How to Prepare Your Home for Summer Heat & Wildfires
Ahhh summer! It’s the season for backyard barbecues, leisurely afternoons by the pool, and hiding out in the shade (or the air conditioning) to beat the heat. Triple digits are nothing new in the greater Sacramento area, and most locals know how to keep cool during the season’s heat waves.
Summer, especially late summer, also brings wildfires to California. Historically, wildfires peak from July–October, but drought conditions mean fires can break out any time of year. And while keeping yourself and your family safe from both heat, fires and smoke is the most important thing, protecting your home is also crucial. By following a few best practices, it’s possible to get your home ready for summer heat and wildfires.
Preparing Your Home for Summer Heat
In the greater Sacramento area, there’s no better ally against the heat than a well-functioning air conditioner. As temperatures soar, it’s important to make sure that your methods of cooling your home are as effective as possible. Adding insulation may not be the first thing that comes to mind when prepping your home for the summer heat, but it will help prevent cool air from leaking outside and hot air from entering. If your insulation is out of date, now is the time to make replacements as needed.
Windows are another culprit for air leaks, which commonly form between the window frame and the frame of the house. Filling these cracks with caulking between the frame and the exterior siding can help keep your home cool. If your windows are exposed to prolonged periods of direct sunlight, consider placing an awning or screen shades above the exterior side to provide some relief from the radiating heat. Thermal curtains can also help.
Air conditioning can be a lifesaver during summer. There are two main options when it comes to air conditioning: either a window unit or central cooling — or both! Window units are the least expensive option and offer portability. It’s important to choose a unit that is the right size for your home or the room you’re trying to cool. One that’s too big will quickly cool your space and then shut off completely. This can increase your energy bills and put unnecessary wear on the unit. An undersized unit simply won’t cool your home and will constantly run to try to reach the target temperature. With central air conditioning, homeowners can expect much higher startup costs. But once installed, central AC provides short- and long-term comfort and adds to your home’s value. In the greater Sacramento area, central air conditioning is a must.
Summer is a good time to check your HVAC unit’s air filters and to replace intake filters if needed. Turn the unit off before performing any maintenance. If any devices that give off heat are close enough to the thermostat that regulates the AC, they could generate an incorrect reading, which could throw off your air conditioning efficiency. For maximum efficiency, place these devices away from the thermostat.
Preparing Your Home for Wildfires
The first step in preparing your home for wildfires is to have an emergency plan. Make sure everyone in your household is aware of what to do in the event of a wildfire. Pack an emergency kit to bring with you in the event of an evacuation. For homeowners who live outside a fire zone, consider buying an air purifier to protect yourself from smoke. It’s also a good idea to stock up on filters for your HVAC unit now, before the smoke hits. A clogged filter can slow down the efficiency of your system and release harmful particles into your home.
To give yourself the best chances of keeping wildfires from getting too close to your home, create defensive space. Keep all flammable objects away from the house, preferably at least thirty feet. Clear your gutters of debris such as leaves, twigs and sticks. These materials are tinder for fire. Any flammable vegetation within five feet of the home should be cleared away, and any trees that overhang close to the home should be cut back to a distance of ten feet. Remove any dead plants or vegetation from your yard and keep your lawn short. Install mesh screens over exterior vents to prevent embers from entering your home.
It’s also important to consider your home’s construction, especially with regard to the roof. If you don’t already have a fire-safe roof, it’s a good idea to consider replacing it with a Class A-rated roof with noncombustible coverings. The same goes for exterior siding. Another prevention tip is to replace landscaping with fire-smart landscaping. Consider low-resin and low-oil plants, plants that shed bark or needles, and trees and plants with open-growth structures. And of course, be sure to maintain landscaping and clear dead limbs, branches and combustible mulches. Other tips are offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Cal Fire.
This may seem like a daunting list, but these preparatory measures are worth it to protect your home and loved ones this summer. Once you’ve taken these steps, you can enjoy your summer days at home knowing you’re prepared.
Post courtesy, in part, by Sandy Dodge, Windermere Real Estate