NOAA Predicts Widespread Extreme Heat This Summer: 10 Ways to Adapt Your Home and Garden Now
With this record-breaking summer of heat affecting much of the nation, discover ways to stay cool and protect your home and yard.
The heat is on. Much of the U.S. is expected to experience extreme heat this summer, and it’s already happening. Both NOAA’s 2023 Summer Outlook and The Farmers’ Almanac summer forecast warn of a season of record-breaking temperatures that will linger for months and possibly trigger drought, wildfires, tornadoes, heavy storms, and health concerns for those in its path.
Heat waves are nothing new, but this is no ordinary heat wave. Between climate change making heat waves more likely and intense, and the El Niño pattern of warmer sea temperatures now in effect, summer weather extremes are intensified. A big concern is that this new, more dangerous type of heat wave is preventing temperatures from cooling down enough overnight to offer a break. In fact, in some places, overnight temperature records are more frequent or extreme than the daytime records being set for highs.
There are many tips for staying safe and healthy during a heat wave, such as spending time indoors, drinking enough water, limiting outdoor activities to either early or late in the day, and knowing the signs of heatstroke and heat exhaustion. As the air heats up, there are also several ways to adapt your home and garden to help you stay comfortable, protect your home and landscape from damage, and keep electricity bills manageable.
Reduce Energy Use
Electronics, appliances, and lighting not only use up a lot of energy on a daily basis, but they also heat up the home. Take steps to minimize energy consumption during a heat wave to stay cool and cut utility bills, especially during a time when the grid is strained by all the demand.
Turn lights off, run the washing machine only with a full load, dry clothes on a clothesline, only run the dishwasher when it is full, and try to wash more dishes in the sink and let them air dry. Changing settings can also help reduce energy: set the refrigerator temperature between 28 and 42 degrees Fahrenheit, the freezer between 0 and 5 degrees, and the water heater to 120 degrees. For electronics, make sure the television, computer, video game consoles, and cable boxes are switched off or unplugged when not in active use.
Close and Cover Windows
Approximately 76 percent of any sunlight that falls on a standard double-pane window converts to heat that can warm up the home. Fortunately, there is an easy fix. Keep your windows closed tightly and cover them with shades, blinds, shutters, and curtains when the temperature outside spikes. This can help reduce indoor room temperature by as much as 20 degrees. Another option is to install window tinting or use low-emissivity coating to reflect the sun without blocking your view.
Run Ceiling Fans Counterclockwise
A simple trick to cool down rooms is to run the ceiling fans counterclockwise. This blows the air straight down as opposed to up toward the ceiling. With the air blowing down, it creates a wind-chill effect so you can feel cooler. Remember to increase the fan speed as the temperature rises.
Another helpful hack to beat the heat is to cross-ventilate. This helps regulate airflow throughout the home. It involves moving air across a space from one opening—often windows or vents—to another to help cool and refresh the indoor environment. Place one large box fan in front of a window, blower side in, and another fan at the window on the opposite side of the space, blowing outward, to push away warm interior air. Set table fans in between, if necessary, to keep the cool air flowing.
Take the Heat Out of Your Kitchen
Can’t stand the heat? Then get out of the kitchen. There’s a reason for this popular phrase—kitchens can get quite hot when cooking with the oven, stove, and other appliances. Another way to keep cool inside is to take a break from cooking indoors with these heat sources. Instead, head outside and use the grill or opt for cold food options like salads and sandwiches.
Chill Out at Bedtime
Trying to sleep at night in the heat can be frustrating, to say the least. Fortunately, there are ways to stay cool at night. One idea is to sleep with a wet bed sheet or large bath towel. Keep a spray bottle filled with water nearby to refresh the sheets overnight. Another option is to freeze a pillow to sleep on. Bunch up the pillow, put it in a plastic bag, and stick it in the freezer for 10 minutes. Just freezing the pillowcase will suffice. There are also some great products to help beat the heat, like silk bedding or a cooling mat for the family pet.
Adapt Your Yard
While this takes some prep work, it will be worth it when the weather heats up. Implement drought-tolerant landscaping tactics like xeriscaping, use of native plants, rainwater harvesting, and rain gardens to achieve a landscape with low-water needs and minimal maintenance. There is also a wide variety of drought-tolerant plants and grasses from which to choose that handle in hot, dry conditions. These tweaks will help keep your garden thriving even during the extreme heat.
Shade outside can protect the garden, and it can help cool down your home inside. Create shade by adding trees, shrubs, awnings, shade cloth, umbrellas, and pergolas. It is most effective to add shade along the southern exposure where most sunlight occurs during the day.
One of the best ways to ensure that your garden survives a heat wave is to have an irrigation system. Using a soaker hose—a garden hose with tiny pores to seep water into the soil—delivers the water effectively and efficiently. This way, the water is less prone to evaporation than when sprayed by a regular sprinkler. Set a timer and be sure to follow all local water restrictions.
Add a Water Feature
Water, whether it be a pool or backyard pond, helps cool things down. For example, when the water evaporates from the surface of a pond, it reduces heat and helps cool the surrounding air a bit. Some ideas for incorporating water into your backyard include both regular-size pools and plunge pools, fishponds, water bowls, fountains, garden waterfalls, birdbaths, and water walls.