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Sustainable Life: Summer’s cool in your home

Mia Swainson

I like my home to be a sanctuary, no matter what’s going on in the world. 

I like to beat the heat by taking the kids to the pool… or the National Museum of Australia for some strong air conditioning. When it’s really hot, I wistfully imagine myself living in a beach house and make plans to truck in sand, rocks and water to my backyard.

What I really need is to summer-proof my home to give me a cool sanctuary, every hot summer day.

Here are my top tips for staying cool at home in summer. There are ideas to suit every budget and every type of home.

  1. Shut up the house in the middle of the day and open up everything at night. Let Canberra’s gorgeous overnight temperatures do the cooling for you. The benefits are greatest if you open doors and windows to allow a cross breeze. No breeze? Create one with a strategically placed fan that draws in the cool night air.
  1. Turn down the heat inside your home. Slow roast in the oven for dinner in summer? No thanks. Try dinner cooked on a BBQ or the microwave to reduce the heat that you add into your home throughout the day.
  1. Shade those windows from the midday heat, especially on the western side of your home. I extended my pergola along the western side of our home and encouraged our wisteria vine to shade the last of the western facing windows. The difference in my home’s summer temperature is incredible. Wisteria is great plant for shading your home because it’s fast growing, impossible to kill, has lovely purple flowers in the spring time and drops its leaves in winter to let in the sunshine. Consider using strategically placed deciduous trees and shrubs to also shade windows from the sun. Blinds, awnings or shade cloth are another option for shading windows.
  1. Cool down a concrete patio or driveway with large pot plants. I love the lemon, lime and mandarin trees on our deck. They love the heat, as long as they’re well watered. You can move pot plants in the winter to let in the sunshine.
  1. Seal gaps as they can be responsible for 15% of the heat that enters your home. It’s cheap to seal them, I sealed up our gaps for less than $20 – no special experience necessary. Check out Lish Feher’s Green It Yourself videos for easy to follow instructions.
  1. Insulate your home. Think about insulating the ceiling, walls and floor. As most of the heat gained into your home in the summer is from the roof, focus on this first. For summer cooling, walls are the next priority for insulation, followed by the floor. Insulation is great because it has an impact for both winter and summer.
  1. Keep your body cool. Think about the choices you’d make about your day if you lived in the tropics. Exercise in the early mornings, not in the middle of the day. If you’re hot, take a short shower and feel refreshed. Take life at a slower pace.

If you can’t get enough home cooling advice, you can talk for free to experts from the ACT Government’s Sustainable Home Advice team.

Long live the glorious, warm summer days! May you love them. With a few easy upgrades, may your home be a cool sanctuary in the days when the heat outside gets too much.






Mia Swainson

Mia Swainson is passionate about creating a more sustainable world and believes that everyone can make a difference. Trained as an environmental engineer, Mia has worked in sustainable development with the Australian Government and community sector for more than 15 years. Mia’s work has taken her around the world to Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and back to Canberra. She currently tends her kitchen garden, cares for three young boys and is growing her executive coaching consultancy (miaswainson.com.au/wp). More about the Author

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