4 ways to cool your home in summer

Rising temperatures got you into a sweat? We explore four cool-down options for effectiveness and cost-efficiency.

Thermometer in sand at the beach.

With the mercury rising across New Zealand, we thought it prudent to investigate heat pumps, fans and portable air-conditioners to explore all things cooling.

Your cheapest option is flinging open the windows, but this might not be a solution if the weather’s still, or if you’re worried about security or being bugged by mosquitos. For many, the go-to is a plug-in fan – they don’t cool the air, but the feeling of a gentle breeze on your skin is often enough to make you feel comfortable.

Plug-in fans

These can vary from small USB-powered desk fans to tall pedestal models. You’ll only feel cool when the fan is directly blowing on your skin, so they can be positioned anywhere in the room and aimed at you while you sit on the couch in your singlet and shorts.

Most plug-in fans have a small electric motor (50-60W), so power usage is miniscule. For example, a 60W fan running 8 hours a day costs about $4 a month. However, if you start chucking fans in every room and running them non-stop, you could be in for a shocking power bill. They don’t cool you down when you aren’t in the room, so make sure they’re switched off when you leave.

Tip: Set your fan up next to an open window and point it outside in the evenings. The warm air in your house home will be drawn out and replaced with cooler air.

If you’re shopping for a new plug-in fan consider:

  • Tower or pedestal – – A pedestal fan looks like a lollipop from a distance. Usually, you can adjust the height and tilt the fan so it’s hitting the right spot. Tower fans aren’t as adjustable and sit closer to the floor, though their sleek design tends to be easier on the eye.

  • Cost – We’ve seen pedestal fans for less than $40 at Mitre 10, but you can drop $900 on the biggest Dyson Pure Cool fan. The cheapest fan still moves the air and makes you feel cool. You’re often paying more for features and design.

  • Features – As fans get more expensive, they often come with more features, such as remotes, timers and air filters.

  • Settings – Some have a “natural” setting that varies the fan speed to simulate a natural breeze. Others have a reduction mode that slowly tapers off speed, so the noise doesn’t keep you awake.

    Goldair DC Quiet Fan with WiFi and Remote 40cm GCPF315
  • Noise – Ask for an in-store demonstration so you can hear it before buying. Remember your home will be much quieter than a busy store – an important consideration if you’ll be running your fan overnight. Listen for any whining or squeaks when it’s oscillating.

Top pedestal fan

Goldair DC Quiet Fan with WiFi and Remote 40cm GCPF315 $149

This highly efficient tower fan gets the air to where you need it, and we measured an audibly pleasing 31dBa (as loud as a person whispering) on its lowest setting. The timer lets you set the fan to run at 30-minute increments up to 7.5 hours, so nearly long enough to cover you while you sleep at night. The Goldair comes with a remote, but you can also control it via an app on your phone.

Ceiling fans

It might be a bit of a rush to install a ceiling fan the same week as an incoming heatwave, but you’ll be well set in the future without stealing a precious power point in your lounge or bedroom. Ceiling fans also come in handy in winter, as they can help circulate warm air sitting at the top of the room.

Here’s what to look for if you opt for a ceiling fan:

  • AC or DC motor – AC motors are generally cheaper, but only offer a couple of fan settings. The most efficient motors are DC, which offer multiple speed settings and often a reverse feature for use during the colder months to keep warm air circulating.

  • Ceiling height – Needs to be about 2.1 to 2.4m for best performance. If it’s significantly higher, consider extension rods to lower the fan.

  • Blade material – There isn’t much difference in performance between blade materials, but wooden or plastic blades tend to be quieter than their metal counterparts.

  • Cost – You can pick up a cheap MDF one from Bunnings for less than $100 or you can spend up big on a fancier wooden-bladed model.

  • Noise – There is no truly silent fan. Your best bet is to head into a store with them on display so you can run them on their low and high settings. Most lighting stores should have at least a couple of models for you to try.

Ceiling fan to look for
Aeratron AE3 50″ 3 Blade DC Ceiling Fan

Aeratron AE3 50″ 3 Blade DC Ceiling Fan $935

The Aeratron AE3 ticks all the boxes: quiet operation, efficient air movement and ease of use. We measured 32dBa when the fan was on its medium setting, which is whisper quiet. On the highest fan setting, the AE3 only draws 18W of power, so it’s also cheap as chips to run.

