The heat! The heat! How do we keep cool? I love my windows, looking out over a sunny street or a garden shimmering with flowers, but at this time of year, that burning sun needs to be kept outside. If you are new to Portugal, you may not be prepared for the intense heat of summer – I know I wasn’t when I first arrived and spent many days like a limp lettuce leaf struggling to keep cool, so here are a few ideas.
The obvious solutions are to crank up the air-con, or turn the fan up to speed 3! But there are some ‘cool’ tricks to keep your house bearable, and if you are out all day at work, the last thing you want to come home to (especially if you have been in air-conditioned offices all day) is a stiflingly hot apartment or house. And if you aren’t working, just staying cool indoors is important.
A good start is keeping the shutters closed and pulling the curtains, which will lower the heat by a good 20 percent, and will save you money on your energy bills too. Once the sun moves around, you can open up, and close down the other side of the house if necessary. If you are at home all day, or you could end up stumbling around in the dark all the time!
Avoid cooking indoors – we all know the saying ‘if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen’, so what better time to dust off the BBQ and have a cook-out! Avoid putting the oven on at all, therefore avoiding adding another layer of heat indoors. Or prepare something early in the day when it’s cooler and pop it in the microwave at dinnertime. Maybe a cold meal would be a good option - get your recipe books out for some healthy, fresh salad options – even left-over rice can magically be transformed into a humble tuna rice salad, which will last a few days in the fridge.
If possible, get those chores done in the cooler part of the day, particularly jobs like ironing which generate heat anyway. I am not a fan of housework at the best of times, but doing it in the cool beats doing it in the heat!
Create a cross-breeze through your house – yes, I know I said keep the windows closed, but sometimes you have just got to feel some air, so work out which way the wind is blowing and open a window at either end of the house to get a bit of breeze flowing. You can even keep the shutter closed, and the breeze will still get in.
Another option is solar control window film – a fantastic invention - a stick-on film for your glass to help reduce the incoming heat, but also allows light in your room. I used to visit an elderly lady in a care home who loved her bed being near the window so she could see out, but the sun was just too much by the afternoons. The solar film on the glass meant she didn’t have to resort to blocking her view with the blinds down.
Not everyone has the luxury of insulating their walls, but if you are planning renovations, this might be something to consider, and more energy-efficient windows will help control the temperature too.
And lastly, sleeping at night in the heat is hard, but there are some tips to help. Taking a cool shower before bed is one option, and they say putting nightclothes and sheets in the freezer for a while before turning in cools them down enough so you can at least get to sleep, together with filling that hot water bottle with iced water to make a handy ice pack for chilling the sheets or keeping your feet cool.
Personally, I can’t see myself stripping off the bedclothes only to remake the bed again with cold sheets, but I do like the cold water bottle idea!