Staying cool in the Philippines can be a bit of a challenge. First off, it’s the tropics, and unless you’ve actually experienced that level of heat and humidity here, adjusting to it can be a bit of an ordeal. Secondly, the way they build homes (and apartments) in the Philippines actually makes the heat even more intolerable.
It’s April 8, 2016 and summer in the Philippines is in full effect. It’s been over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius for those in more enlightened, metric-friendly nations) this past week and the humidity-inclusive “Real Feel” temperatures have been hitting 110+.
The aircon went on this morning at 10 AM, and it will probably be running until around 5 PM. It will go back on 3 hours later when I settle down for the evening and it will be running off and on throughout the night. (Our Carrier Optima aircons have a timer that switches off the aircon and turns on a fan after a set number of hours – then, when it gets too hot, I wake up and turn it on for a few more hours.)
To combat the Philippines summer heat, we’ve made a few improvements to “Pink House” since we moved in. I’ve only actually got two photos to show when it comes to some of the house layout “before and after’s,” so let’s take a look.
NOTE: All temperature readings are made with our trusty temperature gun. These handy little devices accurately read temps from up to 10 meters away and only cost about 11 dollars US on ebay.
First up is the photo above that we took shortly after we moved in to our rental located on the outskirts of Dumaguete City.
Note a few things:
CONCRETE AND STEEL: First off, the house is made of (uninsulated) concrete block walls capped by an (unvented) metal roof. There are eave (soffit) vents installed under the roof overhang, but there is no ridge venting. The purpose of eave/soffit vents is to draw in cooler air from below and vent out the hot air with ridge venting. But with no ridge venting, there’s nowhere for the hot air to go, so the cavity between the roof and the suspended ceiling (attic/crawl space) becomes super-heated during the day and radiates it down into the house much like a convection oven. End result is that the ambient temperature outside will be 90 degrees while the ceiling temperature inside the house will be close to 98 degrees.
SUN EXPOSURE: First off, there is VERY little shade around the house. When Filipinos build, the first thing they do is cut down all of the trees and brush. So, when the uninsulated concrete “hollow block” and unvented metal-roofed structure is complete, it quickly turns into a aforementioned convection oven.
Now, let’s take a look at the house after we made some changes to cut down on the heat.
NIPA CARPORT COVER: This was the first improvement we made. The sun beating down on the concrete driveway and walls on the western side of the house would bring those surface temperatures up to around 130 degrees. The heat would then waft into the house, raising internal temps to 90-92 degrees. I first made some homemade “sunscreens” to cover the western windows, and these helped somewhat but where a pain in the ass to constantly put up and take down every day (along with having to open all those windows in the evening and close them in the morn). Finally, we asked our landlord if we could pay to have a carport cover made and have the cost deducted from our rent. He agreed and the nipa (native material) carport was put the following week by some local workers. The effects were IMMEDIATE – the shaded concrete thereafter would only heat up to ambient temperatures and the shade was more than welcome. Note that they didn’t angle the nipa steeply enough so it’s not fully waterproof but that’s OK – I was more concerned with shading the entire side of the house.
INSULATION: Although we had decreased the house’s ambient temperature by building the nipa carport cover, we still had a lot of heat radiating down from the ceiling. I had made the window “sunscreens” out of the 10 mm polystyrene insulation here that has a reflective radiant barrier (basically, aluminum foil) on one side. Thinking that it might help, I once again asked our landlord if we could install the insulation atop the suspended ceiling. Some folks on one of the Philippines expat forums noted that although thin, the insulation was pretty effective. They also went on to note that they thought most of the effect was due to the radiant barrier/aluminum foil reflecting the infrared radiant heat coming down from the metal roof. Again, we paid for the install and the landlord agreed to deduct if from the rent. We first did the two bedrooms as a test, and the results were pretty significant – the insulated ceilings were consistently 3-5 degrees cooler than the uninsulated ceilings. About a week after the bedrooms were done, we had the rest of the house done. Our poor Filipino worker busted his ass up in the super-heated crawlspace, laying down the insulation, stapling it in place and taping up the seams. The material cost for the two 3 meter by 3 meter bedrooms was about 1,560 pesos (78 pesos per square meter for the 10 mm poly with one-sided radiant barrier) and the later cost of the rest of the house was 3,800 pesos. Toss in labor and the total insulation job cost 6,200 pesos. So, for about $135 USD, we now had an insulated ceiling.
Again and like the nipa carport cover, the effects of the insulation were pretty much immediate. Ambient temperatures in the house decreased about 3 degrees from before the installation, and even though 3 degrees might not seem like much, I would much rather be sitting in a house that is 86 degrees as opposed to nearly 90. I also think that the insulation will help with the aircon costs.
Combining the shaded carport on the western side of the house, blocking off one of the windows in each room with poly and insulating the ceiling have definitely made the house more comfortable, temperature wise. Aside from central aircon, there isn’t much you can do about the humidity, but I look at it like this – at least I don’t need skin moisturizer while living in the Philippines!
Have you made any changes to your rental or home since moving to the Philippines? Do you have any other tips or tricks that can add to this discussion? Feel free to leave them below in the comments section!
Stay cool, ya’all.
<<Sick of snow and looking for warmer weather? Contemplating moving, retiring or working in the Philippines? Join our site to get updates on the pros and cons of expatriate life in the Philippines>>