Chilling out with help from Mother Nature

LIGHT AND EASY: Open windows can encourage those summer breezes to help provide cross-ventilation and cool the entire house.
LIGHT AND EASY: Open windows can encourage those summer breezes to help provide cross-ventilation and cool the entire house.

As the warm weather approaches most of us think of the hot summer days ahead but keeping cool doesn't necessarily mean power-hungry air conditioners.

Temperature control can be as simple as growing deciduous vines along the northern and western sides of your house, or maximising on cooling summer breezes.

Plants can be used to form living blinds for your windows to cool the house and fill it with a soothing, green, broken light.

A window pergola is no more than an extended window box with lattice or individual lengths of wire running from it to the top of the window frame.

Crops like climbing beans will provide shade as well as a nutritious food source.

A living window awning, similar to a living blind, can also be built to extend out from above a window, just below the eave.

The length of the overhang need only be about 60 centimetres and it should be constructed from weather-resistant material. Unlike the living blind, the living awning is best suited to plants such as grape or wisteria.

It will provide a cool, green shade in summer and allow sunlight to penetrate in winter.

An easily-constructed attached pergola on a north facing wall, with vines growing over it and plants hanging down from it, will make an attractive and cool retreat during summer. Light reaching the house is filtered through the greenery and the hanging plants help to lower the surrounding temperature considerably through the moisture evaporating from their containers.

Ventilation from cooling summer breezes will keep your house cool and increase the sweat evaporation from your skin, giving you a sense of comfort.

By directing the flow of summer breezes through the house you will be provided with relief in humid conditions, and the cooling of the house in the evening.

Your house need not face directly into the breeze, as long as it is offset no more than 45 degrees either way; a row of shrubs, or high, continuous fence, will also redirect the breeze.

To gain maximum benefit from this cross-ventilation, the breeze should be directed through smaller, lower level openings on the windward side, then exhausted through larger openings on the downwind side.

Place a fan in front of an open window to draw and push the cooler outside into the room.

If you have a second fan, place it at another window facing the outside to draw the hot air out of the house faster.

Also when it's hot, wear light, summery clothing, take a cold shower or go for a refreshing swim.