Picture this. You’re lounging by the water, condensation gathers on the sides of the glass of iced lemon tea you hold against your forehead. The sun is blazing overhead and a lazy breeze caresses your skin. You hear the old man down the road strumming the blues on his guitar.
Okay, that’s summer in the bayou. This is not the bayou and getting ready for the onslaught of heat and humidity isn’t nearly as sexy as it might be in the bayou. But dealing with summer is a lot easier if you can get a handle on your space. “Keep the sun out by installing shades or blinds or my favourite, which is linen curtains,” begins designer Monique McLintock of Monique McLintock Interiors Ltd. “Air conditioners should be cleaned and checked so that they are running at maximum efficiency.” Other hazards abound, but none that can’t be conquered.
There isn’t man, woman or child alive in Hong Kong that hasn’t at some point battled the city’s great summer scourge: mould. It seems to grow on absolutely everything and short of existing in a bubble, it seems to be a losing battle. Is there any way to get ready for the penicillin season?
“All I can say is: dehumidifier. And four of them,” jokes designer and stylist David Roden. Maybe not four, but they are crucial to controlling mould indoors, particularly for any leather clothing, accessories and, yes, furniture and finishings. McLintock likes dehumidifier rods in the closet, adding, “If you have a terrace or rooftop then dry your clothes there instead of inside.”
“I would recommend putting essential oils into the air conditioner filter. It’s like having aromatherapy through the room, and if you use something like rosemary it keeps the mould out,” say Roden. Most filters are removable and the oils wash off easily, but they last a couple of days left on their own. And it’s important to separate leather jackets, coats and bags from the rest of house or other clothing. “Don’t put it with anything else, because leather is the worst offender. I don’t use leather in my interiors either because it just gets so mouldy.”
There are health issues at play too, and an air filter in some cases could be helpful. Moulds aren’t inherently dangerous (unless they’re black) but can be allergens. For items like cooking tools, soap and water does the trick, and a vinegar or bleach rinse (diluted) can help. Make sure anything wooden is thoroughly dried before storing or usage. Which comes right back to a dehumidifier. “There are eco-friendly dehumidifiers now that are low-wattage and don’t use as much electricity as the old noisy ones, and you can leave them on all day,” Roden points out.
Look Out Below
We’ve all seen those hilarious public service ads on television — the ones with the unhappy window who begs you not to push him. Those are silly enough to draw laughs when you’re watching Castle but the message is no joke. “Michelle” lives in Sheung Wan with a lovely terrace, and no fewer than five windows in seven years have plummeted and shattered on her level. With typhoon season approaching she’s expecting another one.
“How old the windows are depends on how often you should check them,” begins McLintock, but it doesn’t have to be a pricey exercise. “You do not need a trained person to check them as you can often just do them yourself. If they are leaking or seem not to close correctly then call in a window expert. Aluminium windows from a good quality supplier should last over 20 years.”
But it’s important to note that, aside from being a good neighbour and keeping an eye on the state of your windows’ repair, owners of buildings and their management are required to have Registered Inspectors carry out inspections of buildings over 30 years old. It’s not a request that can be made: it’s the law. “The Mandatory Building Inspection Scheme (MBIS) and Mandatory Window Inspection Scheme (MWIS) were introduced with the enactment of relevant amendments to the Buildings Ordinance through the Buildings (Amendment) Ordinance 2011 in June 2011 and the subsidiary legislation including the Building (Inspection and Repair) Regulation in December 2011. The legislation empowers the Building Authority (BA) to issue statutory notices to owners as necessary requiring them to carry out prescribed inspections and prescribed repairs of their … windows every … 5 years,” says the Buildings Department. When in doubt, call your property management company.
Finally, one of the biggest strains on the power grid at this time of year comes from air conditioning. Regardless of your unit’s efficiency rating and how little you use it, A/C is a costly summer expense that can be mitigated. “If you can install a ceiling fan then please do, as they help a lot with making your A/C more efficient,” states McLintock. Fans cultivate natural ventilation better, a plus given Hong Kong’s notoriously poor indoor air quality.
And running a fan can cut down on energy costs considerably. It costs the same amount of money to run a ceiling fan for 24 hours as it does to run A/C for one; a fan motor consumes as much power as a light bulb. Fans also help circulate air better, making the cool air from the A/C unit go farther, and a well placed fan overnight is just as effective at cooling you down during sleep (and there is no such thing as fan death). There will be days when the icy mechanical chill of an air conditioner is needed, but on the days in between, try and think of what they’d do on the bayou.