Surviving summer directly under the roof

Good solar shading is vital to retaining a pleasant climate in attic flats.

The warmest weeks of the year will soon be here again, when temperatures in attic flats can quickly soar to sauna-like levels. Read on to find out what you can do about it.

Most people really look forward to the warm summer months, but it can be problematic when temperatures climb too high for longer periods. Weather of this kind can have a measurable impact on our well-being, at home as well. Once inside temperatures exceed 25 degrees, our concentration and performance suffer – we tire more quickly and become increasingly irritable. What’s more, we tend not to sleep as well in hot and sticky rooms, and wake up less refreshed than usual.

But why do attic flats in particular heat up so much in summer? There are several reasons for this.

  • Generally speaking, a converted attic has considerably less storage mass than the more massively constructed floors below it. The lower storeys are therefore better able to store cool air, resulting in a more agreeable room climate.
  • Another contributory factor is the fact that many houses, especially older ones, have inadequate thermal insulation.
  • On top of this, large roof windows facing south are often at a perfect angle for the sun’s rays to shine through without any impediment at all.

Blinds help keep the heat outside
What can be done to alleviate this situation? The primary rule for combating summer heat is – if at all possible – stop the heat from entering the flat in the first place! The measures people are able to take depend largely on whether they’re an owner-occupier or a tenant. Owner-occupiers can go for a radical solution by thermally insulating their property in accordance with the latest standards. This represents a considerable investment, however, and often means the flat is uninhabitable for a number of weeks.

The second way heat enters a property is through the windows, and effective solar shading is needed to prevent this happening. Exterior solar shading is the best choice, keeping out up to 80 percent of the sun’s rays. Another useful solution is to fit integrated blinds between the panes of the window: these blinds are also capable of reflecting up to 80 percent of the infra-red radiation responsible for heat build-up. Interior blinds are less effective, but definitely a whole lot better than no sun protection at all.

Only ventilate the flat when the air outside is cooler than inside
One decisive factor for the well-being of the occupant is ventilation. Avoid the temptation to keep the window open all day! This allows the wall areas to heat up even more quickly and keeps the heat in the rooms! It’s better to leave the windows closed during the day and ventilate the flat when the outside temperature is still tolerable, preferably at night, in the early hours of the morning or late in the evening. To allow the walls to cool down, let in as much air as possible. Cross-ventilation with fully-opened windows is recommended.

Air-conditioners help, but eat up a lot of power
There are also technical solutions to the problem, the simplest of which is the use of a fan. This doesn’t actually cool the air down, but the breeze it causes can slightly reduce the perceived temperature in the room. Air conditioners really do cool the room, particularly those devices where the heat is expelled through an opening in the outside wall (which requires the landlord’s prior consent!). Their biggest handicap, however, is that they tend to consume copious amounts of electricity. For this reason it is best to turn them on only on really warm days.

One final tip! Try to generate as little heat as possible through your own actions. Only run computers, TVs, ovens and warm showers for as long as you actually need them.

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