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How to Prepare Your Home for a Heat Wave According to an Expert

A woman is hot inside

Summer is here, and with it comes the possibility of scorching heat waves. While, of course, you can avoid going outside, how is that heat wave going to affect your home? Much like when you winterize your home, you also need to prepare your home for a heat wave.

But how? LifeSavvy spoke with Traci Fournier, Vice President of Operations at One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning to find out how to make sure your home can handle a heatwave.

Check Your AC Unit

Someone checks their AC unit

When it comes to combating extreme heat, your air conditioning system is your best friend. To ensure it’s up to the task, Fournier recommends giving it a thorough inspection as soon as possible.

To clean your AC unit, Fournier advises first clear dirt and debris from the outdoor unit. Removing obstructions will help the unit do its job correctly and cut down on energy usage over time.

Next, Fournier recommends spraying the outside of the unit to remove the remaining dirt and debris. You can also use a broom to clear off any spiderwebs, dirt, and other buildup. Finally, replace your AC’s air filters.

Outdoor Broom

A great broom for indoor and outdoor use.

“Keeping air quality high is majorly important when it is too hot to open the windows for increased circulation,” Fournier said. “Always check your AC unit’s manufacturer manual for proper guidance and usage tips as you swap out the filter.”

Be sure to check for frayed wires or signs of damage as well. If you don’t want to do the work yourself, you can also schedule a professional inspection before the heat wave hits. A trained technician will clean the filters, check the refrigerant levels, and make sure everything is functioning optimally.

Buy Fans or Portable AC Units Early

A blue fan inside a home
New Africa/Shutterstock.com

You’ve seen the news when an upcoming heat wave is announced. Most people are not prepared for this event, and stores often sell out of fans, AC units, and even ice in the days leading up to soaring temperatures. If you live somewhere that is likely to experience a heat wave, it’s a good idea to buy some of those appliances now and avoid the stress later.

Start by assessing your cooling needs and researching different models that meet your requirements. Consider factors like room size, energy efficiency, and customer reviews. Set a budget and explore various fan types such as ceiling fans, tower fans, pedestal fans, or desk fans.

Lasko Oscillating Pedestal Fan

Three different speeds allows this to cool any room.

For more intense cooling, consider portable AC units and evaluate factors like cooling capacity, energy efficiency, and additional features. Once purchased, position your devices strategically and regularly maintain them to ensure the best performance.

Portable Air Conditioner

Stay cool and comfortable all summer long.

“Set your thermostat to a reasonable, cool temperature and try to avoid dialing it all the way down in the heat,” said Fournier. “Keep ceiling fans running and blinds partially closed to retain the cool temperatures without overworking your AC unit.”

Learn How to Stay Cool Without AC

Someone drinks a glass of ice water
Dmitry Galaganov/Shutterstock.com

If you want to be prepared for a heat wave, it’s wise to learn some cooling techniques that don’t rely on air conditioning alone. Here are a few ways you can stay cool without AC.

Embrace Natural Ventilation

During cooler hours, take advantage of natural ventilation by opening your windows and allowing fresh air to circulate throughout your home. Create a cross-breeze by strategically opening windows on opposite sides of your living space. Consider using window fans to enhance airflow and draw in cool air from outside. To prevent hot air from entering, close windows and shades as soon as it begins to warm up outside.

Opt for Breathable Fabrics

The choice of bedding and clothing can make a big difference in your comfort level during hot weather, especially at night. Swap out heavy fabrics like flannel or polyester for lightweight and breathable materials like cotton or linen. These natural fibers allow air to circulate around your body, keeping you cooler and more comfortable.

Bedsure Cooling Sheets Set

These sheets are perfect for hot sleepers.

Create a DIY Cooling System

Get creative and make your own DIY cooling system. Place a bowl of ice or a cold water bottle in front of a fan to create a refreshing breeze. You can also hang a damp sheet in front of an open window or use a spray bottle filled with chilled water to mist yourself periodically.

Limit Heat-Generating Activities

Certain activities can generate heat within your home, making it harder to stay cool. During the hottest parts of the day, minimize the use of heat-generating appliances like ovens, stoves, and dryers. Instead, opt for lighter meals that require less cooking, like salads or sandwiches. Use outdoor spaces for cooking or grilling when possible to prevent adding extra heat to your home.

nutribullet Personal Blender

Smoothies make great lunches on hot days.

Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is essential during a heat wave. Prepare your home by stocking up on an ample supply of water bottles or investing in a water filtration system. Fill a jug with ice water and keep it in the fridge for easy access. Staying hydrated not only keeps you cool but can also prevent heat-related illnesses.

Owala FreeSip Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle with Straw

An insulated water bottle keeps your drinks cool all day long.

Weatherproof Your Home

To keep your home cool during a heat wave, it’s important to prevent hot air from seeping in. Inspect your doors, windows, and any potential gaps or leaks. Weatherstripping or caulking can help seal these areas, keeping the cool air in and the hot air out.

LEMOMO Blackout Curtains

Keep your home cool without any energy costs.

Learn the Signs of Heat-Related Health Issues

A woman is very hot inside

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are serious conditions that can result from prolonged exposure to high temperatures. It’s important to know how to recognize them in yourself and others so you can take action and avoid dangerous health situations.

Heat exhaustion is a type of heat-related illness that happens when the body becomes dehydrated and can’t regulate its internal temperature effectively. Common signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, fatigue or weakness, dizziness or lightheadedness, nausea or vomiting, headache, muscle cramps or weakness, pale, cool, or moist skin, rapid heartbeat, fainting, or loss of consciousness in severe cases.

If you suspect someone has heat exhaustion, you’ll need to act quickly to prevent it from progressing to heat stroke. Move the person to a cool, shaded area, have them rest, and provide them with cool water or sports drinks. If possible, you can apply cool, wet cloths to their skin or help them take a cool shower to lower their body temperature. If their symptoms do not improve within 30 minutes, seek medical attention.

BODYARMOR LYTE Sports Drink Low-Calorie Sports Beverage

Stay hydrated and help others stay hydrated during hot weather.

Heatstroke is a severe, life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. It occurs when the body’s temperature regulation system fails, and the internal temperature rises to dangerous levels. Signs and symptoms of heat stroke include extremely high body temperature (above 103°F), confusion, rapid and shallow breathing, strong, rapid pulse, dry, hot, and flushed skin, lack of sweating, nausea or vomiting, seizures, and loss of consciousness.

Call 911 immediately if you suspect someone is experiencing heat stroke. While waiting for medical help to arrive, move the person to a cooler area, remove any unnecessary clothing, and attempt to cool them down rapidly by applying cool water or covered ice packs to their body. Do not give them fluids to drink unless they are fully conscious and able to swallow.

Rester's Choice Ice Pack for Injuries Reusable

Great to have on hand for emergencies.

A heat wave could hit at any time. Make sure your home is prepared to handle the high temperatures with these tips.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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