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The value of a garden

By David Thurley

Every year in late January or early February Albury will experience a number of days where the temperature is in the high 30s or the low 40s and we are challenged to keep ourselves and our pets cool.  What do we do?

The first thing we do is reach for the switch to turn on our air-conditioner, either an evaporative cooler or reverse-cycle or refrigerated air conditioning.  The latter gives us the ability to control the temperature to whatever we please but with the negative effect of consuming significant amounts of electricity.  Evaporative coolers give us some relief but struggle to get the temperature below 28C when the outside temperature is above 40C, however they consume little power; just enough to run a fan and a small water pump.  We even capture the overflow water in a tank and use it to gravity water some fruit trees.

So what else can we do to keep or house cool in summer (and conversely warm in winter)?  Our garden is a key factor, it cost us little, gives sanctuary to birds and bees and provides beauty and pleasure.  Our house in Glenroy faces north and has one bedroom on the western wall but in the recent run of hot days the temperature in the house never went above 24.5C with the evaporative cooler on its lowest setting and ceiling fans operating at low speed.

We have a beautiful native garden and the house is completely shaded from the western sun with the added protection of an external shutter on the only window on the western side of the house.  The northern face of the house is protected by a patio and screening trees and bushes.  We use external blinds on the windows in the north-facing rooms to reduce the amount of sun striking these windows.  We enjoy a cool house with little extra cost for cooling in the hot summer days.