The heat wave that has walloped the Midwest over the past few days is expected to encompass the East Coast by the end of the week. The National Weather Service issued either an excessive heat warning or a heat advisory for portions of 20 states on Tuesday. According to NWS statistics, the heat index reached temperatures of over 100 degrees in many cities, with the hardest hit areas suffering from a heat index value of more than 125 degrees.
The NWS says heat waves like this one spell danger for many Americans, as “heat is the number one weather related killer in the United States.” Excessively hot temperatures such as these are particularly unhealthy for the elderly, children under the age of four, people who take certain medications, and pets. Heat related illnesses become common during summer’s heat and include dizziness, nausea, headaches, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and life threatening heatstroke.
Experts say that several factors have combined to make this week’s heat wave especially threatening. Humidity levels are high, contributing to heat index values by making the already hot temperatures feel even hotter. In addition, nighttime temperatures are also abnormally high which means there is little relief to be expected after dark. And, finally, the severe heat is expected to last for several days.
Any time temperatures spike, energy usage increases as well. Often, cities have difficulty meeting energy needs during extremely high summer temperatures, and some have experienced blackouts when the energy supply temporarily runs out. Although energy conservation is a concern during heat wave conditions, keeping cool and avoiding heat related illnesses should be a priority.
As for energy conservation, there are things you can do but just remember that your safety should take priority. First, if possible, set your thermostat at 76, or even better, 78 degrees. If this sounds too warm for you, try using a fan in addition to your air conditioner. Fans use much less energy than an air conditioner, and they make the temperature in your home feel cooler by circulating the air. Also, be sure that your windows are covered. Close blinds and heavy drapes to help keep your home from heating up.
Although it isn’t fashionable, reflective window covers will help radiate the heat away from your home. Cardboard cut to fit the windows will also do the trick in a pinch. Also, take steps to cool your garage, as it can leach cooler air from the rest of your house. Close your garage door but leave a small gap between the door of about six inches to let in some ventilation. Finally, turn off any electronic devices that aren’t necessary; computers, televisions, lights. These create a lot of heat that radiate into your home. You will be surprised at how much you can reduce your cooling costs just by turning off unnecessary electronics and lighting.
Perhaps the most important advice for dealing with this week’s excessively hot weather is to slow down and listen to your body. The current high temperatures aren’t expected to subside anytime soon. In fact, temperatures of over 90 degrees have been predicted for 40 of 50 states by Friday. Stay indoors, postpone strenuous projects and outdoor exercise, and drink plenty of water, until cooler weather returns. You can save energy during this heat wave, but take care of yourself and your family first.
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