Nearly four months ago, school teacher, Shruti Rana moved to Chennai with her newly-wedded husband, Vivek. As a girl born and brought up in hills of Nainital, the scorching and humid Chennai summer has caught her in surprise. Every day, their cosy 3-bedroom-apartment in Thiruvanmiyur becomes a prison of hell by midday and sadly, there’s no escape outside too. Desperate for a break from the sweltering heat, Shruti is thinking of giving their home a summer makeover soon.
However, summer is not just about the heat, it’s also the time when our electricity bills often spiral out of control. So if, like Shruti, you’re planning to make your home ready for summer too, here's a helpful guide that will help to beat your home’s heat gain as well as energy costs.
Let's begin with the most visible problem: Clutter. Clutter will always make your home appear smaller and more overwhelming apart from absorbing and retaining the heat. Therefore, your first step should be to lighten your room's decor and toss away all unwanted items.
Piles of old newspapers and magazines, too many pieces of furniture, tons of curios - all of these not only clog your living space but also make your home feel less airy.
Stash away heavy and bulky decorative pieces and replace them with items that create a sense of cool and calm. For instance, indoor water fountains and cascades can be a wonderful addition to your living room decor. Or, you could even place on one your bedside table to create a relaxing atmosphere.
If you're thinking of going DIY, placing bowls of water with few flower petals in every room can add a simple yet fresh and summery twist to your home's decor.
Heavy rugs and carpets can trap more heat inside the rooms, raising your interior's temp. Ditto for synthetic drapes and curtains as well as satin and velvet upholstery. Give these fabrics a break during the summer and switch to natural fibres like cotton and jute.
You could invest in thin rugs or dhurries in place of carpets and opt for sheer cotton curtains or even khus khus mats for an extra cooling effect.
Re-decorate your home in cool and soothing summer hues. Paint your walls and select drapes and accessories in lighter shades of green and blue, lilac, ivory, olive, etc.
Similarly, using pastel shades and bright prints in natural fabrics like cotton, linen, jute, etc. for bed, sofa and curtains adds comfort, cosiness to your home and livens up the decor.
A regular check up on your air-conditioner, inverter and voltage stabiliser is necessary before the summer arrives. After all, you'd not want to wait till any of these starts to malfunction or breaks down during the peak summer time.
It's also a good idea to get your annual refrigerator maintenance done ahead of summer. But also remember to run your fridge efficiently to cut down high bills (your fridge contributes to 15% of your total electricity bills).
Old appliances are not only a drain on your pocket but some of them even generate heat. Therefore, consider replacing your old appliances with BEE energy star-qualified models to save electricity and reduce your carbon footprint. Essentially, buying a product with more stars means more savings and less electricity bill. BEE's website also alerts people of products that don't match the specified label rating. Plus, BEE also has a handy app that lets you check the star rating of various products so you don't fall for false labels.
To know more about BEE star ratings on various home appliances, you can read this article.
Incandescent bulbs waste 90-95% energy consumed to generate heat, while using a meagre 5-10% to produce light. If you have any of these energy-guzzlers lurking in your home, replace them with LED lights and go for energy-efficient light fixtures.
Surprisingly, your TV's set-top box is one of the worst offenders when it comes to energy usage. Did you know that consumes as much electricity as a refrigerator? Sadly, there's no energy-efficient version of this unit. Therefore, remember to turn off their main power when not in use, or else they remain in standby mode and consume nearly the same amount of power as they do while in use.
In fact, let's see why it's a good idea to do this with all your appliances.
Often-overlooked sources of interior heat gain are lights and household appliances such as microwave ovens and dryers. Even phone chargers emit heat. Lower the indoor heat quotient by switching off these avoidable sources and keep it cool indoors. This will also cut down your energy consumption.
Don't turn on multiple lights in the room simultaneously, unless absolutely needed. Ditch the chandeliers and skip the candles as much as possible.
Cranking up the AC may seem like the most satisfying thing to do to combat the summer heat, but it will skyrocket your utility bills and isn't great for the environment. Instead, switch to these AC using habits and learn more about how to utilise this appliance without straining your pocket.
Using proper window treatments and knowing when to open and close your windows can help keep your house cool and your AC costs in check. Let's talk about this in the next section.
Nearly 40% of the unwanted heat that builds up in your home comes in through windows. Using proper window coverings, curtains, and blinds play a vital role in cooling your home by reducing solar heat gain, which also means you'd have to run your AC less frequently.
While curtains made from cotton and other natural fabrics are your home's best friend during this season, you may want to cut down heat further by adding window films. Plus, these also help minimise UV damage and glare. You can explore plenty of options online or get them from local dealers.
Closing blinds and curtains daily at midday, when it is the hottest outside, will block out the sun's rays when they are at their peak intensity. However, remember to open up windows and doors to let some cool natural breeze circulate through your home in the late afternoons. Let your home refresh with ample cross-ventilation in the evenings.
If you're interested to know more about the savings you can enjoy by making these simple adjustments, check out this article.
Bath time is something we all look forward to during summers. Why not make the experience a bit more special? You could stock up on essential oils, soft bath linens, and refreshing bath products and create your own oasis at home.
Protect your kids from the harsh sun rays. Make them a cosy play area inside the house at a relatively cooler place with no direct sunlight and lots of natural breeze. Add in their favourite toys, books, and games and encourage them to bring their friends over. Sharing their very own special play pen while staying safe from the summer heat is a win-win for all.
Do you have a big lawn or a balcony? Spruce it up by adding a patio swing or a hammock. Using the non-metal ones would let you enjoy them even in peak summer.
Indoor houseplants don't just add a burst of freshness to your nook but also have a cooling effect on your interiors. Plants like Peace Lily, baby rubber plants, Aloe Vera, etc. are great for this purpose and will create a cool, pure and refreshing atmosphere for you and your guests. Check out these seven plants that are a great addition to your home and they are inexpensive to maintain too!
If you have a lawn or a terrace, you can build your own rock garden and spruce it up with a range of beautiful cacti. Otherwise, with little effort, you can easily create your own slice of green heaven even in a small balcony in your apartment. Plus, lots of small, blooming plants in fancy pots in your living room or on the window sills can reflect your personal style.
If it suits your budget and taste, insulate the walls and roof of your home by a professional. Also, install double glazed windows for substantially reduced heat gain during the daytime. Fitting bamboo blinds on doorways and balconies could be the economic choice to keep your house cool.
Also, remember to install nets on your windows as precautions against flies and mosquitoes during long summer nights and keep safe from diseases.
No matter how much to try to evade the external heat, if you're not cooling yourself from the inside out, you won't be relieved. From sipping cooling drinks like aam panna, iced tea, lassi, lemon water and buttermilk to including seasonal fruits and veggies in your diet, there are many ways to keep yourself cool and hydrated besides making your home ready for summer months.
After all, summer is not just about non-stop heat, dehydration or the pains of working outdoors. It's also the season of vibrant colours, juicy fruits and bright mornings. Embrace these cool tips to make this summer more comfortable for you and your family.
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