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How to create a cool haven of comfort

Every summer, our houses turn into scorching furnaces – unless we keep the fans or ACs running all through the day and night. With some planning, you can create a cool haven of comfort at home.

india Updated: May 29, 2010 17:39 IST
Parul Khanna

HomeEvery summer, our houses turn into scorching furnaces – unless we keep the fans or ACs (or both) running all through the day and night. But this needn’t be the case. With some planning, you can create a cool haven of comfort in your home.

The quick fix
If you’re on a budget, here are some simple and fast ways to cool down your space:

Furnish your home in cool and soothing colours. White walls are highly recommended, as they give an illusion of space and don’t absorb heat. You can also brighten up the house with white furnishings and knick-knacks. Also, use bedsheets and pillowcases in colours like white, cream, light yellow, blue and orange.

Put away all your heavy and thick carpets this season. Though carpets absorb heat and moisture, they look very hot in summer. Instead, invest in thin rugs, which will look dressy and feel cool, advises interior designer and owner Anita Kataria of The Right Address. Remember, less is more in summer.

If a window receives direct light during the day, it needs blinds, no matter how big or small the window is. Letting direct sun into your home is one of the fastest ways to heat up the house. Close all blinds, shades and drapes facing the sun (east-facing windows in the morning and west-facing windows in the afternoon) to keep the sun’s heat out.

Install white window shades, drapes, or blinds to reflect heat away from the house. Plant shrubs to shade air-conditioning units and around the coolers, but not block the airflow. A unit operating in the shade uses less electricity. Small trees and plants planted on the south and west sides will keep your house cool.

Keep lighting to a minimum at night and use CFL lights and not bulbs that emit heat. Also, open your windows and let the pent-up heat escape.

Structural changes
If you care to make some substantial changes to the design of your house, you'll end up saving a lot of energy. Keep the ceiling of the room high. According to Anita Kataria, more heat gets trapped in a room and house that has low ceilings. That’s the reason old colonial houses stay cool.

Use energy-efficient building designs, including less glass, especially on the west side of your home. Use of materials like concrete, foam insulated roofing and double wall glazing also help to improve insulation, says Ajay Bajaj, business head, AC division, LG India.

Install awnings or chiks over the windows on the south and west sides of your house, so the sun doesn’t have a chance to get inside.

The top floor in a house heats up like a furnace this season. Anita Kataria advocates reducing heat absorption in the house by installing a thermal layer. “Install a thermal layer in between the actual ceiling and false ceiling. It’s not very expensive, it absorbs heat and dissipates it,” she explains.

Avoid granite flooring in the house as it heats up very fast. Go for wooden flooring or Italian marble instead.

Create cool comfort
Coolers are not effective once the air gets humid, but in a dry summer, switch on the cooler for most parts of the day and night to drastically bring down the temperature. Coolers are less expensive and also use less power than ACs. It’s a good idea to have a cooler in the drawing room and ACs in the bedrooms, says Anita Kataria.

Make sure that the cooler is kept in such an area that it cools most of the house. Also, there should be some sort of cross-ventilation. Otherwise, the air inside the house gets humid.

Coolers can get noisy. In that case, Anita Kataria advises a split AC in the drawing and dining rooms. “People think an AC cannot cool a large area. But one with the correct wattage does so. Split ACs do not disturb the aesthetics and have the capacity to cool a larger area better than a window unit,” she explains.

The most important factor in the selection of an AC is its capacity. According to Ajay Bajaj, business head, AC division, LG India, “It’s imperative to install a capacity that can efficiently combat the heat load of the room. As a thumb rule, a 10 ft x 10 ft room requires a 1 ton AC. An oversized air-conditioner will result in greater power consumption and less dehumidification of air.”

To get optimum use from an AC, make sure the room is sealed and that there are no gaps in the windows and doors. The optimum temperature to keep the AC is 24 degrees.

Caring for whites
Create rules like no eating on the couch, and no dogs allowed.

Vacuum the entire surface of the sofa to remove dry, loose dirt. Wet cleaning will be more effective if you do this first.

Mix detergent with water and work up a froth. Gather just the bubbles with a soft cloth and use it to clean the couch. Then gently use a dry cloth on it.

Hire a professional upholstery cleaner to steam clean your whites regularly.