How to keep your long-term care home cool in summer

It’s finally summer: time for outdoor activities and hot weather. The one snag? Warmer temperatures outside mean warmer temperatures inside – and even with air conditioning in your long-term care (LTC) home, keeping residents and staff comfortable can be tough.

If you’re a LTC home manager looking for refreshing ideas, you’re in the right place. In this post, we’ll share three practical ways to keep your building cool, plus bonus remodelling tips for the future.

1. Boost airflow and ventilation

It’s one thing to open a window and another to think about airflow in a whole building. In the winter, gaps lead to unwanted drafts; in the summer, deliberately creating ways for air to move can make your care home much cooler.

Boost ventilation by:

  • Opening windows to let fresh air in when it’s cool outside
  • Opening two or more windows at a time to create a strategic breeze
  • Using portable fans to make communal spaces and bedrooms more comfortable
  • Regularly cleaning fans to make them quieter and more efficient
  • Installing extra exhaust fans in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry areas to remove hot air

Tip: if you’re concerned about insects, inexpensive window screens can keep them out.

2. Use shade and insulation

There’s a reason people head for shade on a hot day – and you can use shade to make the inside of your facility cooler, too. Insulation can also help keep cold air in (think of those insulated bags you use to take frozen food home from the supermarket).

Make the most of shade and insulation by:

  • Sealing gaps and cracks in doors and windows to control air flow
  • Insulating walls and roofs to help prevent heat transfer
  • Use blackout blinds, curtains or shade to block direct sunlight
  • Install reflective films on windows to deflect solar energy
  • Choose light-coloured paint for the outside of the building

Tip: awnings and canopies can help keep outdoor seating spots cool.

3. Make friends with technology

Cooling technologies can help keep the inside of your LTC home at a comfortable temperature – especially during heatwaves.

Make cooling tech work for you by:

  • Installing window or wall air conditioning units in communal areas
  • Cleaning filters and performing maintenance regularly if you do have an air-conditioned building
  • Using portable air cooling units in residents’ bedrooms on very hot days
  • Installing ceiling fans to help with air circulation
  • Drawing cool air into your building with an energy-efficient evaporative cooling system

Tip: in a pinch, create a makeshift air conditioner by running a fan over a bowl full of ice.

Bonus: cool remodelling tips

As the effects of climate change continue to grow, it’s important to think about energy efficiency whenever you make changes to your LTC home. If you’re remodelling the outside of your building, stick to light-coloured or reflective colours and materials for walls, roofs and other exterior surfaces to cut heat absorption.

Making major changes or refurbishing your care home completely? Here are three innovative building ideas to make your building more energy efficient:

  1. Install a green roof. Usually covered with moss, slow-growing succulents like sedum and low-to-the ground perennial plants, green roofs look gorgeous and help insulate your building.
  2. Use cutting-edge design. Partner with a sustainable architect to add clever energy-saving features to your building. The California Academy of Sciences is a good example of sustainable architecture.
  3. Plant trees. Shade trees can help keep your care home cool – just make sure they’re planted at least five metres away from your building. Some trees, like weeping willows, need extra room.
  4. Design buildings with airflow in mind. Wide corridors and open layouts are easier to ventilate than small, stuffy spaces.
  5. Use natural light. Skylights and clerestory windows high up in communal areas let light in without trapping heat.

Stay comfortable this summer

Improving airflow and ventilation, using shade to your advantage and making tech part of your heat-battling plans can help keep staff and residents cool this summer. In the long term – and with climate change in mind – think about bigger building modifications, like a green roof or clever window placement.

To find out more about sustainable design and green building techniques, visit the Government of Canada website.

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