Heat pumps

Don’t let the name fool you. You can set your heat pump to “cool” and sit back in comfort while the tar melts on your driveway. Generally, heat pumps aren’t as efficient in cooling mode compared with heating mode, so expect the cooling capacity of your heat pump to be 0.5 to 1kW less than its heating capacity. That said, they’ll still put out more considerably more cooling kilowatts than the power they consume.

Unlike fans, a heat pump will actually cool the air in your home, and sometimes that’s the only thing that’ll make you comfortable, especially when things get humid at night. If you go down the heat pump cooling route, remember to clean the filters before switching it on. It makes a considerable difference in performance.

Check out our database of 206 heat pumps to find the best-performing models.

Heat pump cooling
Daikin FTXZ25NV1B

Daikin FTXZ25NV1B $POA

This 3.6kW heat pump comes with 2.5kW of cooling power. This puts it firmly in the small category of heat pumps, which means it’s best suited to smaller rooms, such as bedrooms or studies, rather than larger living areas. Sleeping should be easy since this model is among the quietest heat pumps we’ve assessed.

Portable air conditioners

We’d consider these a last resort. They aren’t as portable as the name suggests, since they require ducting to an outside window, and are nowhere near as efficient as heat pumps. They’re generally much louder, as the compressor is in the room with you (a heat pump compressor is fixed to a wall outside). That makes sleeping next to one a bit of a challenge.

They’re cheaper to buy than a heat pump (you can get one for as little as $400) and don’t need installation, so they might be an option for renters looking for a bit of relief from the heat and finding a fan just isn’t doing the job. If you do go for a portable air conditioner, look for a model with wheels, as the units can be difficult to heft around the room.

Portable air-conditioner top performer
Dimplex Reverse Cycle Portable Air Conditioner DCPAC14RC

Dimplex Reverse Cycle Portable Air Conditioner DCPAC14RC $998
Availability: Harvey Norman

At a hefty 30kg, this “portable” air conditioner is really intended to be plonked in one place in your home. So long as you have a window nearby, this unit should provide a nice chill to the air, albeit a loud one.

JML ChillMax Pillow

JML ChillMax Pillow

19jan chillmax promo

JML ChillMax Pillow

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Member comments

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Megan C.
24 Mar 2020
Consumer, you can do better!

I'm looking at Consumer for information on fans. This article is the only thing I've founds far and it is useful, but it would be improved with a link to Consumer's assessment of fans or any comment that tests have not been done.

Loraine H.
17 Jul 2020
A bewildering array

Help. Me Too. We're installing fans in our new build and I've studied every article I can on sizes, motors, shapes, construction, speed, etc., and visited lighting shops where you can't really tell which are the quietest as they're hanging from a shop ceiling not in a home environment. It would be sooooooo helpful to read reviews and see brand recommendations.

Chris O.
22 Feb 2020
Roof colour

Not for nothing are traditional Mediterranean houses white; they reflect the heat. On a nice hot day the sun hits your roof with energy of about 1000 watts per square meter. A white roof will reflect most of it, a dark or black roof with absorb most of it. In other words a black roof on a typical 150 sq meter house absorbs about 150 Kw, or 200 horsepower. This is a HUGE amount of energy; some is re-radiated, but a lot is able to make it's way thru the insulation to the inside of the house. The insulation only slows it down; it does not stop all of it. So the first step to a cooler house is to paint your roof with a high reflectivity (very light coloured or white) paint. It can also have a helpful additive that reflects Infra-red rays to keep even cooler. Try putting your hand on various coloured cars on a hot day and you will quickly see what I mean! Cheers! Chris

Robert L.
22 Feb 2020
Exhaust fans really work.

We installed a fan in our attic access hatch which blows up into the attic. Our roof is concrete tiles so not totally airtight. In the evening we turn on the fan and close all of the windows except for the one over our bed. The fan draws the cooler outside air in over our bed and also forces the hot air out of the attic. (Too many New Zealand attic spaces are almost airtight and so the heat built up during the day keeps the house too warm at night.)