Close your curtains, egg-time your shower, and other heatwave tips from Irish abroad
Readers in sunnier climes share advice on conserving water and keeping cool
Paula Barnes, Singapore: ‘The heat takes time to get used to.’
Clear blue skies, water restrictions and temperatures over 30°C are all a bit alien to us here in Ireland, but what can we learn from Irish people living in sunnier climes where hot summers are the norm?
Irish Times Abroad asked readers to share their tips to help us handle the heat.
Niamh O’Riordan, Wellington, New Zealand
My partner Dave and I moved to Wellington from Cork in January 2017 and this past summer, from October to the end of February, we were lucky enough to experience one of the best summers Wellington has had in years. We had a great time, but trying to get some shut-eye at night in 26°C heat was the real problem. Most NZ houses don’t come with air-conditioning; desk fans are the closest you’ll get. Wellington, along with most other cities and towns in NZ over the summer, was hit by ‘Fangate’, where every supermarket, electrical and homeware store sold out of cooling fans from early November.
The best advice I received (thanks to my sister in Auckland who has been through it all before) was to leave bedroom curtains closed and windows open during the day. By keeping your room dark all day, you reduce the amount of heat being absorbed, which means less heat to be released at night when you’re trying to get those all-important eight hours. Once the sun goes down, open curtains again to let in some cooler evening air, and try a cold shower before bed.
We’re mid-winter here in Wellington, and I’m jealous hearing reports of tropical conditions at home. Enjoy it while it lasts!
I’m an Aussie living in Dublin. It is mind boggling to think a country that gets this much rain is issuing water restrictions. This weather wouldn’t be considered drought back home, it’s not even that hot! We were brought up to never, ever leave a tap running, don’t brush your teeth in the shower, keep your showers short. The government once sent out little sand timers for two minutes to stick in your shower. My grandparents even shower with a couple of buckets, and water their gardens with it afterwards. This just becomes the norm. New houses must have underground rainwater tanks installed, and bore water is used in gardens.
We have big reservoirs and a desalination plant if there’s not enough rain in the winter and we get desperate. We just have to let our gardens die, as no are sprinklers allowed, only watering your lawn with a trigger handled hose on your allocated day. If you are allowed to wash your car, never wash it on concrete, always on the grass.
There’s no need to go to extremes here in Ireland though, just use common sense and don’t waste what’s coming out of your tap. Start teaching good water conservation habits. You’ve all this water coming out of the sky, start using it wisely and don’t take it for granted, there are plenty of countries that think rain is a wonderful luxury!
Adrian Lawler, Oregon
From July to October, temperatures in Oregon can get to around 100°F (38°C). That’s pretty hot, and if you don’t have air conditioning things can get very uncomfortable. But there are easy ways to beat the heat: 1) After the cool of early morning, close up all windows and doors, and close the curtains. This keeps the cool air inside the house. It may sound counterintuitive but it works. 2) For a cheap alternative to air conditioning, simply freeze a large bowl of water. When frozen solid place it in front of or behind a fan to blow cool air.
Robert King, Arizona
Here in Scottsdale in Arizona, we typically have about five months of temperatures above 40°. First, drink water. If you wait until you are thirsty you are dehydrated. Drink at least half a litre every 15 minutes rather than waiting an hour and drinking two litres, it is not the same. Suncream is good, but it’s better to keep the sun off your skin. If you have clothing with an SPF rating, that’s ideal, but if not, then long, loosely-fitting clothing is a good alternative. Clothing made of natural fibres that can retain water, especially hats or a kerchief you can wrap around are good - this offers evaporative cooling to help prevent dehydration. Finally, darkness is a blessing, but alcohol is not. A slightly longer shaded path is much better than a short, sunny one, unless it leads to a drink. Alcohol dehydrates you, so although it may be tempting to “knock back a cold one”, don’t. Alcohol can also mimic the symptoms of heat exhaustion, and that can be fatal.
Aine Barrett, Fort Collins, Colorado
We live on the front range of the Rockies, 1,500m above sea level. The sun is stinging in summer, and last week we hit 42°C. We have no A/C. We run fans. Even though it gets hot, humidity is very low, usually 20 per cent or less. We open doors and windows and go outdoors at first light for any yard work. We water only a few plants, most are drought resistant. We don’t water grass, and cars are washed at car washes where the water is recycled. Ice water is always near. Gatorade is great to replace electrolytes. Our ice maker works nonstop and we add ice to our cat’s water bowl, which melts almost on contact. Wear lots of sunscreen; anything under factor 30 is useless, we use factor 100.
