It's said that the best way of keeping cool in a British summer is to step outside!
But Britain & summer do sometimes meet, not often and not for long but when those few weeks of glorious sun and stifling temperatures do arrive whats the best and cheapest way of keeping cool inside our homes?
Let's take a brief look at some facts about British summers.
When they get going they are hot :
In the space of a day or two we can go from mid-teens °C (about 60°F) and overcast skies to the high 30°Cs (100°F) clear blue skies and searing heat, in a 'normal' summer we expect to get a minimum of 26°C+ (79°F) for a few days.
Our summers are humid :
Which makes it seem even hotter and very sticky because high humidity means sweat evaporates slowly.
We live on a small island and are never more than 70 miles (113 Km) from the coast, so as the temperature rises water from the sea and our many rivers is evaporated into the air.
As the air becomes saturated with water humidity rises and eventually we have those spectacular summer thunderstorms when all that water falls onto the ground, after some welcome coolness the water then is sucked up into the air humidifying it again.
Our summers are usually short :
If you spend a lot of money on a cooling solution you might not be using it often and some years not at all.
Unless you get a climate control system for your house (providing heat in winter and cooling in summer), or your fortunate enough to have oodles of disposable cash it's just not worth spending large amounts on a fixed air conditioning or air cooling system you might use for (in the worse case) 10 weeks or so over the next 5 years.
But with the rapid onset of global warming things may change.
The benefit of an air conditioning system is that they were originally invented as dehumidifiers, the air cooling was a side effect of drying out the air.
For British winters this means they can be used to suck that nasty damp out of the air preventing condensation and reducing mould growth.
You may end up using your Air Con system more in the winter than summer!
So what do you do for those few weeks of summer sunshine?
Open the windows?
Unless you do this in the evenings to allow a natural airflow as we suggest in our budget guide to keeping cool for summer the only thing opening windows does in the day is let flies and noise in.
For safety never leave unsecured windows open at night.
Get a Fan?
The timeless way of keeping cool. Most people will do the same thing we have done for the past few thousand years, get a cheap fan, open the windows and blow some air around the room.
Today we use electric fans not man powered but the principle is the same.
A fan doesn't cool your space down but the air blowing across your skin helps you evaporate sweat more quickly so you feel cooler but, as we have all found out, as soon as you move from in front of the fan the heat hits you.
For sultry nights sleeping with the fan on burns energy and a night of sleeping in a draft can leave you with a summer cold and cricked neck.
Sleeping with a fan on and a window open is not advisable in urban areas (where it tends to be hottest) as your local burglars will be out and about looking for just such an opportunity.
Buy an Air cooler?
These are a fan and container combination you fill with ice or chilled water, the modern version of a bowl of ice in front of a fan.
Unless you are going to spend about £300 on something like the Honeywell CL48PM that you can connect to a permanent cold water supply they will only cool your room for as long as the water in the container is cool.
Air coolers are ineffective, pump wet air into your room (increasing the humidity), have to be used with the windows open and, we believe, are not worth buying (see our article on why not to buy an Air Cooler).
Buy a portable air conditioner
This is the best option, shut the windows set the temperature and enjoy cool clean air, as they dry the air too you use them in summer to cool down and in winter to dehumidify any damp rooms.
Our recommended model the Igenix IG9900 will keep a 400 sq ft room cool and set you back just under £300 from Amazon.
It is an evaporative model which doesn't have a water tray to empty and has a 2-year guarantee but should last for at least 10 years with UK usage.
So a long term view would be summer air conditioning at £30 per year.