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What we did

 When we bought the house it didn't have an air conditioner and we didn't fit one. We wanted to see if we could retrofit a 1920s house to work well enough not to need one. So, we did the obvious things: insulated, fitted better windows, built in cross-draughts, shaded the windows with bamboo blinds. When we extended, we fitted large horizontal sliding windows (rather than wind-out awnings) in the living room, and lockable fly-wire/security doors on most of the external doors to allow cool air to come in at night. A nice side-benefit of the upstairs study that was part of the extension is that the stairwell and french doors upstairs together act as a chimney, sucking out the hot air at the end of the day and pulling in cool air through the doors and windows. The Melbourne climate can get very hot during the day (35-40 degrees) but usually cools down to below 20 at night. As the house is weatherboard it doesn't hold heat like brick or stone, and can be chilled right down overnighth for the next day. We really only have an unpleasant time on the few nights each summer when the night time temperature doesn't drop. And then one can sleep with a fan running.

Recently we have replaced most of the bamboo blinds with canvas blinds. These block out almost all light and have made a noticeable difference. We have also fitted a roof exhaust (just a passive spinning cowl) to remove some of the very hot air that builds up under the tiles.

What we should have done

We look at the new bifold windows that are now available and think that we could have exposed larger openings in the walls than we did. But what we have works pretty well. 

What we are considering now

We are considering fitting clerestory windows up high in a couple of the rooms to help with the evacuation of hot air. Another approach might be ceiling vents (that we could close in winter, of course).