Climate control

If you’re in the UK this week, you’ll hear a lot of people muttering darkly about the big yellow ball in the sky, and how they’re having to mist the bed with water in order to get it cool enough to sleep, or steal fans from their children’s bedrooms, or make makeshift beds on the cool tiled floor in the kitchen out of cushions. (All overheard at Pi Towers yesterday.)

And Jon is wearing three-quarter length trousers.

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The UK, you see, does’t really do summer. So this week’s egg-cookingly hot heatwave has had us all wishing we had air conditioning – while it’s pretty standard these days in offices, nobody (apart from my mother, who has a mobile unit she calls Mr Freeze because she is awesome like that) really has one at home, unlike those of you in countries whose summers last longer than the standard British week. Mark my words. Next week it’ll be raining again.

The outlay for an air conditioning unit at home is pretty big – they’re unusual, so not very cheap here – but there are options. You can build your own 12v evaporative unit very cheaply, with a PC fan, a bucket, an aquarium pump and some inexpensive electronics and bits and bobs from the homewares shop: this version comes in at about £40. You can take it a step further and add a cheap thermostatic switch.

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And, of course, now you’re equipped with an air conditioner that you have made with your own hands, you can start to automate your house. Because that’s what we do here when we’re not spraying the bed sheets and wearing trousers which display our calves.

If you’re taking cooling seriously, you should be looking not just at active cooling like the orange bucket swamp cooler; but also at stopping the heat from building up in the first place. Chris Rieger from Australia has a neat and simple home automation project that controls his blinds as well as his air conditioning. (If you have curtains, you can automate those too – see this project from Jamie Scott, which would be easy to incorporate into Chris’s system in place of the blinds mechanism.)

Chris has made a neat little GUI you can use to control the system over a web interface, with the ability to automate by time or temperature, or to manually turn the system on or off. Full instructions are available at his website.

So really, Great Britain, you’ve got no excuses to keep complaining. I expect to see you all ripping out old PC fans and buying buckets at Homebase this weekend.