The Most Sustainable Ways to Cool Down Your Home

October 21, 2023

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Summer is approaching and a smattering of over-thirty-degree days have been a stark reminder of the extremes of temperature we experience in Australia. 

This year, the Bureau of Meteorology has warned us to expect an El Nino event in many parts of the country, so although the idea of long, lazy days on the beach (after what felt like three years of rain on the East Coast) is appealing to some, many of our homes will be as hot as a pizza oven the next few months. 

Many Aussie homes simply aren't designed to cope with extreme temperatures, and a common dilemma is balancing our increasing desire to protect the environment at the same time as keeping cool. 

We know that in terms of conserving energy and navigating the rise in energy costs, old-fashioned systems like ducted aircon and portable fans won't cut it anymore, but fortunately, one of the biggest trends in interior design to come out of the past few years has been sustainable design - as we discovered when we researched our posts on This Year's Top 5 Bathroom Trends and Sustainable Home Design: The Latest Trend in Interior Design. This trend offers several innovative solutions that help us meet our responsibilities towards the environment without breaking the bank. 

So what are these solutions? How can we cool down our homes this summer sustainably?

  1. Insulate, insulate, INSULATE! – There are many ways heat enters our homes and poor insulation is the biggest culprit. In older and poorly insulated homes, you'd be surprised at how much heat is absorbed through the roof, walls, floors, cracks, gaps, and cavities, so if you are building or renovating, consider this problem at the planning stage. Choose your building materials carefully and when you choose your roofing material, the most sustainable options are clay and concrete tiles or Colourbond for their durability and effectiveness in terms of insulation.
  2. Invest in decent window coverings  – In a post for Homes To Love, Jenny Brown, national marketing manager for Luxaflex Window Fashions states that "Households typically spend 41 per cent of their energy expenditure managing the temperature of their homes. Having the right internal and external window coverings can bring this bill down by up to 60 per cent,’ so don’t underestimate your window coverings.” Obviously, your options will depend on your budget, but blinds, curtains – particularly blackout – and shutters all help reduce the heat in your home.
  3. Use indoor plants for shade – Large plants in front of windows and balconies help keep the heat out, but did you know that vertical gardens keep you cool as well? According to Energy Australia, “With strategic placement of vertical gardens, indoor plants can break vertical airflow, which slows and cools down the air. Green walls can also help lower the air temperature around intake valves, which means air conditioning units will require less energy to cool the air before being circulated around a home.”
  4. Draught-proof your home – Keeping warm air out in summer is as important as keeping the cold out during winter. Insulation is key and CSIRO suggests several ways to insulate your home including insulation strips around your windows, double-glazing, and filling gaps with silicone sealant or expanding foam.
  5. Avoid running appliances during the day. It makes sense to switch off appliances when they’re not in use, but you could also use your BBQ or Microwave for cooking instead of the oven, run your dishwasher and washing machine at night, and hang your clothes outside instead of using the dryer. Using cold water and quick washing cycles is another way of reducing your energy bills and protecting the environment.
  6. Design your landscaping to create shade – Vines such as Hydrangea and grape and bushes such as elderberry and bamboo are effective ways to create shade in your garden, and native plants are the best choice for durability and ease of maintenance.
  7. Ceiling fans may seem a bit retro, but they're worth their weight in gold – In my opinion, there’s nothing better than the gentle breeze created by a ceiling fan above my bed, but I didn’t realise that they cost less than 2c per hour. Many fans give you the option to run them clockwise or counterclockwise - something else I didn't know - and the latter is the best direction in summer.
  8. Pick lighter shades for your paints and building materials, inside and out. Lighter shades reflect the sun, and darker colours absorb it, so although black and dark blue exteriors are having a moment and look very stylish, they’re not the best for keeping your home cool.
  9. Choose renewable energy supplies like solar energy if you have the budget Though your initial outlay may be higher in the short term, these will reduce your bills in the long term AND help protect the environment. Some homes in NSW are eligible for affordable clean energy with a free solar system.
  10. Reverse-cycle air conditioners are surprisingly cost-effective and more eco-friendly than other cooling systems that run on electricity, but make sure you check their Energy Star rating before you buy.
  11. Don’t waste money on cooling areas of your home that you're not using. In older systems, this may reduce its effectiveness in the rooms where you need it most and is a waste of money. Close doors and pull down the blinds in those rooms to conserve energy.
Ways to cool down your home
Sustainably cool your home this summer through insulation, indoor plants, lighter paint colors, and renewable energy.

Buying, building or renovating? Take the time to compare the running costs of different cooling systems 

Cooling system running costs vary, but we found this comparison of the many different types and the cost to run them for a medium house from Sustainability Victoria.

Medium house (160 square metres)

Cooling type

Energy star rating

Annual energy cost*

10-year GHG emissions (tonnes)**

Multi-split reverse-cycle air conditioner

2 stars



Multi-split reverse-cycle air conditioner

4 stars



Ducted refrigerative air conditioning – not zoned

1.5 stars



Ducted refrigerative air conditioning – not zoned

3 stars



Ducted evaporative cooling




Ducted evaporative cooling




Ceiling fans




For many buyers, protecting the environment and lowering their energy bills have become their biggest priorities

We're in a cost-of-living crisis and modern buyers, particularly Millennials and Gen Z, want an idea of their energy costs before they commit to buying a property. In fact, two of their biggest priorities are sustainability and energy efficiency, especially as many of them are now working from home for part of the week. "Youth is increasingly aware of climate change and the needs of the planet, and they are aware that it is in their power to change the current crisis," says Homewatch.

Summer needn't be unbearable

This summer is predicted to be a hot one, but with some forward planning, it needn't be unpleasant or detrimental to the environment. Furthermore, many of the solutions we've highlighted to cool your home are relatively cheap and easy to install, and prices of renewable energy supplies are also becoming more competitive. For those who are eligible, government incentives such as the Rebate Swap for Solar Offer in NSW are also an option for some to help reduce energy consumption and spending.

Never underestimate the value of good design 

Your sales price is directly linked to your property's appeal, and for your property to stand out in the current market, understanding the needs of your buyers and adapting your property to them, where possible, is imperative. Your property's improvements are one of the factors that valuers and agents take into account when they calculate the initial market value of your property. For example, since COVID, more homeowners have been working from home so agents and stylists now recommend sellers represent a viable office space in their properties, even if it's just a nook under the stairs. Likewise, most buyers like to see how a property is aiming to meet Australia's sustainability goals. 

Thinking of selling off-market? Our SELLER ASSIST service connects you with experts who understand the requirements and values of your buyer demographic and the best ways to maximise your property's appeal. To learn more about how this service can work for you, get in touch with our team today.


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