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Keeping Your House Cool and Saving Energy

By Michelle Wilkinson, Seed Savers Albury Wodonga and BELP (Border Eco-Living Program)

Like many people living in a home built in the last 40 years we suffer when heatwaves hit.  Poor insulation and inefficient house design means our house heats up quickly and doesn’t cool off well at night and our old evaporative cooler struggles to keep the house cool.  Here’s a few tricks that helped to keep our energy bills at the same dollar value for the last three years, despite the massive increases in energy rates, two more people in the house (and people at home seven days a week now).  This effectively means that we have reduced the energy use in our house by nearly 20% in the last three years.

Some of these ideas might help your household stay ‘cool’ this summer:

– Your roof space is like a big heated ‘oven’ that builds up and stores a massive amount of heat, especially if you have a darker coloured roof. Airconditioning ducts through this heated space are less effective so we have found that opening our ‘man-hole’ to the roof when the airconditioning is on circulates cooler air back up into the roof effectively ‘pre-cooling’ the roof and your aircon ducting. This has added 2 to 5 degrees to the cooling effect of our airconditioning (This might not be easy or accessable in your home. Ours is located in our laundry and we leave a chair in there to open/close the man-hole).

– Install the roof ‘whirly-birds’ to help remove super-heated air (most homes will need 2-3 of these installed to be most effective depending on the size of your roof).

– Keeping blinds and curtains closed during the day, especially if they are in direct sunlight, can help the heat gain in your house (even better if you have the outside blinds/shutters that cover your windows).

– If it’s safe to do so, open some windows at night to let hot air escape from your home as this can reduce the need for airconditioning at night.

– Ceiling fans are much lower energy users than airconditioning and can help you get a good night’s sleep on a hot night and distribute cooler air around the house.

– Plan for future summers by growing shady deciduous climbers or trees to shade north and east facing windows (also captures winter sunlight to help warm your house).

– Add more insulation to your roof and walls.

– We have ‘double glazed’ some windows in our house with plastic film to reduce heat gain.