Beat the Heat


We need to expect more severe, more frequent heatwaves and Cambridgeshire is among the worst affected UK counties, with the highest temperatures being  in cities and towns, due to the ‘Heat Island’ effect.

Unfortunately, most UK homes are poorly designed for staying cool in a warming climate.

Some homes like sun

ny flats without through-ventilation are particularly uncomfortable, even dangerous.

It’s estimated that 90% of existing UK homes would overheat with 2°C of global warming, a threshold we’ll overshoot badly with current global policy trends for cutting carbon.

It’s good that Building Regulations finally require new homes to be designed with features to prevent overheating, but we need stronger enforcement of these regulations. The all-party Environmental Audit Commission recently recommended that these regulations should also apply to home refurbishments.  

Heatwaves pose  a special health risk for children and the elderly, plus anyone with heart or breathing problems.  During last summer there were an estimated 2,295 UK deaths caused by 5 heatwaves. Unusually, the worst for health was in September, during a heatwave between the 3rd to 13th.

These health problems and deaths often happen behind closed doors, so that heatwaves are called ‘the silent killer’, in contrast to visually dramatic impact of climate change effects, like floods and fires.

Fortunately most of us can stay cooler and better protected in a heatwave if we are prepared; for example:

  • Shading sunny windows and skylights, if possible from the outside with awnings or blinds, or otherwise from the inside with curtains or blinds. In our home DIY awnings have made a huge difference and shade a small patio for sitting outdoors.
  • Closing all doors and windows when it’s hotter outside than in. Then opening them as much as possible in secure and safe ways, when it’s cooler outside than in, as at night. 
  • Minimising unwanted heating from appliances, cooking and hot water systems,
  • Keeping comfortable with loose clothes, a cool shower, spray or drinks. Maybe a fan too.
  • Checking in on vulnerable people who you know?               More details on the above.

Find out more in a free Open Eco Homes online talk, ‘Beat the Heat’ on July 3rd, 7:00-8:15pm where experts discuss lots more ideas, advice.  Book now at Beat the Heat on Eventbrite.

First published in the Cambridge Independent, 12th June 2024

from Tom Bragg, Cambridge Carbon Footprint volunteer