Many homes in New Zealand are deeply saddened by the scorching heat of the summer. Photo / 123RF
Whether it’s see-through curtains or cool sheets, the Kiwi has long had its own tricks for cooling a hot home without air conditioning – now a researcher wants to hear more about it.
Many homes in New Zealand are deeply saddened by the scorching heat of the summer.
A recent NZ Stats survey of the 6,700 homes found 36 percent sat at 25C or more during the summer – and sometimes even above 30C – compared to a comfortable room range of 20C to 25C.
A third is also colder than 18C during winter – or below World Health Organization standards – something related to people renting less isolated homes and struggling to pay for their daily needs.
This winter’s “energy poverty” and its broad public health impacts have been a major focus of Dr Kimberley O’Sullivan’s research at the University of Otago.
“Much of that means we’re focusing on whether people can get warm enough in winter – but actually it means it’s pretty cool in summer too.”
He pointed out that six of New Zealand’s 10 warmest years have occurred in the past decade, and the country is experiencing more frequent and severe hot days, which come with their own implications for health and energy use.
“Over the last 20 years we also have fast absorption heat pumps, and more than half of New Zealand households with heat pumps have reported using them for cooling in the summer,” he said.
“So now households have a mechanism for active cooling – and a greater need to reduce home temperatures in the summer.”
In a recently launched study, supported by the Marsden Fund, he seeks to answer how not only the Kiwis regulate the flow of summer heat through their homes, but also how this changes over time.
“I’m specifically looking for the kind of knowledge that’s sometimes called knowledge – or what people know from experience,” he said, adding that it includes how Kiwis use sizes ranging from curtains to heat pumps.
“This year, I’m going to start with a postal survey of areas with more extreme summer weather to get initial answers to questions like how comfortable people are to find their home in the summer, if they try to adjust the temperature, does it change over time, and whether they think they know enough about the matter. “
He is eager to hear from several generations of the same family, and what advice has been passed down.
“I also want to make sure that we include Māori whānau, Māori have lived in Aotearoa the longest and will have wisdom to offer.”
Finally, this three-year project will collect temperature and relative humidity records using a data logger on a sample of homes, and how people use energy throughout the day of the week.
“As far as I know, these approaches have never been combined like this before to look at these questions – and they certainly haven’t been used like this in New Zealand,” he said.
“One thing that would be quite challenging in my opinion would be to usefully weave all the data back together to make one big story or image, integrating it all at the end in such a way that the number is greater than the parts.
“The sections as an individual study would all be useful, but I hope to do something extra by combining them.
“If we have a very good picture of what people know and do, as well as what they need to manage summer at home, then we may be able to adapt various suggestions and policies where they are needed.
“The aim is that it will help increase our resilience to climate change and improve public health and well-being.”
Three tips for keeping the house cool
• Easy fix: Avoid the sun by covering the curtains and blinds. Open doors and windows in different rooms to circulate air through your home. Adjust the safety lock to keep the windows open when you go out.
• Make a shadow: Plant deciduous trees to shade your home in the summer. They will let the sun in when they lose their leaves in winter. Install external window blinds – such as blinds, awnings or grilles. The roof or roof hanging over the north facing window blocks out the summer sunshine.
• Use a fan: The fans on the table, floor and ceiling use significantly less energy than air conditioning. If you have a heat pump, try setting the fan alone with the window open.
– Source: GenLess