Summer heat never comes alone but usually brings his friends exhaustion, irritability and dehydration. When these four throw a party in your upstairs bedroom, trust me, you don’t want to be there.
Unfortunately, I have too much experience with these annoying visitors. We live in a hot climate in a double storey house, where the main upstairs bedroom gets sun most of the day. Most summer days, this room is the hottest in the whole house. It also never really cools down in the evenings, making it almost impossible to sleep without some kind of temperature intervention!
Since we do not have an AC anywhere in our house, I needed to make a plan, and fast. At this stage, with a 2 and 4 year old, we are a family of four sleeping in the main bedroom, so cooling this room down was not an option for me.
When the heat is on, most people reach for the AC remote. This is off course an easy solution…if you have an AC. If you don’t, you need to get creative. This Is How You Keep You Upstairs Bedroom Cool Without an AC.
There are so many ways to cool down a room without spending a huge sum of money on installing an AC, which we all know has some serious drawbacks. Using ceiling fans and box fans strategically to get hot air out, changing the light bulbs as well as using nature to cool our room worked wonders for us. On days that were especially hot, I altered the times I cook, which sometimes heats up the whole house, and employed some ice and cooled sheets to help us get through the night.
Luckily there are lots of different (and ecofriendly) ways to cool down and you can pick a combination that works well for you. You will be surprised how effective these methods can be!
How to Cool Your Upstairs Bedroom Naturally
If you are like me then anything eco-friendly and natural gets you very excited. I love to employ nature to help me solve problems in my home, as it usually costs me nothing or very little, and I feel it adds to the health and wellbeing of my family. So when our faithful heat wave struck this year, I tested out some of these eco-friendly ways to cool down our upstairs bedroom.
Open and Close Your Windows Strategically
Even though our evenings are not much cooler in the summer, the really early mornings are quite fresh and cool. The lowest temperature of the day is just before the sun comes up, and it is at this time you would want your windows to be open to let in that refreshingly cool air. In the summer I actually set my alarm to get up at about 4am, to open up the windows in our bedroom of I closed them the previous night. The room cools down by at least 5-8 degrees every time I do this. I then leave them open until about 8am, when it starts to heat up again.
This keeps our bedroom cool enough for my youngest to take a nap in at lunchtime, after which I open up the windows and doors to allow the stuffy air to escape. I will then leave the windows open until we go to bed at night – and sometimes I even leave them open with a box fan blowing out of the window to suck out the hot air. If you live in a windy area you can create a cooling pressure current in your home during the day by opening the top windows on the downwind side of your house, while opening the bottom windows on the upwind side. This results in cooler air entering your house while the hot air is pushed out.
Plant Some Shade
I don’t know if you ever noticed this, but shade made by a tree is so much cooler than any artificial shade. This is because trees actually evaporate water through their leaves which adds and extra cooling element. Since our bedroom received quite a lot of sun throughout the day – I decided to plant some high, shady trees in front of our windows.
I chose the trees carefully to make sure they are indigenous – as this will attract all kinds of wildlife. (Now we have shade and some entertainment in our bedroom!). I also trim these threes every autumn so we can have some sunshine into our bedroom to heat it up in the winter.
Change Your Light Bulbs
I ever noticed how hot our lights made our house until my husband decided to install some LED lights in the bedroom for better lighting. These cool alternatives made such a huge difference on warm nights that we decided to change all of the lights in our house energy efficient options. You will save on your electricity bill while saving the environment!
Get Some Blinds
Dark wooden blinds keep the sun, and heat, out of a room much better than heavy curtaining. During the hottest part of the day, I close the blinds in our bedroom to help keep the heat out. If you do not like the look of blinds, hang some curtains in front of the blinds, giving your room a softer look when the blinds are up.
Change the Way You Cook
On very hot days I try to make cool foods such as wraps or salads or even platter – which my kids love. Other times I get my husband involved to start up the barbeque. This way all the heat stays outside – on not inside the house!
Change Your Sheets and Pillows
Yes – cotton is cooler. This is because cotton can breathe much easier than flannel or synthetic materials, thus keeping you cool. Buckwheat pillows are great for summer as the natural air spaces between the buckwheat kernels creates a cooling effect. As an added bonus, both cotton and buckwheat are eco-friendly bedding options!
Fans Are a Good AC Alternative
I have to say, with any sign of heat my fans go on. They are tried and tested and even if they just circulate hot air – they help cool you down through evaporation. Who knew that by changing the placing of your fans, or even their rotation, you can create an extra cooling effect? Here are some fan tricks you need to know.
Place Your Fan Inside the Window Frame Facing Out
This extracts the hot air from your house while creating a draft to let in cooler air. You can do the opposite in a window that has access to cooler air – so with a window underneath a big tree or where the sprinklers are on – place the fan facing in – to blow cooler air into the house.
Put a Bucket of Ice in Front of Your Fan
The fan blowing over the ice will cool the air. Place the fan so that it blows over you bed so the cool breeze helps you sleep. This obviously won’t work for very long – but if you just need that quick cool down, this is fantastic. A similar idea is to wet a sheet and hang it over a chair or stand with the fan blowing on it – the evaporation will help cool the air.
Change the Rotation of You Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans should be set to spin counter-clockwise in the summer as this pushes air down to where you are, creating a cooling effect as the moving air evaporates perspiration. This is a simple artefact of the way the blades of the fan are angled. Just out of interest – in the winter you ceiling fan should turn clockwise – this circulates the hot air without creating a wind blowing directly on you.
