Some sources, including the National Health Service website, advise people to keep windows closed.
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The main mechanism our bodies have for cooling down is sweating. This works much more effectively if air is moving over our skin. That is why a hot room feels much more comfortable with a fan. But the advice in that document is more nuanced. In , people died in five days in a heatwave in Chicago. If it stays very hot in your bedroom at night, move your mattress to the coolest room in the house.
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Blocking out light on sun-facing sides of the house can also make a big difference. The best way is to have shutters fitted on the outside of windows, blocking the light before it gets into the house. There are other things you can do to help cool your house in the long run. For example, if you want south-facing windows to capture the view, consider fewer or smaller picture windows, that frame the view. If you are building new, consider upgrading to windows better than double glazing.
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If you are renovating consider at least double glazing for any window you replace. And remember that frames are just as important as panes. Architectural trends in residential design since the s have led to larger windows, and more of them. Bigger windows let more heat in during summer, and let more heat out in winter. To make the most of the sun for warmth and natural light, your home's main living areas or any rooms you use a lot should face north.
The main glazing in the house, such as windows and glass doors, should also face north. The sun is at its hottest at noon when it is at its peak. Because of this, ensure eaves over northern windows are wide enough to keep the sun out in summer, but not so wide that they block it from coming in during the winter. Overheating and glare is becoming an increasing problem in New Zealand homes, with the trend towards larger, floor to ceiling windows. East-facing glazing captures morning sun and can be sized according to your preference in summer for light, heat control and ventilation.
Glazing placement needs to be considered carefully to avoid issues with glare on working surfaces — particularly where there is an east-facing kitchen or study that is used in the morning. South-facing windows receive minimal sun and should be relatively small to minimise heat loss but allow for diffused or reflected light and ventilation. Ask your designer to run a thermal simulation of your house design and optimise the amount and positioning of glazing.
This will help to prevent overheating in summer and reduce heat loss in winter.
The Windows in the House of Commons Chamber
Even if your home doesn't face due north, windows can be positioned to get north sun. For existing homes and hot climates, shading is an effective way of keeping homes cool in summer. In the north, this is typically done through the use of eaves, wide enough to keep the summer sun out of the building to avoid overheating. Overheating is typically at its worst on summer afternoons. If there is no room for external shading, you could consider putting in windows with a tint or a special coating — but remember these will reduce the heat gain in winter, just when you want it.
When the sun angle is at its lowest in winter, objects to the north can cast shadows two to three times their height. To make the most of the sun, your home should ideally be positioned as far as possible from neighbouring buildings, terrain or vegetation that might block north sun. A north-facing section that is very narrow will give you limited ability to place living areas and bedrooms along a wide north wall.
Try making the most of morning or afternoon sun in a number of rooms. On tight sites, building along the southern boundary is a good idea if your local council permits it. Check the Local Councils website for council contact details.
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Keep in mind that objects to the north can cast a shadow of two to three times their height in the middle of winter — even at noon. Even if your site isn't ideal for catching the sun for example because it slopes down to the south , it may be possible to maximise the sun's warmth using north-facing clerestory windows, skylights or position glazing higher in the walls to catch the sun.
Clerestory windows have the added advantage over skylights that in summer, when the noon sun is high on the sky they limit the amount of light entering and thus reduce the risk of overheating.
Because clerestory windows and skylights are typically out of reach, they should be specified with as high a thermal resistance as possible to reduce the likelihood of condensation around the frames and on the panes. Condensation runoff can cause significant damage to wall linings, and sitting water can cause premature degradation of window sills and surrounds.
A clerestory window will bring north sun into a south-facing home. As well as shading, consider having windows located to easily allow cooling summer breezes to ventilate the house.
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- The Collected Stories of the North by Jack London.
A house with a narrow footprint has generally shorter air flow paths across the rooms and can therefore benefit more from natural cross flow ventilation from opening window. Passive cooling explains this in more detail. From southerly gales to north-westerly blasts, wind is an issue in many parts of New Zealand.