The UK has just experienced its hottest day on record, and the unpredictability of the British weather means we could be facing even more heat over the next few months. Following long spells of high temperatures in recent years, baking temperatures are beginning to look like the new normal, and while many of us try to get by with fans and freezers stocked with ice lollies, perhaps it’s time to see how we cool our homes down on a more permanent basis. Our neighbours in southern Europe have plenty of experience in this, so we’ve looked to them for inspiration in making your home heatwave-proof for years to come.
How you use your windows is crucial when the mercury rises - keeping windows closed when the sun is directly on them and opening them when in the shade is a good rule of thumb, but when temperatures outside are so much hotter than our preferred indoor temperature, even an open window isn’t much help, unless there's a cooling breeze coming through.
What can help is making sure your windows are properly double glazed and insulated, which will help deal with any unwanted heat transference - keeping your indoors cool when it’s getting hot outside. A window fitter will make sure yours are doing their job properly.
Keeping direct sunlight out of your rooms is key to keeping cool indoors. While curtains can help, there’s a reason that so many homes in Spain, Italy, and other countries used to hot weather use blinds and shutters to help avoid overheating. Solid wooden blinds throw up a strong barrier against the sun, while you can adjust the slats to allow any friendly breezes to pass through. A carpenter can help create custom blinds and shutters for your home, or specialist companies can create bespoke solutions to fit your windows.
Trees, bushes and shade
The planting we do around our home can have a big impact on how our homes feel, and not just because they can look nice and attractive. Tall trees and bushes with a good leaf coverage in summer can help shade our homes, and make a big difference to the internal temperature. You can also add garden furniture to help keep you cool when outdoors, such as parasols and gazebos, or more permanent awnings if you plan to use your patio as often as possible. Focus on south-facing doors and windows, where the shade will bring the most benefit. A landscape gardener will be able to come up with the ideal planting solution to keep you in the shade.
We usually think about the value of insulation when it’s cold outside, but the opposite is just as true - insulation is all about stopping heat transferring between two spaces, so that means stopping heat coming in just as does stopping it getting out. Good roof insulation, or even wall insulation, is an investment that will pay off all year round as it helps to regulate the temperature of your home. Insulation installers have a variety of products that can help your home.
Fans and air conditioning
Once just the preserve of cinemas and West End restaurants, more and more families are turning to the idea of air conditioning to help tackle high temperatures during hot summers. There are a variety of units available, from small portable ones to larger machines that are permanently installed in place of a window. They give you the ability to set the temperature of your home to your exact liking, though they can use a lot of electricity. A more subtle addition to the room is a ceiling fan, which can be installed where a central light fixture is, and provide a gentle cooling effect throughout a room - an electrician would be able to install one.
Of course, while a real heatwave can feel oppressive, we also want to make the most of it, and one of the joys of a sunny summer is getting outside in the garden and enjoying a barbecue. And there’s a practical benefit too - cooking indoors, whether on a gas hob or in the oven, transmits heat throughout your kitchen and living space, so keeping the cooking outdoors helps keep your home cooler. Instead of a rusty old grill, invest in a nice brick-built unit so you fire up the charcoal whenever the mood strikes. A bricklayer will be able to build a barbecue that can handle everything you throw at it and last for years.
A final resort if you need to cool off - a cooling swimming pool. Flying over the hotspots of Europe you’ll see thousands of pools as you come in to land, so could we see the UK going the same way? You’ll need plenty of space in your garden, and even with our hot spells, you might find you’re not able to use it all year round, but for that moment when you get to jump into the refreshing water on a baking day might just make it all worthwhile.