How to Keep Cool and Reduce Your Electricity Bills in our Hot Summer
Australia can have extreme weather, especially in summer.
I was pregnant over summer (3 times!) and it nearly killed me.
Having spent summer in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Noosa, Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, I’ve done both hot and humid as well as hot and dry summers.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to keep cool instead of running the air conditioning 24/7.
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1. Compare Providers
As obvious as it is, who you have your electricity with makes a huge difference to your bills which determines how much you can afford aircon/fans/other cooling methods.
Get an old bill and use it to compare providers.
Depending on where you live, you might have numerous options or you might only have a few.
I currently use Red Energy (and did when I lived in NSW previously too). They offer a great bonus when you switch.
Customer service, prices and bonus offers have been good each time I have lived somewhere I could use them.
2. Choose Cotton or Bamboo Sheets for Your bed
Cotton and bamboo breathe, allowing air circulation and ventilation which you need to keep cool.
Satin, polyester, and other fabrics do not.
I love a satin or silk pillowcase for my hair but as for the rest, cotton or bamboo is a must in summer.
3. Ice Packs – Use Your hot Water Bottle as one
Turn your hot water bottle into an ice pack by filling it with some water and popping it in the freezer or buy some cheap ice packs.
Use it to cool you down instead of focusing on cooling the whole room. You can also use rice in a sock for a similar effect.
Placing something such as this in key areas of the body such as the back of your neck, under your arms, etc can cool you quickly.
It is much cheaper to cool yourself than to cool the whole room or house.
4. Fan and a Spray Bottle
Use fans instead of air conditioning and spray yourself with a water spray for extra cooling.
My kids love doing this and as a kid, I thought it was fun.
It’s not the same as air conditioning but it is significantly cheaper.
Be sure to use the mist setting on the water bottle though.
5. Use Local Swimming Spots
Get out of the house when you can.
Go for a swim at your local swimming spots such as the beach, river, or lake.
This will cool you down, give you something to do and means you aren’t paying to cool your home either.
We live on the beach so this is easy for us. Be sure to use sunscreen and be sun smart.
A shade of some sort is handy to take with you and always reapply your sunscreen, wear a hat, rashies etc.
Beach tents and similar shades are relatively cheap and a great investment to make days out easier.
Everyone can rest in the shade at times, reapply sunscreen and keep your food out of the hot sun and sandy wind.
6. Ice and fan for Cool air
Place a tray of ice, frozen bottles or ice packs in front of a fan to help cool the air.
As the air will travel over the ice first, it will cool slightly and make the temperature a little more comfortable.
Make sure you put a towel with plastic or something under the ice to absorb water as it melts.
If you use an old ice cream tub it will last much longer before it melts.
7. Cool Down Your Pulse Points
Your pulse points are located at the wrists, neck, elbows, groin, ankles, and behind the knees.
These areas can have a profound impact on your body temperature.
As mentioned earlier, place the aforementioned ice packs or an ice block in these spots to cool your body quickly.
Also dress to all airflow as much as possible e.g. singlet or tank tops, dresses and similar.
We use lavalavas/wraps/saris a lot as my kids are all Islanders and this is common.
Create a cross-breeze where possible, especially when the temperature outside has cooled down and you open up the doors and windows to cool the house.
A cross-breeze is significantly more effective than one window open.
Whenever I have looked at homes, I look for how easy it is to create a cross breeze.
My preference is to have a door or window opposite each other to allow for airflow.
It’s not always possible but when it is, it makes a difference.
9. Keep Hydrated
Sweating and overheating cause dehydration if you aren’t drinking regularly.
Increase your water intake, add ice to it and use it to keep cool.
We keep jugs and bottles of cold water in the fridge but have also had drinks coolers available to prevent everyone from opening and closing the fridge all the time.
Thermos-style drink bottles or covers help too.
Everyone in our home has their own and we use them in summer to keep drinks cool and in winter to keep them warm.
10. Block Out The Sun
Keep curtains or blinds closed to stop the sun from heating up the whole house.
In our home, it could be stinking hot in our bedroom by 7 am if we didn’t keep the blinds closed.
We block the sun out as much as possible to keep the house cooler and as soon as the sun goes down and the air cools, we open everything up.
Buy the curtains on sale such as at the end of the financial year, end of season or Black Friday Sales.
11. Turn Off Electrical Appliances
All electrical appliances generate heat. Turn off all lights, chargers, TVs, everything when not in use to reduce heat and overall electricity usage.
We have a large TV now and the heat coming off it surprised us when we used it.
That could be great in winter for extra warmth but it was terrible in summer.
Find something else to do and keep all those ‘heaters’ in your house off.
12. Hang a Wet Sheet in Front of a Window
Hang a wet sheet in a window to cool down the air.
As the hot air passes through the sheet the temperature of the air decreases.
This was done often in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
13. Close Off Unused Rooms
Do not cool the entire house when you are only in one room.
We used a small portable air conditioner when my babies were born.
It cooled one area and was significantly cheaper than trying to cool the entire home.
14. Use Exhaust Fans
In your kitchen and bathroom use the exhaust fans.
They are designed to remove hot air so use them when you cook or shower.
These also help reduce damage to the kitchen or bathroom from steam so it is in your best interests to use them properly.
15. Open up When it Cools off
As soon as the temperature drops, open windows and doors to cool the house.
The temperature drops overnight in many places, so use it to your advantage.
It doesn’t happen all the time and isn’t always a significant drop but anything is better than nothing.
Plus the air circulating will help in the home in general.
16. Use Alternative Cooking Methods
Why do you think so many island nations cook underground or have rather simple cooking?
One reason is it is so much cooler not having something heat up your home.
Instead of using the oven or stove, try using the grill on the BBQ outside, use a slow cooker (which can be placed in the garage or laundry) or eat salads and cold food.
Don’t heat the house by cooking.
We love doing slow-cooked meats for meals such as tacos, wraps etc.
Or anything on the BBQ is always a winner.
These are also great eaten hot or cold so you can cook in bulk.
17. Use the Right Cooling Option for Your Home
Many people have air conditioners larger than they need or too small for the space they are cooling.
This costs more to run and is not efficient.
Get advice and get the right option for your space.
Buy what you need when it’s on sale such as during Black Friday though.
18. Adjust Your Air-Conditioner Settings
Most of us have the air conditioner set too low in summer and the heating too high in winter.
Set it at a comfortable temperature such as 23 – 26C instead of as low as you can go.
It is cooler than outside, still comfortable and significantly cheaper.
Alternatively, look at the dry mode if you have it.
It is much cheaper to run and works like an evaporative cooler.
19. Long-Term Solutions
If you own the place you live you can look at long-term solutions such as awnings, double-glazed windows, solar power, trees and plants to cool the home.
One home I lived in had roller shutters and while they weren’t the most attractive thing to have on a home, they helped significantly with heating and cooling.
They also helped my kids sleep better as it was completely dark and a little quieter.
When renting, it is harder to do the big things that will help you cool and reduce the cost of electricity in the home.
There are still some things you can do though, such as plants in pots instead of doing the garden.
Or ask your landlord. Some are amicable to changes, others are not interested.