Personal Finance

The cost of cooling your home

Fans and air-conditioning units are being snapped up by sweltering consumers, but what is the most economical way to keep homes cool during heatwaves?

Following weeks of cool, wet weather, the UK has been hit by this “summer’s final heatwave (probably)”, said product reviews writer Abha Shah in the London Evening Standard. Yet “while such glorious warmth is welcome”, she added, “it turns out that there can be too much of a good thing”.

Consumers anxious to escape their “sweaty nightmare” by buying cooling devices need to consider not only the initial outlay but also running costs. Experts are also offering tips on a range of ways to stay cool without paying over the odds.

Cost of running a fan

Buying a fan can cost as little as £20, according to Expert Reviews, with prices rising to £350 or more “if you’re looking for something larger or more stylish”.

Running a fan all night previously “wasn’t a big deal”, said The Mirror’s money reporter Ruby Flanagan, but then energy prices began to rise. Although energy bills are now starting to drop and are generally lower in summer, “they are still horrifically high compared to what we used to pay”.

All the same, a fan remains one of the most inexpensive ways to keep cool, according to data from the Energy Saving Trust. The organisation estimates that a fan costs “between 20p and 40p” for continuous use over 24 hours. 

Running an air conditioner

A portable air-conditioning unit may be a good alternative “if the breeze alone from a fan just isn’t enough on the hottest days of the year”, Which? said. But such units are “more expensive” to buy than fans, starting from around £200.

The running costs are greater too. Having a portable air-conditioning unit on continuously for 24 hours would typically cost around £6, said the Energy Saving Trust, which is “more than 20 times as much as running a typical freestanding fan” for the same amount of time.

Other ways to keep cool

Toasty temperatures at night can be “less of a dream” and more of a living nightmare, said Shah in the London Evening Standard. So opt for a lighter low tog duvet or “do away with it altogether in favour of a blanket or sheet instead”.

Ovo Energy recommends opening windows at night, but then shutting them during the day. This will “trap the cooler air in to circulate”, according to the energy supplier.

During the day, it may be “tempting” to at least open curtains or blinds to “let the sunshine in”, said The Independent, but this can “increase the temperature of your home”.

Conversely, insulation, while typically “thought of as a cold weather solution”, said Ovo, can aid with cooling. Loft insulation and draught excluders can “help keep cold air in and warm air out”.

Another way to help cut costs is to “switch up” your light bulbs. Around 90% of the energy given out by traditional bulbs in heat, Ovo reported, so swapping to an LED version “will cool your room” and also “use way less energy”.

“Focus on the temperature in your body” as well as that in your home, said HuffPost. To “cool yourself from the inside”, try “sipping tasty iced drinks and applying a cold cloth to strong-pulsed areas like your neck and wrists”. 

Having a cold shower before bed can help too, as can using a hot water bottle as an ice pack and cooling pillowcases in the fridge. And since heat rises, putting your mattress on the floor, or decamping to a downstairs sofa, might be worth considering on especially hot nights.

Another tip that can have “magic” results, the site continued, is to position a bowl of ice in front of a fan to create an icy “faux sea breeze”.

With heatwaves becoming more frequent and more intense as a result of global warming, longer-term cooling solutions could end up paying off as well. Additions such as awnings and planting trees or vines near light-facing windows will “shield your home from the Sun’s rays” and “reduce the amount of heat your home absorbs”.

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