Why is staying cool important over New Zealand’s summer?
Well for starters, our mood and wellbeing. We all know about cold weather’s ability to make us feel depressed, but did you know that a rise in body temperature can make us feel more irritable and aggressive? That’s not ideal, especially for anyone dealing with bored kids during the longest school holidays of the year.
Our health is affected by the temperature, too. Dehydration and exhaustion are common in hotter environments, particularly for our children and elderly loved ones who are less self sufficient and resilient to the elements. And if we’re not sun smart, we can suffer the effects of overexposure to sunlight too like burns and long-term skin conditions.
If you have a household of family and friends staying over for the holidays, each extra body inside your home giving off heat will make those big social gatherings unbearable (before we’ve even got onto the father in-law with some ‘questionable’ world views).
Imagine: it’s Christmas day with an oven going full bore for hours, large groups of family are gathered in the lounge on the verge of arguments and there’s an early 30s reading on the thermometer. What fresh hell is this? It might be your summer if you don’t have your cooling sorted.
All pretty cheerful so far, right? Hey, we’re not here to kill your summer vibe – far from it. We just don’t want you having to deal with a hot, stuffy home that has everyone wishing it was winter again!
The impact of cooling on our power bills
Cooling with a standalone pedestal fan or a heat pump unit is going to demand at least some electricity. Your usage is highly unlikely to be as high as winter, but hot temps, large spaces and poor insulation can be noticeable on your account summary.
A/C vs fan
Air conditioning is a reasonably big task of transforming humid, hot air into light, cool air. Depending on the system you’ve got, your unit may be doing other things like filtering and purifying the air as well. Units will often have a standard ‘fan’ mode which is pushing air around vs. active cooling of an AC function. EECA have even estimated that AC cooling can cost 5x as much as a fan mode.
It might be a good idea to experiment with your cooling temperature too. To get a comfortable environment you don’t necessarily have to set the AC to the lowest setting – this demands more power to adjust the room. Instead, try setting it to around 20 degrees, which is still a comfortable room temperature at daytime that will take less energy to reach.
Depends on the temp
The hotter the day and the longer that heat persists in your home will have a direct impact on the financial cost of running cooling over the summer. There’s also the home’s design and its insulation which can determine how well cool air is retained (and for how long).
Modern solutions are efficient
Luckily, many modern AC units/heat pumps are designed for maximum efficiency of power use. So while you’ll take the hit of the initial investment of a unit, long term these will get the cooling job done more efficiently than standalone fans plugged in.
Of course the exact power usage and efficiency of your cooling will depend on the model, so you’ll need to check what sort of kW your cooling appliance runs at via its energy rating.
Common mistakes made by Kiwis on hot days
Don’t let the heat get to you. We don’t mean to state the obvious, but there are a few mistakes we commonly hear about when it comes to managing the home temperature in summer:
- Lack of air circulation – hot, stuffy, dusty air is much harder to cool than fresh air. Even the gentlest breeze can carry fresh air through the house. So open those doors and let the cross-breeze flow.
- Fighting against sunlight – this is a hard battle to win, trust us. If you have a hot lounge with rays pouring in, your cooling appliance has to work overtime to regulate the temp. By simply shutting or diffusing sunlight with a blind or curtain, you can cool the area a lot faster.
- Forgetting about humidity – moisture in the air means more particles to cool or heat, so before going hard on the AC, try running a dehumidifier in the main areas to pull out moisture first. You’ll find that manipulating the air temp is quicker with this technique.
- Cool air escaping, hot air entering – once you’ve let fresh air in, you might need to close off the outside windows and doors when you’re cooling to keep control of the temp. Don’t waste power cooling your home – and the backyard.
- Staying cool personally – dressing for the weather, drinking water and seeking shade.
- Forgetting security while out – keeping a home ventilated so you don’t come home to a sauna makes sense, but windows left wide open invites trouble. Latch your windows so air can flow, but people can’t get in.
- Cooking up a storm – think about moving this party to the BBQ, guests or not. An oven uses plenty of power and makes the house warmer in the process.
- Doing the hard jobs at the height of the day’s sun – hey we respect the dedication of clearing the backyard of weeds in 32 degree heat, but tackling these sorts of jobs in the evening or first thing might be a better way to stay cool and safe.
Moving outside? Stay cool there too...
When the sun’s shining, we’ll migrate outside to enjoy it while it lasts. So get that cricket set out, fire up the BBQ and flick on the bluetooth speaker, because it’s summer!
If you’re in Wellington, chances are there’s a breeze to take the edge off. But if you live somewhere else with typically-still weather (or Wellington is having its one calm day a year), you’ll need some other tactics to keep cool. Here are some ideas!
- Get an umbrella up – either a large beach umbrella buried in the grass or an outdoor table umbrella mounted in the centre of it.
- Alternatively, get a shade canopy up – you can find some good shade equipment from camping stores that give you flexibility of where you place your shade. These are good for the beach and the bush, too
- Eat cold, refreshing food – plenty of fruit, salads, sandwiches. Cheap to make, healthy and cool.
- Get the chilly bin stocked full of ice and drinks – avoid drying out and getting dehydrated.
- Get under the shelter of a nice tree – a perfect spot to enjoy a book or listen to the cricket. What’s more Kiwi than this!?
- Slow-paced entertainment – Pétanque or some BYC is a better bet than full contact rugby.
Oh, and when you’re outside – get the house nice and cool with some of the ideas in this resource, ready for when everyone retreats indoors.
Sun safety – useful links
This resource is mostly focused on staying cool. But sun safety is equally as important during New Zealand’s summer months. If you’re looking for advice around being sunsmart, you can find great information below:
- SunSmart NZ – excellent information for Kiwis from the official Health Protection Agency sun safety website.
- Health Navigator – comprehensive sun safety information with a focus on health.
- Plunket – sun safety resource focussing on keeping our children safe from the harmful effects of the sun.