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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Preparing for climate change

On average, the UK faces hotter, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters as a result of climate change. Cooling your home without air conditioning and checking your risk of flooding are just two ways to get ready.

Why should you make changes?

Within this century average summer temperatures in the UK could rise between three and four degrees Celsius. Heatwaves and torrential rain resulting in floods are likely to become more common. On average, summers will be drier and winters wetter.

You can help to tackle the causes of climate change by saving water and energy, and reducing your carbon footprint.

Some climate change effects are already inevitable because of previous and current greenhouse gas emissions. But there are many things you can do to protect your home and yourself from the impacts of climate change.

Changes you can make to your home

Whether you own your home or not, there are many changes you can make now to be ready for climate change. Many of these changes will also help you cope better with the current climate.

Insulation

Making sure your home is well insulated will keep you warm in winter and cooler in summer. You can also buy rolls of reflective foil insulation called ‘radiant barriers’ to install in your loft as extra protection from cold and heat.

Windows and ventilation

You could cool your home naturally instead of using air conditioning, which can damage the environment by causing carbon emissions:

  • create a breeze through your home by opening the windows at the highest and lowest points in the house, or on opposite sides of the house
  • when it’s very hot, open windows at night, if it's safe to do so, to let cool air in; close windows and curtains or blinds during the day to trap the cool air inside
  • if you are replacing your windows, ask about special coatings that reflect or absorb heat, and remember that double glazing can keep your home cooler

More ways to keep cool

Things to consider:

  • fitting blinds, shutters or awnings to provide shade and keep heat out
  • painting your outside walls and roof a light colour to reflect heat – you could even fit white or reflective roof tiles
  • replacing carpets with solid flooring like stone or ceramic tiles has a cooling effect, and can lessen damage from a flood
  • using household appliances, like your washing machine, at cooler times of day, and making sure to unplug them when you’re not using them

Preparing for floods and droughts

Be prepared for possible flooding by checking the Environment Agency’s map. If your home is at risk, consider ways to keep floodwater out. You could fit air brick covers or install a waterproof membrane on the outside walls. Also check the condition of your guttering and drains – can they cope with more rainfall?

As the UK is likely to experience more droughts in summer months, saving water will become even more important. There are lots of ways to save water at home and you can read some tips on the ‘water: using less at home’ page.

Changes you can make to the outside of your home

If you have space outside your house, there are ways to keep your home cool and help prevent a flood.

Creating shade

If you have a garden, planting deciduous trees (particularly on the south-facing side) can shade your house in summer and allow sun to shine through in winter when the leaves have fallen. You can buy root barrier membranes to protect a patio or house foundations from damage caused by roots.

Saving water in the garden

Using less water in the garden will help to make the most of resources, especially during drier months. You could also look into ways to plan your garden for hotter, drier weather – the Royal Horticultural Society has some tips.

Avoid paving over gardens

Paving over gardens contributes to flooding, as hard surfaces like concrete or block paving take in much less rainwater than lawns and plants. Harder materials also store more heat from the sun, and this can make a difference to temperatures, especially in urban areas.

If you need to create space for parking outside your house, the Royal Horticultural Society suggests using materials like lawn or gravel that absorb rainwater. You can then leave just two paved tracks for the car. You can even buy recycled gravel that is a by-product of the ceramics industry, and paving that allows water to soak through.

You might need to get planning permission to alter your garden, particularly if you’ll use materials that don’t let water soak through.

Green or living roofs

You can grow plants and vegetation on rooftops, after properly preparing the surface with soil and root barriers.

Green roofs can:

  • help prevent floods by absorbing rainwater
  • lower the temperature of buildings during summer, and keep them warmer in winter
  • support wildlife including bees

You could green up the roof of your house, shed, porch or a balcony. If a green roof seems like a big project for you, placing potted shrubs and plants on flat roofs can also help.

You should consult a structural engineer before taking on a green roof project for your house. This is to make sure the house can support the extra weight without causing damage.

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