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Cost efficient cooling: At the moment we are all hyper aware that our energy bills are rocketing. Even last week someone I know, in a full time job, told me that if they go any further she will be forced to move house. This crisis is very real and scary. Therefore the sun’s appearance (although glorious) a fortnight ago is causing many people to worry about dusting off those electric fans and putting their AC on.
We take a look at how to stay cool, without seeing skyrocketing bills come Autumn.
To start with, we need to look at the obvious. Last summer we were probably all sitting in the direct breeze of a household fan. This year that seems so decadent, showing quite how fast times have changed. The good news is that fans are surprisingly energy-efficient, especially when compared to an electric air-conditioning unit. That however, does not mean they are affordable to many.
According to Appliance Analyst, to work out the cost of running your fan, you need to understand how much you pay per unit of energy (1kw). This should be listed on your energy bill. According to the Energy Saving Trust “the national average price (as of November 2021) per pence/kWh of electricity is 20.33p. We have rounded it to 20p for illustration purposes”.
“Multiply the cost of a unit of energy by the kW output of your fan and that will be how much it is costing to run your fan.
AC motors always cost more to run so look for one with a DC motor. For example, the Bionaire ISF004 Desk Fan has “a DC motor that uses 63% less energy than a traditional fan. Copper motors can also help reduce energy loss by generating less heat”.
A choice of more than one speed will help to reduce energy usage. Once the temperature is comfortable, turn it down to a lower setting. Look for models with remote controls to make this even easier.
Instead of having a fan on continuously, set the timer and select the amount of time your fan will run. Some models even have a sleep timer. For example the Dyson Cool AM07 can be programmed to turn off after preset intervals so it doesn’t have to run all night.
All bladeless fans consume far less energy than their bladed counterpart. This is because their motor doesn’t have to manage the movement of large blades.
Fans don’t make a room cooler by themselves, they can only make you feel cooler by moving the air over your skin. If you’re leaving the room, switch the fan off. Once the temperature outside drops, opening a window allows cool air to be drawn into the room, so it could be worth running a fan an hour or so before you get into bed.
‘Letting in the sunlight on a bright day might seem the natural thing to do but this can create a greenhouse effect with up to 30% of unwanted heat gain from windows,’ says Evan Stevens, Head of Environmental Care at Dyson. ‘Keep the windows, curtains or shutters closed during the day to minimise the amount of sunlight entering the home.’
Pop a bowl of ice and cold water in front of the fan as opposed to turning it up. This is said to create small droplets of cold water to circulate, cooling your skin.
As fans circulate air, they’re prone to picking up dust and other particles. Make sure they’re working as efficiently as possible by wiping down blades, cages and vents while they’re unplugged.
If you simply feel that even with those rules, running a fan isn’t possible this summer, we also want to suggest a cooling mat. I got one for my long-haired dog last summer and saw him go from panting to not panting within seconds of wearing one. Therefore, one awfully muggy night, when I felt like my feet were made of molten lava, I grabbed his mat and put my feet on it. I was asleep within ten minutes. Since then I swear by this method. Although it doesn’t create a breeze, it brings your temperature right down. I wear it round my neck, sit on it, or on my back and feel noticeably cooler.
I have since found online that the pet ones are perfectly safe for human use, but they also exist for humans. Rock on!
In my twenties I lived in Madrid. There was no AC in mine or my friend’s flats, so we were left getting quite creative in 40 degree, very dry heat. I then noticed that on the Metro, Spanish people genuinely do use those handheld fans seen in every picture of Spain since the seventies. As a kid, my mum had always told me that fanning myself actually increases heat as I am physically exerting.
So, why in this insane heat, were people, who were used to such things, fanning themselves?
Truth is, the method is all in the wrist, use very small flicks and don’t use your whole arm. Guess what: it works! Korean people also have a tradition of handheld fans. Both Spain and Korea live in extreme heat, so there is clearly something in this tradition for it to survive so long.
Another trick I learned in my time in Madrid sounds daft, but it honestly got me through one of the most uncomfortable summers of my life: it was to keep your nether regions cool. I wondered why so many modern flats still had bidets and was told that we retain a huge amount of body heat in our downstairs region. Therefore if we keep it cool there, it makes us feel cooler all over.
With this in mind, I invested in a postpartum cooling pad. I am not postpartum or recovering from surgery. However, there is a gel pad that you keep in the fridge or freezer that you then put in your pants. It is an absolute game changer.
This sounds absolutely counter-intuitive, and possibly the last thing you fancy on a scorching day, but it honestly can be the difference between sleeping and not sleeping: have a warm bath before bed, As opposed to the cool showers and baths I see consistently recommended, run yourself a hotter bath. Make sure you have water as you don’t want to faint. But by immersing yourself in water that is hotter than out of the bath, when you get out you will feel cool. The effect won’t last for that long, so it is worth doing right before you try and sleep. The same can be said for hot tea and spicy food: both favoured in India, China and other hot countries, they suggest that heat actually cools you.
This is all well and good if you don’t have hayfever – and if you do I suggest you simply skip to the next stage – but leaving all your windows open at night and doors open to circulate allows the house’s core temperature to drop. Leaving your windows open at night is a great way to ensure fresh air, but also poses the biggest consideration, which is the safety and security of your home. If you leave your windows open, please be mindful of this.
Also if your lights are on and your curtains open, beware of moths and other beasties sneaking in.
One last little tip is another one for when we are home and sure that our home is safe. It is to have your windows wide open and your curtains drawn. It means no direct sun creeps in, but the breeze can do its magic. The same can be said for closing doors in rooms that you are not using. Give those cool breezes a shot at doing their magic by not asking them to cover the whole house.
This applies in both the cold and hot weather, sadly. If your home has good insulation, the indoor temperature should be manageable, regardless of what is happening outside. MoneyMagpie have done a guide to cost effective insulation here.