Why is the extreme heat so different in Britain? is a common question we hear this time of year.
There are many factors which make the extreme heat in britain different to the extreme heat in spain. The main reason is due to the humidity that is present in the uk and different to other countries. We are an island and surrounded by water , heat from the sun evaporates the water into the atmosphere and as it passes over land, cools and condenses adding humidity to the air above us. This makes us more sticky and increases sweat levels. In many other countries they have dry heat which does not make you sweat or feel sticky.
Why are we so unprepared for the extreme Heat?
This year we have seen videos of rails being painted, schools being closed and even Luton airport was shut yesterday, but why are we so unprepared? Every country will design to a mean outside temperature. This means the scientists of the world have worked out the average temperature over the whole year and worked out what temperature we should design our buildings and structures to. We use this temperature to provide the best protection over the whole year rather then just over a few days of extreme weather. To build for cold weather is completely different to building for warm weather and so the design process is completely different. As the Uk is in the middle of 5 different climates, we can never realistically design buildings and structures perfectly. In the Uk we build structures and buildings for an average of 3 degrees (different in every town/city). This is because we are generally very cold but the truth is that we have these 5 different climates merging in the UK which makes the weather change on a daily basis.
- Cold & dry from Siberia
- Hot and dry (and dusty) from north Africa
- Cold and wet from the north Atlantic
- Warm and wet from the bay of Biscay
- Gulf stream and jet stream
Cooling off in extreme heat
Drink water, stay in shade, cold showers, plenty of fans and loads of ice cream is the Uk’s cooling off policies. While this is great advice for short term relief it does not provide relief for our pets, children or most vulnerable people within our community. I was shocked to see hospitals, schools and even care homes in the Uk with no air conditioning. The most important part of treating heat stroke is getting the body temperature back down as quickly as possible. How would this be achieved with no air conditioned rooms in care homes, schools or hospitals? Are we going to have to build specialised areas within our community to treat heat stroke like we do with defribilators?
Its only a few days a year!
A common question is “why arent we prepared for this weather” and then usually followed by, “its only a few days a year”. The brutal reality is that being prepared costs a lot of money. However another reason that we aren’t prepared is because we dont prepare. When faced with the cost of protecting against extreme heat vs the benefits of just a few days, we will generally choose to save the money and just “put up with it.”
It would be impossible to make buildings withstand all the3 different weathers in the UK? In other countries they use radiators to cool as well as heat but in the Uk if we did this, we would create condensation and damp within the home. This is due to the building fabric which we need to withstand storms in the winter but is useless at ventilating the home during the warmer months, there is no happy medium.
I took a look at air conditioning and the average cost for 1 room is £1500 to £2000, if you wanted to, you could only install it in 1 room but most likely you will need at least 2 rooms to cool your whole house which would increase this cost. But then what about winter? insulating your home, insulating pipework, keeping up with technology all cost money which we just dont have at the moment due to the cost of living crisis. Then we would also have to prepare for flooding and protecting our homes from the extreme rain. The Uk has so many different weather patterns that it would be impossible to protect against all of them.
Will air conditioning be a good investment?
I have mentioned a bit about air conditioning and although J & S Plumbing and Heating do not install it at this time, we do highly recommend air conditioning and the reason for this is because there are many benefits to air conditioning, not just cooler homes. Air conditioning units can:
- Heat your home using much lower kw output in comparison to many boilers meaning it could cost less to run during winter then your boiler (using the boiler for backup on really cold days)
- Better air quality meaning you are more comfortable in your home
- Remove water from the air (lower humidity)
- Reduce asthma by removing a lot of the dust from the air.
- Reduces the chance of heat stroke & dehydration
- Increases sleep & comfort at night
- Reduces insects dramatically
- Removes odours
- Reduced stress levels
When you see all these benefits to not only your home but also your health, It seems crazy that we do not already have one installed in every home. Having air conditioning can make a massive difference to your home and it is not just for the 3 days a year that you can benefit. We are even considering having one in our own home.
If we all had air conditioning it would also provide a sanctuary so we could go out in the heat for short periods with the knowledge we could then come back in to cool ourselves down when required. This does not only apply to extremely hot days like we are currently experiencing but also on any day that goes above 25 degrees which would help save hundreds of lives every year.
Find out more about the health benefits of Air conditioning here: DR HVAC
Could you be saving money on your heating bills?
Most combination boilers in the uk are over sized for our homes, working out our heat losses often shows that we can drastically reduce our heat sources output which could reduce our enrgy usage and costs. Once we do this, we could use this saved money to invest in protection from other extreme weathers or even to increase our comfort levels in our homes. I recently calculated my heat loss in my 2 bed end of terrace and was shocked to realise my total kw required for my home was 5.5kw. This means that I could easily heat my home using an air conditioner or by changing my from a 28kw combi to a newer 28kw combi with the ability to reduce my heating output, I could save 80% on the cost of heating my home. This all starts with a simple heat loss calculation which we provide as part of every boiler installation quote. Get in contact if you would like to learn more about your heat loss and how you could save money on your heating bills this winter: Contact us
So what can you do?
J & S Plumbing and Heating are strong believers in providing affordable solutions. We fully understand that many people do not have the funds available to make the changes required but often we do not have to spend a fortune to be able to make changes. Many of the air conditioning companies offer finance so your air conditioning could be as little as £5 per month to be installed. Making your curtains thicker to prevent sun light getting in is also a very low cost solution and also insulating lofts and walls can all help to reduce heat loss in the winter as well as heat coming into your home in summer months. Check your drains to ensure they dont get blocked and prevent flooding and fill any holes in walls to prevent cold or hot air getting inside (never fill vents as they provide air for gas appliances).
You can also get mechanical ventilation to move the air around better, from fans to MVHP systems which move the air around, these help during winter and summer months to create a more even heat around the home.
And most importantly, check on your friends and family, make sure they are keeping safe and not suffering from depression after being alone during extreme weather.