We all like to think we’re pretty cool, but when summer comes it’s a very literal problem!

Aussie summers are hot, and thanks to global warming, they’re getting hotter. If you’re a city-dweller things are extra tough for you, with the urban heat island effect increasing the temperature even more.

Luckily, there are some cheap and sustainable ways to stay cool this summer. Here are 4 ways to stay cool when the heat is on.

Wear cool clothes

After staying well hydrated, one of the best things you can do to stay cool in summer is to wear cool clothing. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Cover up. Yes it’s hot, but you should cover your skin up when you can. Sunburn makes summer feel hotter, and is a health hazard.
  • Wear breathable fibres. Polyester is fine to wear, but it might be best to keep it in the closet during summer. Natural fibres like cotton and wool breathe better, and will increase airflow around your body.
  • Embrace layers. With the summer months comes over-the-top air conditioning! If you have a light sweater or cardigan, keep it in a backpack to make up for over-zealous thermostat operators.
  • Go for light colours. The albedo effect measures how much heat certain surfaces reflect or retain. Dark colours have a high albedo and retain more heat, which is bad. So, wear light colours with a lower albedo, and you’ll stay cooler for longer.

A rack of cool summer clothes in a wardrobe, a way to cool down in summer

Throw some shade

A little shade can lower local temperature by between 7 and 15 degrees. It’s no wonder we seek it out! While the personal impact of shade is obvious, it can also benefit our homes.

By planting trees and hanging outdoor awnings that throw shade on your house, you’ll reduce the amount of sunlight heating the building. If you can stop direct sunlight actually shining inside your home, even better.

The easiest way to do this is to draw your blinds during the day. Physically stopping the light also stops the heat it brings. Investing in blackout blinds is an even better option – they’re great thermal insulators too.

A shade awning on a hot summer day, shade being a great way to stay cool in summer

Get some green

Thanks to evapotranspiration, plants have a direct cooling effect on the air around them. Basically, the water in their leaves evaporates, and that has a cooling effect. As the temperature rises, this process speeds up, increasing the cooling effect.

So, get some more plants in your house! Even hardy indoor plants have this effect, like aloe vera and rubber plants.

The secret is to make sure your plants are well watered and healthy. They need to have plenty of moisture in their leaves in order to evaporate it.

A series of indoor plants, which are a great way to stay cool in summer, thanks to their cooling effect

Get your LED on

If you still have incandescent bulbs in your home, what are you doing! Incandescent light bulbs literally use heat to create light. All up, around 90% of the energy they use is cast off as heat into your home.

Fluorescent bulbs are better, with only 30% of their (much lower) energy use cast off as heat – they use agitated gas to create light, rather than heat. LED’s are the best option though, as their light comes from the movement of electrons through a semiconductor.

The short version is that LED lights are brighter, more energy efficient, longer lasting, cheaper to run, and create way less heat. Swap any fluorescent lights you have for LEDs and there’ll be a remarkable difference the the temperature.

An LED light bulb, which creates much less heat than a fluorescent light bulb, so moving to LED lights is a great way to cool down in summer

Cool as a cucumber

These are just a few ways you can keep your temperature low when the mercury is high. Make sure to drink lots of water, and to use plenty of sunscreen, and you’ll be sitting pretty all summer long.

About Tim Beau Bennett

Tim is an ex-journalist and radio presenter, and has been a professional writer for over a decade. He regularly writes about technology, lifestyle, and smart cities, and has written for news site including the ABC, SBS, and Australian Financial Review.