Paula Barnes, Singapore
Although there are no water restrictions here, water can be costly, so I often revert to old habits from my time in Sydney when water restrictions were not a joke. I try only to wash the car with Enjo products, environmentally friendly microfiber cleaning products made by an Australian company, where a glove and very little water is all you need. If this isn’t possible and I have to wash the car the old fashion way, then parking the car over grass is a must, so the run-off waters the lawn. Enjo products or their equivalent can be used inside the home for domestic cleaning too, ensuring little wastage of water.
Ken Scully, Chandler, Arizona
Lightly dampen the sheets on the bed before going asleep, the moisture will evaporate but it will help cool you down to sleep. Attach a frozen bottle of water to the back of a fan for a homemade air conditioning unit.
John Cotter, Massachusetts
We’re currently in the midst of a heatwave with temperatures 32 °C and above for the last four days, which is expected to continue for another week at least. Just like in Ireland, we have to quickly adjust. We have at most three months of these high temperatures. The norm is four weeks during July and August.
There is no better way to conserve water than charging for it. When you have to pay, you pause to consider the need. A hose ban also helps, as people see the need to conserve and prevent waste. Washing cars should definitely be a no no!
Everyone, particularly young children, should be encouraged to use a high factor sun block. Hats or a parasol are great help. Wearing tops as well as shorts at the beach is a good idea. Families with young kids here tend to set up a little tent with an open front and keep the young ones inside. Almost everyone brings along a pole umbrella to sit under.
Home air conditioning is a must. We can buy inexpensive window units here that can be put in and taken out easily. We have four, which keep our house cool on the really hot days. Other than that all our windows and front and back doors have built in screens so they may be left open without letting flies in.
The most important thing is to stay hydrated. We keep water from the tap in a jug in the fridge. Try not to use plastic bottles of water; their manufacture just contributes more to global warming.
David O’Neill, Darwin, Australia
In the last decade I’ve spent two years in Qatar, two and a half in Brisbane and three and a half in Darwin, so I’ve experience when it comes to dealing with the heat. A trip to the cinema or shopping centre at the hottest time of the day is a great way to cool off if you don’t have air con at home. Open windows and get some fans, air movement through a house can make a big difference. Open attic doors to allow the hot air to rise. I’m fortunate that Darwin has some fantastic outdoor 50m swimming pools, as it doesn’t matter how hot it is when you’re in the water. Lakes, beaches and rivers are a good Irish alternative. Forests can be great places to visit (often with rivers running through them) as they provide shade from the sun. Everyone has a tendency to reach for a cold beer, white wine or cider in the heat but dehydration from the hot weather makes hangovers even more horrible.
Emer O’Callaghan, Newcastle, Australia
I’ve been living in Australia for 25 years and yes, you do get used to the heat. 27 to 30°C is very pleasant now, not a heatwave! Summers here have definitely got hotter. In my first decade here I experienced one 40°C day, now it’s a regular thing in summer. Unfortunately the drought has returned in earnest to New South Wales (and other states). Parts are pure dust. Farmers have it tough.
Everyone obeys the water restrictions; who cares if your car isn’t all shiny and clean? We also have rainwater tanks so our veggie patch can be watered. Many people collect their shower water for the plants, and only water early mornings and evenings, otherwise it just evaporates in the heat.
I also wouldn’t be without air conditioning but not everyone can afford it. I worry about the oldies and animals on those awful hot days. If you don’t have air con and get too hot, a wet towel is a marvelous way to cool yourself quickly and easily.
It’s the middle of winter here and it’s been cold, wet and miserable so I’m envious of the lovely Irish weather, but luckily winters are short and not severe.
Katie Winslade, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
In Brunei it averages 30°C every day. I’ve been here for two years with my husband and daughter, and although the heat was unbearable in our first year, we have become acclimatised to it now. We have the luxury of air con throughout our house and almost everywhere we go, but we freeze 1.5 l bottles of water when we venture out, put food and drinks in cool bags, and buy a good cooling mist spray which provides a little respite.