Keep your cool in summer
One of the joys of living in SW France from March onward is the warm weather but there are times when you prefer to be cooler when temperatures climb over 30 degrees Centigrade. In August 2003 during an unprecedented spell of hot weather it is estimated 70,000 people died from heat related causes in Europe almost 15,000 of that number in France.
Older properties made of Stone naturally maintain a cooler temperature inside during summer and are warmer than outside in winter.
There a number of ways of keeping cool or cooling yourself down, here are some ideas that may help you.
1/. Swimming Pool or Spa
Not just a good way to cool down but recreational and social fun in abundance, details on types and styles of Pools and Spas are covered in my April 2015 article.
2/. Install Air Conditioning.
Ranging from small mobile units which can be moved around a house to fully integrated system running throughout a building.
Split systems Inside the house, inside a cabinet, is a evaporator coil, which removes heat and moisture from the air. Outside the house, a metal case contains the condenser coil, which releases the heat, and the compressor, which pumps refrigerant between the two coils.
The indoor component of the air conditioner is connected to a network of ducts, a blower circulates the cold air through these ducts to reach all parts of the house it can share the ductwork used by air heating systems.
Packaged central air conditioners combine the evaporator, condenser and compressor in a single unit. The air conditioner is usually placed on a roof or a concrete slab near the foundation. Ducts running through the exterior wall or roof to draw air from inside the house and return cooled air indoors.
Ductless mini-split system can be a good choice. the ductless mini-split combines an outdoor compressor and condenser with one or more indoor air-handling units. These units are mounted high on the wall and have blowers attached. Tubing connects the indoor and outdoor units and circulates refrigerant between them. Each indoor unit is installed in a separate room and cools that room only, much like a window air conditioner. Good quality units start from around €2000.
Heat pumps are a variant on the traditional split system. This is essentially an air conditioner that works in two directions. During hot summer months, it pumps heat out of the house and releases it outside. In the wintertime, it extracts heat from the outdoor air and uses it to warm the house. Heat pumps can be used effectively for both heating and cooling in mild climates.
Mobile air condition units can be moved from room to room and will run off a standard electric socket, they will need to vent the warm air outside through a window or mail slot or a hole in the wall, – it is not a particularly good idea to start knocking holes in walls so avoid doing that whenever possible unless you have a easy unobtrusive route.
Mobile air con units are available from lots of different stores, a reasonable size unit will cost circa €400.
3/. Leave your windows open at night
A simple solution but you will need to put a fly screen across the opening to avoid becoming the dinner of choice for various flying insects.
Versions a bit like a roller blind are available from some Brico style shops, they make the opening and closing of the windows easy or you could make your own screens.
There are companies that specialise in making tailor made screens, one such company is Brittany Fly Screens http://www.brittanyflyscreens.com/ who ship all over France.
4/. Ceiling Fans
Choose one that is sufficient for the size of your room or possibly use two,
they could also incorporate lighting, consider how you want to switch them on and off, a fan mounted on a high ceiling can be irritating to access every time to you want to switch a fan off or on, so it’s nice to have a switch you can reach from the bed, alternatively you can spend a little more and get one that operates by remote control.
Ceiling fans can be heavy, it is essential they are securely fixed so they don’t work loose from vibration.
I have found ceiling fans can provide a really pleasant amount of cooling, circulating air during warm evenings in the bedroom, you can buy them with different speed settings giving you a good range of control.
5/. Table/Floor Fans
Come in all sizes, table fans starting from around €20 they can provide a reasonable degree of relief during oppressive weather. I use a large floor fan when it get really hot, it generates a really substantial amount of air circulation which I find just as comfortable as air con if not a little bit more noisy.
You can improve their cooling qualities by placing a bowl filled with water and ice underneath so the air blows over it.
6/. Awning for your veranda
Keep the sun at bay whilst enjoying the ambient temperature, Awnings are available from many on line suppliers and Bric style shops. They can be fixed to a suitable wall quite easily and can be manually or electrically controlled, alternatively free-standing items can be used although they can be quite flimsy and liable to fly away in a decent wind.
7/. Larger Parasols are quite cheap and easy to move around the garden, being very top heavy they do require substantial weight to avoid them toppling over from light winds upwards, they should be folded down when unattended to avoid going back in the garden and finding it has moved of its own volition. Surprisingly cheap at around 40€ + , weights will probably cost you an additional €60/80.
Planting trees to block or partially block sunlight on windows on prominent facing aspects of your home will help the house remain cooler during summer, they also provide an attractive shelter outside to avoid direct sunlight when enjoying a siesta in the garden.
8/. Tiled floors
Provide a comfortable cool surface to walk on inside the house as an alternative to carpets rugs and even wood.
9/. If you can’t wait for your trees to grow use window shades or curtains on windows to catch the sun during the day so rooms are not warmed.
Wear loose clothing and don’t forget to drink plenty of water, you can also cool down in the shower or bath and if outside wear plenty of sunscreen.