The African sun is relentless, looming high and hot, giving life and light, while smothering us with warm affection. Beating the heat is a daily activity for most Nigerians – whether we seek shade under the iroko tree, fanning ourselves with palm fronds, laying under ceiling fans or chilling in the path of ice cold air-con, sometimes we need relief from the oppressive temperatures.
Necessity or luxury?
Most Nigerians do not have air-conditioning, as it is a luxury that only the middle and upper class can afford. In reality, with electric cuts rampant across the country and the high cost of running and maintaining a generator, air-con truly is a luxury that is welcomed and gaining popularity.
As African economies gain steam, luxury items are getting more accessible to the average consumer. In fact, Africa tops the world forecast for the growing air conditioning market with estimated annual sales numbering almost 3 million units (mostly small split units), and a growth rate around 6%. (Cooling Post)
Tips for staying cool with no Air-Con
- Stay Hydrated – it is important to stay thoroughly hydrated all day – water is the best – alcohol does not count as hydration!
- Wear Loose Clothing– traditional attire is best for this as long as it is a light natural material. Avoid synthetic materials i.e. nylon/polyester which are not as cooling as cotton or linen.
- Seek Shade – stay out of the sun whenever possible and get near a breeze or fan.
- Take a Cold Bath or Go Swimming – If you find yourself overheating, a nice cool shower will make you feel great and reduce your body temperature, a dip in the pool or lake will also be very refreshing.
Designing Homes in Hot Climates
Passive Cooling is a concept that involves using natural means to either stop thermal heat from entering the house or removing heat from the interiour structure.
- Building Layout – Designing homes with the correct orientation is important – knowing the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, building structures that align properly so as they are not in direct path of the sun all day long is important.
- Shading – Using natural trees and foliage to protect the home from the sun is very effective. Also, using overhangs and awnings that protect windows from direct sunlight is key.
- Ventilation – Cross ventilation is very effective in removing heat load and providing cooling breeze. This works when there are openings on two sides of the building, thus allowing wind to enter (inlet) and exit creating ventilation and cooling.
- Natural Materials – Use locally sourced natural materials when building, such as compressed earth block and local woods. Avoid using cement, as it retains heat.
If I can afford it, why not?
Africans have survived and thrived for centuries without the use of modern air conditioning, but as cities get more crowded, and economies grow, it makes sense for us to want some creature comforts in life -and coming into a cool air conditioned room after a hard days work, is refreshing indeed.