Many countries are experiencing heatwaves this year, with temperatures up to 42 centigrade in some places. When it comes to finding an overseas property in a hot country, having features that help keep the house cool in the summer prove invaluable.
So, how do you keep your summer home cool? We suggest a list of property features to add to your property wish list when going on a viewing trip.
How to keep your summer home cool
Many people are hoping to buy a holiday home in a country with a warm climate. If you are planning to buy a property that you can enjoy in the summer months it’s worth adding these property features onto your viewing trip wish list.
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The heat of the sun can radiate through stone and brick walls. If the walls are thick or have a cavity, this can be reduced. However, any kind of shade is also a great benefit. This may be created by trees, other buildings, a gazebo, or a veranda.
A veranda not only creates a pleasant shady area for you to sit, but it also keeps the sun off the walls and doors. A big covered area will also provide an outdoor living space where you can dine with family and friends. Also, potted plants that wilt in direct sunlight will prefer being placed here during the summer months.
Covered roof terrace
Property buyers often have a romantic dream of sitting on their roof terrace sipping wine and enjoying the view. In the summer months, the reality is that it is way too hot up there during the day. Depending on the materials used to build the roof, the heat can also get into the rooms below.
Although, a roof of a light-coloured stone or painted white will help reflect the sun, the best terraces have a roof above them. This will allow you to get much more use out of the space and shade the roof. However, it should be of a sturdy construction, a light gazebo is a waste of money, as the sun and wind will very quickly destroy it.
Door and window shutters
Whether the doors and windows are made of wood or plastic, direct sunlight can greatly decrease their lifespan. Wood warps and splits, paint flakes, and plastic can get brittle and discolour. Protecting them from the sun will not only make them last longer, but also help keep out the heat. Walk around any Mediterranean town on a hot summers day and you will find all the shutters closed.
If they have opening vents, you can keep the shutter closed and the windows open to let a breeze through. In addition, shutters can also offer good security, particularly those made of metal. If you are going to be leaving the property unattended, they offer that extra bit of protection.
Some door and window styles might not be suitable for outside shutters. Some windows have inside shutters. Doors with a protruding stone surround can also be difficult to attach shutters to. In this situation the best you can do is use good protective varnish or paint, create some shade with plants etc. or hang a cloth curtain over the door. We have some doors like this, so in the summer we staple fabric and mosquito netting to a piece of batten and attach it above the outside door frame.
Although initially I was concerned to see bars on windows, I now understand the benefits. When you are sleeping, and want to have the window open to let in the cooler night air, window bars combined with fly nets make you feel so much more secure. There are some ornate metal work designs and with a window box of flowers they can look very attractive.
So many people from cold climates view property in hotter countries and say, “the windows are too small!”. You really need to live in a hot country to realise why big windows are really not a good idea, and why we close shutters during the day. Keeping the sun out becomes the priority.
However, when night falls, you’ll want to open all the windows and doors and let the cooler night air come through. This works best if you can create a through breeze by having open windows or doors on opposite sides of the room. Preferable there will be a window on the north side. A fan placed by an open window will help blow the air through.
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Although air conditioning has a reputation for being expensive, due to electricity use, it has its obvious benefits during a heatwave. Used conservatively to just cool a room before bedtime, it will make a hot evening so much more comfortable.
With so many more people installing photovoltaic panels to create cheaper electricity for their homes, the option of air-con becomes much more affordable. The energy efficiency labels on newer air conditioning units have also improved in recent years.
Whether you call it a cellar, basement or cantina, an underground room is always going to be the coolest room in the house. You wont fully appreciate what a gem it is until you venture down there on a hot afternoon and feel that cool air. Why let bottles of wine feel all the benefits?
Good water supply
With a heatwave comes a lack of rain fall, which can lead to drought. Ultimately, this can lead to water restrictions being put in place. When viewing properties always ask where the water comes from, it could be mains water, an artesian well, or delivered by lorry into a tank.
Even so, it’s always a good idea to collect rain water for watering plants when you can. It also could be worth having a good sized back up tank of tap water too. Just make sure it is in a shady position or underground. Also do a bit of research into how the region has coped during past dry spells.
On a hot day it’s nice to have a dip in a pool. It doesn’t have to be a big expensive swimming pool, an above ground pool or plunge pool will do the job. With a small pool it’s actually easier to shade the water with umbrellas and keep the water cool. In the summer you lose a lot of water through evaporation and it will need regularly topping up.
A large pool also requires a bigger pump and more chlorine and maintenance. When viewing property with pools always ask how much it costs to maintain and the cost of a replacement pump. A large pool can cost over €25,000 to install and you have to also pay for planning permission. There is also no guarantee you will get permission. Therefore, if a pool is top of your wish list, finding a property that already has one can be a big bonus.
At a house viewing check the roof for panels. Solar panels that heat water for taps and showers are well worth having, especially in the current climate when using gas or electric to heat water is so expensive.
Photovoltaic solar panels are also becoming increasingly popular to produce cheap electricity. If you view a property that has them, ask under what terms they were purchased. For example, they may have been bought through the electricity company with a guarantee over so many years. Any excess electric produced is usually sold back to the grid.
Also, ask if they have batteries. Although the initial outlay is higher, a battery will store the energy, so that you can use it when the sun isn’t shining at night. Otherwise, you could be paying the electricity company for power usage in the evenings.
Governments have been introducing various bonus schemes in recent years to encourage the use of renewable energy and home insulation, so it is worth checking with the authorities if you are considering buying photovoltaic panels.
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Adding value to your home
All of the above features add value to a property, as they can cost a lot to buy and install if the property doesn’t already have them. Therefore, when comparing property prices, this should be taken into consideration. You should also check their condition, and the cost of maintaining them.
If you find yourself in a hot country during a heatwave, I recommend doing as the locals do. Get up early, if you need to go out and get things done. Rest inside during the afternoon, then go out late in the evening. You may find that restaurants don’t open until after 8pm, and that outdoor events start after dark. When in town the heat is a good excuse to make regular stops for water and an ice cream. You will soon find the shops and bars with the best air-con and shade.