Enabling change in our Society, Environment and Economy (SEE)

How to Beat The Summer Heat

February 2013, By Scott Bales, Newsletter Editor

With unprecedented heat waves all across Australia, and more forecast in the future, now is the right time to be heat proofing your house. By following the simple steps below, you can do this easily and cheaply, making your house more comfortable, and cutting your energy costs. Many of these will also help to keep you warm in the winter.

First, make some simple changes to your home:

Seal your doors – A lot of cold air from inside a house is lost to the outside through the external doors. Doors to rooms that aren’t air conditioned, such as laundries and bathrooms can also be a significant cause of escape of cold air. These can be sealed with a door snake placed in front of the door, or more permanently and effectively with door seals attached to the underside.

Weatherproof your windows – Heat and cold pass through thin glass much more easily than through brick or wood. Controlling the amount of sunlight that enters your house is also key to controlling its temperature. Curtains will do little to reduce heat gain – windows need to be externally shaded to prevent radiant heat gain and keep the house cooler. Once the sunlight is through the window, most of the heat component is trapped in the house. Insulating internal window coverings make a massive difference in winter, but won’t do much in summer.  Close north and west-facing coverings during the day for any window that gets direct sunlight, and keep these windows closed too. You can find out a lot more about keeping your house shady in summer and sunny in winter here, or contact Canberra’s home energy audit team here.

SEE-Change_thermal-massIncrease your house’s thermal mass – concrete, wood and water all need to absorb a large amount of energy before they heat up. This means that a house with larger amounts of these materials will take longer to change temperature – being cooler during the day, warmer at night and less unpleasant during a sudden, but short lived heatwave. Cellars and ceiling spaces can be good areas to increase your house’s thermal mass through storing water, concrete, bricks or wood without cluttering the place up. Some of these materials can also provide significant insulation.

Second, change your behaviour:

Use ceiling or portable fans as much as possible. Using a fan cools you down using much less energy than air conditioning. Where possible, sit in front of a fan, and you will find you don’t need to run your air conditioner as much.  And if you ever needed an excuse to put your feet up, this is it – minimising exercise in strong heat is an important step in reducing heat stress.

Avoid excess energy usage – almost all electricity used ends up as heat. In summer, you should be particularly careful not to leave lights and TVs on in empty rooms, and make sure your computer is set to go to screen saver and put itself to sleep when not in use.

There are lots of resources available to help keep your home more comfortable in the heat. Follow this link for more information about thermal mass, and please let us know your own handy hints for beating the heat.

With thanks to our


  • ACT Government Environment and Planning
  • The Association of Independent Schools of the ACT (AISACT)
  • Catholic Education Office (Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn)
  • Education and Training Directorate
  • ACT Government