Heatwaves are deemed to be the deadliest form of natural hazard in Australia.
Severe heat can cause several illnesses which include dehydration, heat stress, and heat stroke. Heatwaves can also worsen pre-existing diseases like lung, heart, and kidney diseases. In extreme conditions, heatwaves can cause death. During one of the largest heatwave that struck Australia in 2009, emergency centers in Victoria noted a significant increase of heat-related deaths in the region. A spike in cardiac arrest incidents among elderly people was also observed.
The uptrend of deaths was due in part to the following factors:
- Most households are not heatwave-ready
- Majority of Australians have a poor grasp of the gravity of the heatwave problem in the country
- When temperatures rise the supply of electricity can be disrupted due to high demand, leading to brownouts or blackouts.
- In extreme temperatures, the risk of fire incidents increases and the supply of electricity can be disrupted by the energy distributors to minimise fire risk and safety concerns.
- Homes with poor levels of insulation and ineffective air conditioning tend to be hotter than outside, then retain that heat into the evening.
With proper awareness and preparation, grim outcomes can be avoided. Homeowners only need make a few improvements in their home to protect their thermal comfort and their well-being.
In preparation for the summer season, ecoMaster’s Lyn Beinat shared three simple yet impactful ways to make homes naturally cool in summer at the Bendigo Sustainable House Day on 28 October 2018.
Below are the ways to beat the heat in summer:
1. Shade your Home
The most effective way to reduce summer heat is to prevent the sun from hitting the walls or glass in the first place. If that can’t be done (because of neighbouring properties, height of walls / windows or topography), then stopping the heat at the glass in the next best. The third way is to deal with the heat inside the home with effective window treatments.
Here are some low cost ways to apply shading in the key areas of your home:
Good Solution: Apply shading inside your home.
- Install Renshade on your glass windows and pergolas
- Install heavy curtains on tracks
- Install Invisible Pelmets on top of your curtain tracks
Better Solution: Divert the sunlight from your windows
- Put on light-coloured window coverings
- Install awning blinds on the eaves
- Install shade cloth on areas that are directly facing the sun
Best Solution: Apply external shading
- Use deciduous vines as shading on your pergolas
- Roll down blinds at verandah or eave edge
- Install shade sails
2. “Cocoon” Just One Room
Rather than try to deal with cooling a whole home, a better approach may be to work on cooling just one room. This will make it easier and more cost effective to maintain a comfortable temperature for the least cost.
Here are just a few of the steps you can take to protect one room from heatwaves:
- Super-insulate the ceiling and include a reflective component on top of ceiling batts
- Remove holes (downlights) from your ceiling and replace with surface mounted lighting
- Seal your fireplace using a Chimney Draught Stopper
- Draught-proof the room by applying Draught Dodgers and Draught Excluders on the doors and windows
- Caulk gaps and cracks using an invisible sealant like UltraClear
- Install Underfloor Insulation
- Improve the windows by installing secondary glazing (or bubble wrap)
- Install Wall Insulation from the outside (pump in wall insulation); a low cost alternative (from the inside) is to use full height bookcases against a hot wall
3. Keep Yourself Cool
Remain cool all throughout the day!
- Put shading in place
- Close your curtains/windows/doors during the day
- Stay in your ‘cocooned’ room
- Wear loose clothing
- Drink plenty of water
- Stay in touch with neighbours
- Keep your phone close by
- For those in fire danger areas, listen to Radio 774 for updates