Employ Your Exhaust Fans
These fans are usually built into your bathroom and kitchen walls or ceilings and can help move hot air out of the kitchen and shower. On really hot days, that extra heat from a bath or a cooking session can really build up in the house – and getting rid of it quickly can save you lots of effort later.
Other Ways to Keep Yourself Cool
Ok, maybe not selfish, but focusing on cooling your body is sometimes much easier than trying to cool down a whole room! P.S – these body cooling tips you can do with friends and family!
Sip Iced Drinks
There are so many great recipes for virgin cocktails that you can try – from Mojitos to Bloody Marys; there is certainly something for everyone. Have a daily cocktail hour and sip some icy drinks. These will not only cool you down but also rehydrate you.
Wear Little/Loose Clothing
Loose clothing has more space for air to enter between your skin and the fabric – thus allowing evaporation and cooling. I often let my small children run around or sleep only in their underwear and nappy if it is really hot. This helps so much in keeping them cool and happy.
Take a Cold Shower
The effects of cold water on body temperature are immense! Having a cold shower in the middle of the day will not only refresh you but will also cool you down for quite a while afterwards.
Cool Down Your Feet
If a cold shower is not for you, try dipping your feet in some cold water. A lot of blood circulates through your ankles and feet and cooling the skin in these areas will reduce the temperature of your blood and subsequently your body.
You can also lie down under a wet (but not dripping) sheet or opt to freeze your sheets and pajamas. You can increase the cooling effect of the wet sheet by adding a box fan to the room so the circulating air will help cool you down.
Why Is an AC so Bad?
We all know that AC’s get the job done quickly and they can cut the heat in a room by more than 10°C, but are you aware of the health and financial implications of an AC? Let’s have a look at some of the disadvantages:
- AC’s use a lot of power to keep running and may increase your electricity bill substantially if you use it for long periods of time. In some places up to 40% of electricity bills are due to AC energy consumption reinforcing the fact that it takes more energy to cool down a house than to heat up a home!
- AC’s are noisy and create noise pollution, not only for you but also for your neighbors.
- They alter the humidity in your home which can be bad for your skin and airways – leading to a sore throat and stuffy nose. For this reason, the use of an AC should always be monitored very carefully with young children.
- They can circulate infectious particles, fungus and even dust that can cause allergic reactions and can worsen or start a cold.
- Most of them are BAD for the environment. Air conditioners use refrigerants, or chemicals, to cool the warm air that the AC fan pulls in from the outside. These refrigerants are also known as Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) or hydrochloroflourocarbons (HCFC’s) and have a very negative impact on the earth’s ozone layer. Additionally, they expel hot air into the micro-environment outside that can negatively affect plant and wildlife in that area.
So what if you cannot live without an air cooler? Well, technology has come to the rescue, and in the last couple of years many newer and smarter models of AC’s have hit the market. Eco-friendly versions that make an effort not to dehydrate your home while it cools are much better options than traditional AC’s.
- Consider an energy saving model that can sense if no-one is in the room and switched off automatically. There are also models available that have two compressors – the energy consumers of the AC, one less powerful one for cooler days and one stronger on for really hot days. This way energy is saved on days that are not so hot.
- Make sure you get the correct size AC for the room you would want to cool down. If the AC is too small it will use up extra energy to keep on trying to cool down the room.
- Consider a geothermal heat pump. These models use the earth as a heat sink based on the geothermal laws that hot air will always more to a cooler area. These are expensive to install, but will recoup their costs with the savings in energy bills.
- Get a programmable thermostat. This allows you to program the AC to activate over the hours when you are most likely to be home. When you are most likely to be out – for example during work hours in the week, the AC will remain off, no matter what the temperature.
- Maintain and replace. Old, dysfunctional air conditioners cannot cool you home effectively an only end up wasting energy and chemicals by trying to do so. Make sure your AC is maintained regularly and replaced when old. In some older models, some modifications may be recommended by your service specialist to make your model more energy efficient. Also make sure the filters in your AC are cleaned and replaced if needed to prevent the spreading of mould and other unwanted particles.
The Future of AC
I remember as a child we had a huge water based AC stuck to the outside of our home. You could connect it to the outside hose pipe to feed it water, which it used to cool several layers of coal kept in place by mesh wire. It also had an extremely powerful fan that it used to suck air in from the outside and blow over these cooling layers into the house. This was in the 1980’s, and this thing worked like a charm. Unfortunately, this huge contraption also gobbled up a lot of water, which is why it’s not used any more. The point I am trying to make is that water is an extremely efficient coolant, and the future of water based AC’s looks promising.
The newest technology in air cooling uses water as a coolant through the employment of a membrane system. With as little as a litre of water, these new systems can cool down the air in a master bedroom to 18°C for up to 15 hours. This novel system absorbs water from the surrounding air by pushing it through an absorbent membrane. The water absorbed from the air is bottled and used to cool the dried air with a counter-flow-dew-point-evaporative-cooler system. The cooled air is pumped into your home and while humidified air, that is cooler than the ambient air, is released to the outside.
If trees and box fans don’t get you that excited on hot summer days, well then these models (which are not on the market yet) – it is definitely something to look forward to. In the meanwhile – keep cool!