Beat the heat

Yesterday it got to 42.1°C (that’s 108°F for those of you in the countries still using that retro measurement), before a refreshing cool change virtually halved the temperature.

I was pleasantly surprised at how cool it was inside, given my house is weatherboard and has no airconditioning. At its hottest, the thermostat reported 30°C, and the use of simple fans and cold drinks made this bearable.

So while I have considered installing airconditioning, given the cost of installation and running, that the electricity is generated from brown coal (emission-O-rama!), and that the house is bearable even in that heat, I don’t consider it compelling at this stage. Maybe I’ll have reconsidered by the end of the summer.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

15 replies on “Beat the heat”

In my weatherboard (but well insulated) house, I hold the minority view in the stinking-hot-windows/doors-open-or-closed-debate.

For me, it’s the doors and windows shut tight, tight, tight, and as many fans as needed (at least one per person) turned on, on, on!

The majority view is to keep the ‘air’ ‘flowing’ through, as it’s too stuffy if the doors and windows are closed.

Luckily, even though I do hold the monority view, I have the majority vote, except when I am not home, and then I come home to a stinking hot house, and the rounds of the kitchen! Fun and Games!

Wouldn’t your place be ideal for central evaporative cooling? Couple of thousand dollars maybe, minimal energy consumption and they perform satisfactorily in most of Melbourne’s weather and perfect for a day like yesterday with nice cool fresh air coming in.

Yes, yesterday was a bit toasty. Where I am it’s brick veneer but with huge high ceilings, and it didn’t get above about 29. I turned the fan on a bit at bedtime, but by then the windows open thing was doing a good job. We have evaporative aircon, but it didn’t get turned on.

If it’s hotter outside, keep it out. If it’s cooler out there, let it in. Except in winter, of course :-)

Anna, I thought everybody knew on hot days like Sunday you close the house up tight and dark. Anything else and it heats up fast!

Andrew, I’ll look into that, yeah.

Flerdle, yeah high ceilings too. Sounds like well-insulated weatherboard does as well as brick veneer.

Uninsulated weatherboard can be like a sauna, unless you have wide verandas a la Queenslanders.

I found out from the neighbour (over a cup of tea, after I’d helped her haul in the logs from the tree out the front that the council mysteriously chopped down) that the house used to be weatherboard, but was bricked in and the back extended some time in the 70s*. This explains the high ceilings, apparently.

*and at the same time that the kitchen was redone in lovely orange laminex.

>> that the electricity is generated from brown coal (emission-O-rama!)

Isn’t that by your own choice? You can simply choose to have your share of power generated via wind, solar, or whatever it is you want – costs a little extra but better for the environment. Or those choices only available in SA?

We used to live in a weatherboard and believe me, once you get a few days of hot hot weather, you will notice it!!

You can improve your chances of a cool house with outside blinds on the west and also curtains with blockout. I also drastically reduced the temperature in my kitchen by installing venetian blinds and keep the west one closed on hot days. I have a wonderful friend who organised it all for me.

I do not deal well with heat and live in a top floor flat, double brick thankfully, but zero roof insulation and a west facing bedroom with only skinny venetians to hold out the heat. One hot day, I am OK, two and it takes a week to cool the place down. After 3 hot summers in the place, I got air con installed last Thursday, just in time to keep the weekend bearable!

The insulation value of a weatherboard house is the same as a brick veneer house, so don’t worry about the cladding. It’s the fact that there’s no additional insulation in the walls that matters. And the ceiling. But more important than both of those (in sunny weather) is shade. You’ve probably got eaves and they stop the summer sun getting in the windows.

Ducted evaporative cooling (ducted) is certainly not a minimal energy consumer. The fan has to run all day, using more than 1,000 watts all the time. A single split system refrigerated air conditioner, strategically placed, will be needed for only a few hours of the day and will run its compressor on about 2,000 watts for a short period and then at a greatly reduced power level for the rest of the time, keeping your house below about 29 degrees. More efficient than evaporative cooling, and it will work in any kind of hot weather, not just low humidity.

“Swamp Cooler” – at its simplest, a fan with a wet towel over it. Actually, that’s about as complicated as it gets. A little 200W fan can do a lot of good this way. Water takes a lot of energy to evaporate.


While I don’t feel I need airconditioning as the older section of my house has high ceilings, it’s a decision for individuals. You comment about Victoria’s brown coal industry. This has given Victorian industry a competitive advantage for many years: those in the industry are developing ways to make sure it is ‘cleaner.’ It delivers cheap power to residents. Compare it to the emissions produced in (say) China and I know which comes out better!

Chris, quite right, I’d momentarily forgotten I’d signed up for green power.

Edmund, yes, I think the high ceilings helped. The speed of moving towards greener power leaves something to be desired. But saying “we’re not as bad as China” doesn’t really help much…

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