Keeping cool for record-breaking overnight heat

Last night Melburnians experienced their hottest night on record since 1902 – 30.6 degrees Celcius. This temperature didn’t drop below 30 degress until morning (See the Age: Sleepless in the city: Melbourne sweats through equal-hottest night).

Not to mention that the day preceding was a scorching 40+ Melbourne summer’s day.

My strategy was to start with a shower standing in a bucket nice and early. This water went out onto my most beloved plants (yes, I have favourites!), the lemon tree, and the bamboo in the front garden.

Then I battoned down the hatches, closed all windows, doors and blinds and stayed indoors with the children, keeping the house dark.

We have an airconditioner, and in previous summers used it on an almost daily basis. But now we have made a few other heat-reducing changes, I only use it if it becomes too uncomfortable. Things we have done to beat the heat include install:

  • an insulated Stratco Outback sunroof on the North-facing side of the house (this thing was expensive, but it opens and closes to control the heat and light into the back of the house)
  • new insulation in the roof
  • heat reflective film on the north-facing bedroom windows.

Stratco outback sunroofWe installed the sunroof 2 years ago now, and although it was the most expensive purchase we have made so far to our house (over $12k installed for a 3.9m x 6m roof) we considered that we were adding another room to our house really, and something that extends our living room. Before this roof, you couldn’t go outside on a hot day. Now, we live under this roof…all year round. In winter, I open the blades to let in the sun. In summer, I shut them and stay cool under the shade. It is brilliant (if you are considering buying one, I would like to note that Stratco’s customer service isn’t as responsive as I would expect when things go wrong, and they also rushed this product to market, so we have experienced a few design faults).

During the winter we used a government grant for free insulation and re-insulated our roof. We had insulation, but it was pretty thin and horrid.

New roof insulation

The other thing we did was get film on the North-facing bedroom windows that both reflects light and heat, and stops the neighbours from seeing in. This was the most inexpensive solution I could find (after researching installing blinds or roller-shutters). The film cost $260 to be installed (or $160 to install yourself) on two windows (1.5m x 1.2m) and makes a signifiant reduction to the heat coming into the rooms (79% for our window film). I wouldn’t use this film on a living room as it darkens the light coming in, but for bedrooms it doesn’t matter that much. In the photo below, the window on the right was being tinted. The window on the left was yet to be done (just to show you the colour difference).

The left window isn't tinted. The right one is.

I am happy to say that since we have made these changes, we have had minimal use of the airconditioner (except for last years 47 degree C day – otherwise now known as Black Saturday, where bush fires ravaged Victoria) or for 1/2 an hour before going to bed. Otherwise it is incredible how much of an impact these changes have made.

Yesterday we stayed comfortable and cool, and I was only forced to put on the airconditioner at about 11pm last night, just to reduce the heat before going to bed.

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