to cool the room, especially when the air outside is relatively still. For effective cooling you need airflow, so open a window in another room on the other side of your home and prop open your bedroom door. This cross-ventilation is perfect for cooling down a room at night.

READ NEXT: Best air coolers

Install extra insulation

We all know we need to insulate our homes to keep them cosy in winter but did you know that insulation can help to deflect heat in the summer too? “It works in a similar way to a thermal flask, which slows the rate that heat escapes or gets into the liquid, keeping hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold”, says Joanna. You could start by insulating your pipework, preventing heat from radiating out of the hot water pipes into your home, but you might also consider cavity wall and external wall insulation.

Maximise your fan’s potential

It’s a common misconception that fans cool a room down – at the crux of it, even the best fans are there to simply create air movement. The movement of air then helps the sweat on your skin to evaporate, so you feel cooler. However, you can make your fan work harder with the help of ice:

Simply place some ice in a shallow baking tray, pan or bowl, and position it in front of your fan. Then, as the ice melts, the breeze will pick up the moisture and disperse a cooling mist across the room. The only catch is that ice can melt quickly, so make sure you have a ready supply.

Don’t worry too much about the expense of running a fan for several hours. “As fans don’t cool the air directly, they have fairly low energy use”, explains Joanna. “A typical cost for 24 hours of continuous use is around 15 to 30p. Plus, more expensive tower, desktop and pedestal fans aren’t necessarily more efficient or cheaper to run than affordable models.”

Add solar film to windows

If you’re in a flat or a renovated property with a lot of glazing, and not enough shading, you’ll know how much the sun beating down on the glass can heat your home. Applying solar control film to your windows can help reduce this effect by reflecting and absorbing direct sunlight. While this can be a pricey project, you don’t have to apply it to every window – just prioritise the south-facing glass.

Neglect your chores til night

Much like cooking, some household tasks will fill your home with extra unwanted heat, so leave them until after the sun goes down and things are cooling off. This can include ironing, vacuuming and doing the washing up, as well as running washing machines and tumble dryers.

READ NEXT: Best bedroom fans

Seek out shade

Just like insulation, creating shady areas outside your home helps to prevent the heat from getting inside. For example, particularly if you have large windows, you might try adding an awning or sail shade – these can also double up as a cool place to escape from a stuffy house.

A pergola or gazebo can do a similar job – when placed in the right position, it can provide a cool spot and protection from the sun.

Add houseplants

Although they won’t have a dramatic effect, houseplants offer a natural way to cool down a room. “Houseplants cool rooms down through transpiration, a process where water evaporates from their leaves, absorbing heat and lowering the surrounding air temperature”, explains Julian Palphramand, head of plants at British Garden Centres. “This cooling effect is enhanced by the increase in humidity caused by the released water vapour.”

man in stripy shirt admiring house plant in house - how to cool down a room

He suggests using the following plants to maximise the benefits:

  • Sansevieria
  • Aspidistra
  • Ficus
  • Aloe Vera
  • Boston Fern

Don’t forget to add some plants outdoors too – vines, or ivy, on the outside of your home can act as shade, blocking sunlight from coming into the house.

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