May 27, 2021 | Updated: July 26, 2021

Trends & Styles

Interiors set for summer; keeping cool with design

We prepare our homes for the summer in many different ways: giving it a spring clean, changing the duvet or storing rugs and blankets. The changing seasons present different challenges for maintaining a comfortable indoor environment.

The following article examines how through decorative, architectural, and mechanical means we can achieve not only style but also cut energy bills. Because construction and maintaining buildings generally accounts for roughly 50% of all global energy use, it’s not surprising to learn that nowadays there’s a lot of research going into how to reduce energy consumption in the home.

However, surprisingly some of the best lessons can be learned from simply doing what builders have done for years. Design homes in such as way as to self-regulate the environment inside; this means adopting the traditional building practices of years gone by, otherwise known as the vernacular construction.

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Learning lessons from traditional building methods

Across the Mediterranean, the Romans were experts at organising their homes around a central atrium with, usually, a fountain in the middle.

This helped to draw the heat out of the interiors and created a stack or chimney effect, escaping warm air rises while drawing in cooler air. In northern Europe, houses were constructed with thick walls while windows tended to be small to preserve the heat during the winter and keep it out during the warmer summer months. Through recognising site conditions, the orientation of homes would normally turn its back on prevailing winds while taking advantage of the southern sun. Nowadays we might refer to this as Feng Shui.

 

The winter house vs. the summer in interior design

Surprisingly the same measures that we take to help keep our homes comfortable in winter will do the same during the summer. The architecture and layout of the house clearly plays a part but so too does the way we decorate the home and the materials we use inside. The following décor suggestions will help maintain a moderate temperature throughout the summer months.

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Wall finishes helping keep the heat at bay during summer

Cladding walls with materials that reflect the heat into space or keep it cool is a no brainer. The high density and thermal conductivity of porcelain and ceramic make the material a good choice for keeping walls cool in summer and helping reflect the heat into the space in winter.

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Summer décor ieas and inspiration

Fill living areas and bathrooms with lots of potted plants, use soft furnishings featuring natural fabrics like linens and other vegetable fibres for covering sofas, these simple accessories will help keep interiors nice and cool. A light colour scheme will also help to reflect heat and psychologically keep us chilled. Tip: store heavy curtains away during the summer months.

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Flooring for summer vs. flooring for winter

Given the expanse of flooring in any room, how we insulate and decorate the floor will have a big impact on the level of comfort in that space. The heat conductivity of a flooring material determines how it insulates and radiates heat. A material like porcelain tiles feel cold under bare feet because the material draws heat from the body, it has good thermal conductivity. This helps keep interiors feeling cooler in summer. But conversely, because it is so dense, porcelain also makes sense with under-floor heating given that it takes more time to warm up but will retain the heat for longer.

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Interior lighting for summer nights

Longer daylight hours means savings on electricity bills during the summer months.

The short summer evenings should be enjoyed with soft lighting so create several islands of light in living rooms. This will help avoid reflections in windows and bring the outdoors into the living areas.

 

The architecture of maintaining comfort indoors and keeping energy costs down

Many buzz words and terms are floating around in the world of sustainable housing or environmental design. Don’t be put off because most measures are simply a question of common sense. Below, are a few of the best ideas on keeping interiors cool in summer and temperatures nice and cosy in winter.

 

PassivHaus

The term was first coined by a group of German academics in the context of housing and the environment. Literally meaning the reduction of energy consumption in the home to zero or the bare minimum. Nowadays, it is a standard applied to the construction of new housing, when put into practice, savings of a sizeable up to 90% can be achieved on energy consumption in northern climates.

 

PassivHaus includes five basic principles:

  • Superior quality levels of insulation: helping to keep the house warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The thickness and materials would go beyond the building regulation recommendations.
  • Draught proof windows and doors: eliminating draughts and making sure that windows and doors are double or better still triple glazed.
  • Air-tight: windows and doors are not the only places where draughts occur, the building fabric and wall vents are also a source of draughts. Keep in mind that some changes of air are necessary, however, and our wellbeing depends upon removing household smells, humidity etc so opening windows and passive ventilation in window frames etc. is required.
  • Heat recovery ventilation: this is directly connected to the previous principle of being air-tight Given that we should refresh the air within the home, we might also take advantage of the warm air as it is being expelled. This also works in reverse, by taking the heated air from outside removing its heat and ventilating the interior.
  • Avoiding thermal bridges: a thermal bridge is anything that conducts heat or cold from the inside to the outside. A single glazed window or a structural element like a metal balcony are examples of thermal bridging in construction.

 

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Devon Riviera Ant. 19.3X180

Durango Acero 120X120

Cross ventilation

Keeping cool in summer can be as simple as opening a few windows and making sure that the glass is solar controlled, meaning it reflects most of the heat. Cross ventilation simply means establishing a breeze running through the home to help keep it cool. Another term for this is ‘double aspect’, which refers to the idea of a home having windows that open onto two opposing orientations. This helps establish a movement of air that costs absolutely nothing in utility bills and is surprisingly effective.

 

Mechanical ways of keeping cool and reducing our carbon footprint

These intuitive approaches to the design, described above, are today aided by technology and as we are increasingly more conscious about reducing our carbon footprint, there are several ways in which energy savings can be made in the home. This has the added advantage of eliminating almost all utility bills.

 

The Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP) vs. the Geothermal Heat Pump (GHP)

Somewhat resembling the mechanism of a fridge an ASHP extracts heat from colder air and releases it into a warmer environment. It can cool or warm the ambient air and can in some cases also be harnessed to heat water. Like an air-to-air heat pump, the ASHP can cool or heat a room or several rooms. The principle behind the Geothermal Pump, on the other hand, is based on the exchange of heat from the earth to water circulating through it in pipes that are used to heat radiators or under-floor heating. The system of pipes is quite extensive and can be laid out over a wide area close to the house or accommodated within an excavated area, drilled deep into the ground. Either option requires a significant initial investment but does provide cooling and heating with almost zero cost when up and running.

FAQs

Carpets and rugs are best avoided during the summer months. Instead a material with good thermal conductivity such as porcelain floor tiles will help keep rooms feeling cooler. Stone flags and tiles are the next best option and will also help cool interior spaces.

Just like insulating a house to keep the heat in during winter the same principles apply to keeping the house cool in summer. The single most effective investment when it comes to insulation is the roof. Insulate the attic and go beyond the Building Regulations requirements, you’ll be surprised what at the difference it makes.

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