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What to Do During a Heat Advisory

Every summer in Portland, there is a possibility of a heat advisory. 

A heat advisory is an alert issued by weather agencies to warn the public about potentially dangerous heat conditions. Such advisories typically indicate that the heat index—a measure that combines air temperature and humidity—will be dangerously high, making it critical to take precautionary measures.

Sweltering temperatures can put anyone at risk – but especially young children, the elderly, people with medical conditions, and those working outside. 

Even if you have air conditioning, there is always a possibility of power outages. Understanding what to do during a heat advisory is vital for ensuring safety and comfort.

Preparing Your Home for Summer Heat

Proper preparation is key to maintaining a cool and comfortable home during peak summer months, especially during heat advisories. You don’t want your air conditioner to have issues during a heat wave. Follow these essential tips to ensure your home is ready for the heat.

Basic Air Conditioner Maintenance:

  • Inspect and Clean Filters: Replace or clean the AC filters regularly (every 1-2 months) to ensure efficient airflow and cooling.
  • Check Thermostat Settings: Ensure your thermostat is functioning correctly and set it to a comfortable temperature, ideally around 78°F when you’re at home.
  • Clean Coils and Fins: Dirt and debris can accumulate on the coils and fins of your AC unit, reducing its efficiency. Clean them carefully or hire a professional to do it.
  • Inspect Ductwork: Have professional HVAC technicians check for any leaks or blockages in your ductwork that could impede airflow and cooling efficiency.
  • Schedule Professional Maintenance: Have a licensed HVAC technician conduct a thorough inspection and tune-up of your AC system to ensure it’s operating at peak performance.

Improve Home Energy Efficiency

  • Seal Gaps and Cracks: Inspect and seal any gaps or cracks around windows and doors to keep cool air in and hot air out.
  • Install Weatherstripping: Apply weatherstripping around doors and windows to improve insulation.
  • Attic Insulation: Ensure your attic is well-insulated to prevent heat from entering your living spaces.
  • Wall Insulation: Check and improve insulation in your walls if necessary to enhance overall cooling efficiency.
  • Use Ceiling Fans: Ceiling fans can help circulate air and reduce the strain on your AC. Make sure they are set to rotate counterclockwise during the summer to push cool air down.
  • Install Blinds or Shades: Use blinds, shades, or curtains to block out direct sunlight during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Shade Trees and Awnings: Plant shade trees or install awnings to block direct sunlight from hitting your home, reducing indoor temperatures.
  • Clear Debris: Remove any debris or plants around your outdoor AC unit to ensure proper airflow.

Additional Tips

  • Smart Thermostats: Invest in a programmable or smart thermostat to optimize cooling schedules and save energy.
  • Energy Audits: Consider having an energy audit performed to identify areas where your home may be losing energy and how to improve efficiency.

By taking these steps, you can help ensure your home stays comfortable during a heat advisory.

Basic Precautions

The specific criteria for issuing a heat advisory can vary by region. 

Still, generally, it involves a heat index reaching or exceeding a certain threshold (often around 100-105°F or 37-40°C) for a prolonged period, typically over one day. 

When a heat advisory is issued, it’s essential to follow basic precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones:

  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Dehydration can occur quickly in high temperatures.
  • Avoid Strenuous Activities: Limit outdoor activities, especially during the peak heat hours between 10 AM and 4 PM.
  • Wear Appropriate Clothing: Opt for lightweight, loose-fitting, and light-colored clothing to stay cool. Hats and sunglasses are also advisable to protect against the sun.
  • Use Sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to protect your skin from harmful UV rays.

Routines to Put in Place

Creating a daily routine to keep your home cool can help mitigate the impact of excessive heat:

  • Open Windows at Night: Take advantage of cooler nighttime air by opening windows and allowing fresh air to circulate.
  • Use Fans Strategically: Position fans near windows or hallways to create cross-ventilation. Ceiling fans can also help distribute cooler air.
  • Close Blinds During the Day: Keep blinds, curtains, or shades closed to block out direct sunlight and reduce indoor temperatures.
  • Limit Oven Use: Avoid using ovens and stoves, as they can add unnecessary heat to your home. Opt for no-cook meals or use microwave ovens instead. Consider prepping meals at cooler times of the day.
  • Check on Others: Ensure that family members, friends, and neighbors, especially those who are vulnerable, are safe and cool.

Home Cooling Solutions

For homes without central air conditioning, several affordable and effective solutions can help maintain a cool environment:

  • Ice and Fans: Place a bowl of ice in front of a fan to create a DIY air conditioning effect.
  • Homemade Cool Zones: Identify the coolest room in your house and create a “cool zone” by using fans and portable air conditioners.
  • Portable Air Conditioners and Evaporative Coolers: Investing in portable air conditioners or evaporative coolers can provide significant relief during a heat advisory. These devices are often more energy-efficient and easier to install than central AC units.

Inspections and Maintenance

Regular inspections and maintenance of your cooling appliances can ensure they function efficiently when needed most:

  • Air Conditioning Units: Check and replace air filters regularly. Ensure that the unit is free from debris and that the condenser coils are clean.
  • Fans and Portable Coolers: Clean fan blades and ensure that all parts are functioning correctly. Replace any worn-out components to maintain optimal performance.

Water and Food Storage

Proper storage of water and food is crucial during a heat advisory, especially if there’s a risk of power outages or rolling brownouts:

  • Water Storage: Store at least one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days. Consider keeping bottled water in a cool, dark place.
  • Food Storage: Keep a stock of non-perishable food items that do not require cooking. Avoid opening refrigerators and freezers frequently to maintain their cold temperature.

AC Outage During Heat Wave

Experiencing an air conditioning outage during a heat wave can be daunting. Here’s what to do:

  • Immediate Repairs: Contact a professional technician as soon as possible to diagnose and repair the issue.
  • Community Cooling Centers: Many communities establish cooling centers during heat advisories. These are air-conditioned spaces open to the public, providing temporary relief from the heat.
  • Temporary Solutions: Stay cool while waiting for repairs by using fans, ice packs, and wet clothes. Spend time in the coolest part of your home, and avoid physical exertion.

Handling Price Gouging

Unfortunately, price gouging on essential items like windows or portable air conditioning units can occur during heat waves. Here’s how to handle it:

  • Know Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with local laws regarding price gouging. Many jurisdictions have regulations that prevent excessive price increases during emergencies.
  • Report Incidents: If you suspect price gouging, report it to your state’s attorney general’s office or consumer protection agency. Provide detailed information, including the item, price, and location.
  • Shop Smart: Research prices from multiple retailers before purchasing. Consider online options and community sales to find fair-priced alternatives.

Staying Informed and Prepared

Understanding how to stay safe and cool during a heat advisory is paramount as we navigate through the summer months. From basic precautions to advanced cooling solutions and dealing with potential challenges, being prepared can make all the difference. 

Our Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning consultants will evaluate your home to ensure you have the best AC for your home and comfort during heat advisories. You can schedule a tune-up for your existing system, get on a maintenance plan or we can guide you through the decision-making process as you find the HVAC system that works best for you. 

No matter what you need we’re always just a phone call away.

About the Author

Amanda Jacobs portrait

Amanda Jacobs, Internal Project Manager

Amanda Jacobs is an Internal Projects Manager and 3rd generation member of Jacobs Heating & Air Conditioning. She received her MBA from Seattle University and has worked for a leading HVAC training and consulting firm. When not talking HVAC on the Jacobs Blog, you can find her on the golf course or whipping up her famous vegan chili.