On August 16, the Death Valley temperature index recorded a measurement of 130 degrees Fahrenheit, and the outlook for the rest of the week isn't much more promising, with the heat wave set to continue for days. Granted, the temperature may not achieve record highs as it did on Sunday, but an excessive heat warning is still in effect for Death Valley, with forecast highs of 117 to 125 over the next 10-day period.
Of course, Death Valley is no stranger to extreme heat, what with it being located in the northern Mojave Desert and getting very little rainfall. The area typically averages over 100 degrees between June and September, and it comes close in May. But Sunday's reading in Death Valley may be the highest recorded temperature our planet has ever experienced. (We can perhaps thank global warming for that.) And in July, it reached 128 degrees -- talk about one intense heat index.
Now to be fair, as of this writing, that 130-degree temperature still needs to be verified by the National Weather Service. But regardless of whether a world record was just set in Death Valley, it's clear that homeowners in the area need to take steps to protect themselves and their properties. Here's how to prepare your home for a heat wave -- whether you live in Death Valley or any part of the country that's often under a heat advisory.
1. Have a backup power source
Periods of very high heat can drain the local power grid, causing brownouts or even blackouts. And when you're talking about dangerous heat, the last thing you want is to be left in the dark with no way to run an air conditioner or even a fan. That's why investing in a generator could make a lot of sense, especially if you live someplace where the temperature tends to be high to begin with.
Now you have two choices in this regard: a standby generator that's wired into your home and can potentially power your entire house or a portable generator that you fill up with gas and use to power an appliance or two. A standby generator is the far more expensive option, and you'll need a permit to have one installed, but usually, standby generators can power an air conditioner (even central air) when you're off the grid. A portable generator will let you run a fan or two, but it may have trouble powering a wall unit air conditioner. If you live someplace comparable to Death Valley where the average temperature during the summer is very high, then a standby generator could be a worthwhile investment.
2. Invest in an attic fan
An attic fan can help draw hot air out of your attic to keep your house cool during periods of extreme temperature. If you live in an area where the weather gets really hot, this modest investment could be crucial to getting through a heat wave.
3. Use reflective window film to block out heat
Reflective window film is fairly inexpensive, but it serves the important purpose of reducing the amount of heat and glare that can otherwise seep in through your windows.You can find window film at your local hardware store and install it yourself easily.
4. Install reflective coating on your roof
Roof coating works similarly to window film in that it minimizes the amount of heat that would otherwise beat down on your home. Unlike window film, you may need a professional to install reflective coating on your roof.
Of course, most of these solutions require advance planning. Chances are, you can't have roof coating or a standby generator installed on a whim. But if a heat alert is unexpectedly announced in your area, there are some additional steps you can take to get through it:
- Close all window shades and blinds.
- Hunker down in your home's lowest level, whether it's the ground floor or your basement. Heat rises, so the lower part of your home is apt to be cooler.
- Keep upstairs doors closed and run a fan in each room to circulate cool air. That will make your bedrooms more comfortable when you go to sleep.
Most areas won't experience the same extreme heat as Death Valley, seeing as how it's the hottest place in the entire country, but it never hurts to be prepared for ultra-high temperatures, especially if you live someplace with a warm climate to begin with. The better you gear up for a period of intense heat, the less stressed you'll be when you're actually faced with one.