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June 30, 2020 – Published in Design & Decor Summer 2012 issue

Beat the heat this summer…

Words: Caroline Ciantar-Barbara

Summer is once again with us, and as we all know the weather on our pretty little island never lets us down! With the rising temperatures however, the cost of keeping our homes cool rises too. Most obviously the best and easiest solution to keep the house cool in summer is to use an air conditioner, but it is not the best solution for your wallet. There are other alternatives which won’t let your electricity bills escalate drastically – and may help the environment too.

An energy efficient interior design isn’t a recent concept, however there are many new energy saving ideas and methods coming out frequently. Many of us already know about using alternative sources of energy – but that is just a small part of having an energy efficient home. The basic idea when it comes to cool a house is to reduce sources of heat and eliminate its accumulation from your interiors.

The extreme force of the sun is the greatest source of heat on our planet. Manipulate its strength through the use of curtains, shades and blinds.

The trend nowadays with window dressings is a simple, sophisticated composition – using blinds or shades. These two options give you the opportunity to dress your windows in a neat and uncluttered way, enjoying a clear view while controlling the light that comes in from the outside. Blinds are seen as the stiffer treatment, with slats which can be tilted to alter the degree at which sunlight comes in. Nowadays these come with a rod that twists in order to tilt the slats.

Shades on the other hand, are considered as the softer option. These are normally made of fabric – usually cloth or vinyl. The only downside of shades is that they can be a little challenging to clean, especially if they are made of cloth. It is usually advised to vacuum then while they are hung. Vinyl shades are best cleaned by taking them down and wiping them with a rag.

Curtains and draperies are possibly the most commonly used – these are very easy to hang and wash. While all these are good window treatments, it is very important to install shades, blinds or draperies in white or other light colours to deflect the heat.

Another trick is to close your curtains before the sun starts shining straight onto your windows – this will keep the heat away before it gets the chance to enter and may also lessen the need to use the air-conditioner.

For those of you with a garden or a yard, plants and trees can cool your homes too. Evapo-transpiration in plants can be seen as a natural cooling system. Planting a tree or two to block the low-early and late sun may help take your temperature down by a few degrees. Make sure that wherever you plant your shrubs or trees, that you don’t block the air flow from cooler areas. Painting the exterior walls with a light colour will also help. And even if you still decide to use air-conditioning, a unit that is placed in a shady area will use less electricity to cool your interior.

Air circulation is crucial at keeping temperatures cool. Use ceiling fans or portable ones to keep the air flowing. Heat rises, so fans help to distribute the heat and circulate air in a room. These are a cheaper alternative and better for the environment too.

In the evening, when the outside temperature lowers down, open the windows to get a cross-breeze flowing throughout your house during the night.

Change your light bulbs. You should consider changing all light bulbs for compact fluorescent light bulbs. Not only do these new bulbs save money on lighting, but they also put out just a fraction of the waste heat normal bulbs do – about 75% less! They may also last as much as ten times longer. However care must be taken when disposing of them as these contain mercury.

With regards to fabric and colour, you might want to follow the British tradition of using light-coloured slip-covers over furniture pieces; and try to swap your oriental or woollen carpets for a light-coloured sisial area rug to give your room a breezy beach effect. These changes can also be applied to wall colour and follow the basic theory that dark colours absorb and retain heat, while light colours reflect it.

An element we all tent to forget is texture and this also plays a very important part in manipulating how hot or cold an interior space feels. Smooth and glossy textures such as glass, stainless steel and silk will feel cool to the senses and make a room seem more chilled.

When it comes to bed linens, choose a light bedding such as a cotton/polyester blend or an all-cotton fabric for the hot summer nights. You can also try to cover your pillows in a silk fabric – this will also help you to sleep cool. It is also possible to find soft cotton fabrics which resemble satin, these will feel cool to touch at first, but will feel warm quicker than a natural fabric.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of looking out for those little things which give us these particular sensations or make us feel a certain way and translate them into the design around us.

An energy efficient home is something we should all aim for. Although this is usually done during the planning stages of a home, it’s never too late to contemplate energy saving concepts that are easily available in today’s market. Putting just a few of these ideas into use will result in having a cooler home in summer, without having to sacrifice your designing style – and most importantly, saves money on electricity bills.

What more could you ask for?

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