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Keeping country houses cool

The summer of 2018 will be remembered as one of the hottest on record and while forecasters are suggesting we could have a warmer than average autumn, here are some tips to keeping a country house cool in the heat.

Country houses generally fare better in the heat than townhouses. As a result of the “urban heat island effect”, cities of more than a million people can be between 1 and 3 degrees warmer on average, and as much as 12 degrees warmer in the evenings than the surrounding countryside, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Having said that, few English country houses are designed for hot weather. The Ancient Egyptians used courtyards to promote air flow through buildings, a technique which was copied by many others, including the Moors in southern Spain. Architecturally, houses of more than one room deep—which includes almost every style of English country house apart from very old cottages–don’t encourage air flow throughout the building. Houses with thatched roofs have an advantage over slate or any other roof covering, however. The thatch acts as insulation method with the ability to keep houses warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.

Here are some ways to keep country houses cooler during heatwaves.

Keep the windows shut and the curtains drawn during the hottest part of the day—having them open will only let the warm air into the house. Once it gets a little cooler outside, open the curtains and, using thermodynamics, it will allow the hot air out and cool air in. Many large country houses use white Holland blinds at the windows of the important rooms to protect the interiors from harmful rays of sunlight. These are also a good way of keeping a room’s temperature down as they reflect the heat out of the house while allowing a diffused level of light into the room.

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A cross draft, a breeze which forms when two openings in a building align, is one of the most effective forms of air circulation. If a room is only single aspect, artificially create a cross draft by strategically placing fans around the room to move the air around and create a circulation cycle.

Research by Imperial College London found that the best way to open a sash window is to have an equal gap at the top and bottom of the window. It allows the cool air to flow in through the lower opening and the hot air to vanish through the top.

Turn off all the electrical appliances in the house. Each one generates heat, even if it’s only on standby—some of the hottest ones are those which charge mobile phones and laptops. Keep as many lights off as possible, too. Even though heat-producing incandescent bulbs are largely a thing of the past, the latest energy-efficient alternatives are still capable of emitting heat.

Don’t use the oven. Have barbecues outside or eat cold food. Try also to avoid using the dishwasher which generates heat.

In order to sleep better at night, place a bowl of iced water in front of a desk fan on the bedside table. As the ice evaporates, it will make the air feel cooler. Another trick is to fill hot water bottle in the morning and leave it in the freezer all day long. It will create a cooling ice pack for the night. Be sure to sleep in cotton or linen sheets, too. Put them in the freezer for a few minutes before you’re about to go to sleep.

For really hot nights, hang a wet sheet in front of a window. Or use another Egyptian technique to stay cool on hot nights. Simply soak a sheet or blanket in cold water, then wring it dry so it’s damp but not dripping wet and use it as a blanket. As the water evaporates, you remain cool but not wet.

Houses for hot summers

charming Napoleonic barn
charming Napoleonic barn

This charming Napoleonic barn enjoys expansive views across the South Downs and, on windier days, its spectacular position means that the house benefits from fresh breezes.

For more information please contact Winkworth Lewes or call 01273 471471.

Cool off in the pool

house near Haslemere in Surrey

One sure-fire way to cope with a hot day is to spend it in the swimming pool, such as the one in the garden of this house near Haslemere in Surrey.

For more information please contact Winkworth Farnham or call 01252 733042.

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