Tornadoes, hurricanes, and other severe weather can cause widespread and long-lasting power outages. Here in the Tennessee Valley, we rely on our air conditioners for much of the year and staying cool without electricity can be a serious challenge. In fact, in addition to the dangers caused by high winds, flooding, and lightning, heat itself can be a deadly threat in the aftermath of storms. We want to help you keep your home comfortable and safe no matter what the weather brings, so to help you prepare for the severe weather season, here are some tips on staying cool when the power goes out.
See Also: Reliable Weather App
Preparing for an Outage
There are some things you can do before severe weather threatens to make it easier to keep your home cool when the power goes out. And some of these preparations will also help you save energy on cooling when the air conditioner is working, too.
- For your windows, you can put up heat-blocking curtains or reflective blinds. Keep them closed during the day, especially on east and west facing windows.
- Installing energy-efficient windows can keep out the sun’s heat during summer—and hold in warmth better in the winter.
- Awnings that shade the windows can be very effective at keeping heat out.
- Trees that shade your home can keep the heat down as well, but the benefit of shade has to be weighed against the danger of a falling tree.
- Purchasing a generator, especially if severe weather and power outages are common in your area. Generators come in a range of sizes, types, and prices, so you’ll need to do some research to find out which one is right for you. It’ll take a larger generator to actually run a central air conditioner, but smaller ones may be able to run electric fans, which can make a big difference for keeping cool. Be sure to carefully follow all the manufacturer’s instructions for safety’s sake.
- If you’re not able to use a generator to run electric fans, the next best option is battery-powered fans. Even though they’re smaller, they can still help to evaporate sweat or mist from your skin and cool you down. Because let’s face it—with the humidity we have here in Alabama, if the air isn’t moving, sweat doesn’t always evaporate and cool you down very well!
- There are special cooling towels and bandanas available that can be soaked in water and then will stay cool for several hours. You might want to consider adding some of those to your severe weather preparedness kit, too.
During an Outage
So, once the power has gone out, what can you do to keep cool? First of all, use your common sense.
- Dress in light, cool clothing made of cotton or other sweat-wicking fabric.
- Stay out of the sun as much as possible, and especially avoid activity during the hottest hours of the day—usually around 1-4 PM.
- Drink plenty of water and sports drinks with electrolytes, and avoid caffeine and alcohol, which can dehydrate you.
- Keep your windows closed and blinds drawn during the day.
- After dark, when the temperature drops, open the windows if it’s safe to do so. It’s best if you can create a cross-breeze by opening windows across from each other. Just be sure to close those windows by dawn so you can trap the cooler air inside and not let more heat in.
- As a general rule, the lower, more interior rooms of your home will be cooler during the day than the higher rooms and those with more exterior walls.
- While you never want to shut off rooms of your house while running your HVAC system, when the power is out, you may want to shut off those hotter rooms so their heat doesn’t get into the rest of the house.
- If your home’s bedrooms are on an upper floor, you may want to set up a temporary sleeping area downstairs. If you have basement, it will likely stay the coolest part of your home. But watch out for flooding!
- If you have safe running water, use it to cool off. A cold shower, a dip in a swimming pool, or just a wet towel on the back of your neck can be very helpful in cooling you down. And of course if you have special cooling towels or bandanas, use those. You can also use a spray bottle of water to mist your arms and face. Just make sure it’s a clean bottle that’s never contained anything but water.
- If you have access to ice and some sort of fan, whether electric or battery-operated, you can set it up so that the fan blows across a bowl of ice. This can create an air-conditioning effect in a small area.
- If the humidity is low enough or you have a fan, you can create an evaporative cooling effect by soaking a sheet with cold water, hanging it up in a doorway or in front of a window, and letting air blow across it until it’s dry.
Hopefully, you’ll never find yourself without electricity for a long period in the heat of summer, but it never hurts to be prepared! With a good plan and some preparation, you can help yourself and your family stay cool and comfortable until the power comes back on.