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Cost effective ways to keep cool during heatwaves

keep cool A man enjoys the cool water in the fountains in Trafalgar Square during record breaking heat on the 19th of July 2022, Central London, United Kingdom. Climate change brought on by fossil fuel emmissions is causing havoc across the UK and Europe with searing temperatures.  (photo by Kristian Buus/In Pictures via Getty Images)
A man enjoys the water in the fountains to keep cool in Trafalgar Square, London during record breaking heat in July 2022. Photo: Kristian Buus/In Pictures via Getty

For the vast majority of the time, keeping cool isn’t something we have to worry about in the UK — if push comes to shove we can open a window or take a jumper off.

However, this summer has taught us that when the weather gets more extreme, we need something more effective in place. The problem is that this isn’t always affordable.

Not only do we face the outlay for everything from fans to air conditioning units, right now we also face sky-high energy costs, which makes running them even more expensive.

So for the hotter days over the next few weeks, and possibly the hotter summers to come, it’s worth getting to grips with cost-effective ways to keep cool.

This summer many of us ended up digging a fan out of the loft, or forking out for a new one.

Read more: Summer of strikes: How to get a reasonable pay rise

You can spend almost what you like on a fan — from £10 to £500. More expensive ones will tend to be more effective, but you can get an awful lot out of a cheaper option.

You need to pay attention to the wattage though, because it will dictate how much it costs to run, and this tends to vary from 1p to 3.5p an hour.

As a general rule of thumb, fans with blades tend to be cheaper to buy but use more energy — especially large ones. Tower fans are cheaper to run, but more expensive to buy and can be less effective. Meanwhile, bladeless fans can cost a fortune, but tend to be effective, and cost less to run than bladed ones.

You can bring down the cost of whatever fan you use by opting for the lowest power setting.

It’s also worth planning ahead and putting a bowl of ice cubes or a frozen bottle of water in front of it on really hot days, so you can still run it on a low setting, but ensure the air you’re blowing towards yourself is cooler.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 18: A woman use portable fan as heatwave hits London, United Kingdom on July 18, 2022. The UK Meteorological Service (Met Office) issued an extreme temperature warning that temperatures could reach 40 degrees Celsius, posing a serious risk on health. The
A woman uses a portable fan as the heatwave hits London on 18 July 18 2022. This summer many of us ended up digging a fan out of the loft, or forking out for a new one. Photo: Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Make sure you dust it regularly too, or you’ll be using more energy to turn blades weighed down with dust.

If it has a timer, you can set it to run while you fall asleep, and then go off later, when it’s likely to be cooler.

At this stage you may be tempted to consider a portable air conditioning unit, which is even more effective. However, these will set you back more than even the most expensive fans.

They are also are far more costly to run. They can easily set you back almost 40p an hour, which means you can rack up electricity costs of £20 a week or more — even if you have it on for less than half the time.

Fortunately, you don’t need to spend money to keep cool, because there are some low-tech options that don’t cost a penny.

Read more: Energy bills: How to cope with soaring prices

Here are five tricks worth trying:

1. Put very cold water into a hot water bottle

Some people will freeze it, but if you take this approach don’t overfill it or the water will expand as it freezes, and may damage the seal.

To be on the safe side it may be worth getting a hot water bottle just for the summer, so if the seal is affected, the worst that can happen is cold water leakage.

On the day that the UK experienced its highest recorded temperature of 40.3 degrees centigrade (104.5 Fahrenheit), an historical heatwave in Conningsby, Lincolnshire - rail travel was disrupted and major grassland fires broke out, a boy dips his head in the Trafalgar Square fountain water, on 19th July 2022, in London, England. The Met Office has in recent days issued  notices to the public - a severe warning of risk to life. (Photo by Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images)
As the UK records record high temperatures, a boy dips his head in the Trafalgar Square fountain, on 19 July 2022, in London. Water can be one of the most cost effective ways of keeping cool. Photo: Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty

Use water

People swear by a number of approaches, from regular showers and wet hair, to regularly running your feet and wrists under cold water, spraying yourself with cold water, keeping a wet flannel in the fridge to apply to your forehead, and even sleeping under a wet sheet or towel at night.

Think carefully before throwing the windows open

As a general rule, it only helps when it’s cooler outside, or when it’s breezy, so when it’s very hot and still, only open the windows at night when it has cooled down.

Keeping your curtains closed on the sunny side of the house can help too.

Embrace the microwave

It’s more efficient than the oven, and will heat the house less too.

Don’t just assume you’ll need to stick to ready meals — search online for microwave recipes and you’ll find everything from chilli to steamed fish.

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If you have to use the hob, make sure you keep lids on your saucepans, to stop the heat escaping into the rest of the house.

Opt for natural fibres

If you plump for cotton, linen or bamboo for everything from clothes to bedsheets it’ll make much more difference than you think.

It sounds a bit grim, but they absorb sweat, so the air between your skin and the fabric will be less humid, so it will feel less uncomfortable.

The big advantage of these approaches is that they don’t involve big outlays or permanent changes, so that when the weather changes, you won’t be stuck with an expensive piece of kit that will end up gathering dust for the next nine months.

Watch: How to save money on a low income