Ultimate Home Survival Guide for a Heatwave

woman cooling off in front of a fan

There are few summertime problems more inconvenient and uncomfortable than a broken air conditioner--especially if yours breaks down during a heatwave. Particularly brutal heatwaves without AC can even pose a health risk for some individuals by increasing their chances of obtaining a heat-related illness.

If your air conditioner breaks down during a heatwave, take action fast to preserve your comfort and safety and keep your home from getting any hotter.


When it’s working, your air conditioning system removes heat from your home by absorbing heat from your home’s air and transferring it outdoors. Without a working air conditioner, you need to do whatever you can to avoid generating or allowing heat indoors.

The first you should do (after calling an HVAC technician) is ensure that all of your windows and exterior doors are closed. This will prevent warmth from leaking in and what conditioned air you have left from leaking out. Next, close your blinds and curtains over any windows or glass doors through which direct sunlight enters. This may not seem like it would do much, but in fact, 76 percent of the sunlight falling on a standard double pane window becomes heat inside your home!

After attending to your doors and windows, shut off any appliances or electronics that you don’t need that give off a lot of heat. A desktop computer is a prime example. Incandescent lightbulbs can also emit quite a bit of heat (compared to LEDs), so you may want to turn off lamps and light fixtures with these bulbs. Until you can get your system repaired, avoid using your stove and oven, and only use your dishwasher and washing machine if you can run them on a “cold-water-only” cycle.


Prolonged exposure to heat can make people susceptible to heat exhaustion and heatstroke, particularly small children and senior citizens. If you're able to leave your home and stay somewhere cooler, that's typically your best option. However, while you're waiting at home for an HVAC technician to fix your system, you'll need some ways to keep cool and safe.

1. Stay Hydrated

When your body is hydrated, it can better regulate its temperature. Drink plenty of cold water or low-sugar beverages with electrolytes. Keep in mind that certain drinks consumed in excess can actually dehydrate you, such as those containing caffeine or alcohol.

2. Create a Wind-Chill Effect with Electric Fans

Fans don't remove heat from the air, but they can help remove heat from your body. Ceiling fans can make a room feel several degrees cooler as long as they rotate counterclockwise. If you plan to sit in one place for a while, try this: fill a large bowl (a big mixing bowl will do) with ice or ice packs, and place it in front of a fan. When the fan blows across the ice, the air will feel colder!

3. Use Cold Water and Wet Cloths Strategically

When you're burning up, you'll get much-needed relief by putting cold, wet cloths on your neck and wrists and misting your face and body with a spray bottle. You can also fill up your bathtub or a bucket with ice water let your feet soak--you'll be surprised by how much this helps cool down the rest of your body!

4. Dress for the Occasion

Avoid your blue jeans and long sleeves. The most comfortable clothing for hot temperatures is loose-fitting and lightweight.

5. Limit Physical Activity

Without AC, it will be easy to work up a sweat fast, and it will take a while to cool down. What’s more, strenuous exertion during high temperatures increases your risk for heat exhaustion. Postpone any unnecessary physical activity until after your AC gets up and running.


Whenever heatwaves occur, HVAC technicians are always busy repairing air conditioners--but why? The main reason is that many air conditioners are not regularly maintained. Without maintenance, their components loosen, collect dust and dirt, lose lubrication, and accumulate wear and tear. When summer comes, and poorly maintained air conditioners are put to the test against a heatwave, it's not uncommon for them to struggle, overheat, and fail.

Besides making sure your AC gets annual maintenance, you can also help your AC by doing some of the things we talked about earlier:

  • Use your ceiling fans.

  • Keep your windows covered

  • Avoid using or doing things that produce heat until the temperatures go down in the evening.

Call our friendly team at Albright's Mechanical Services today at (410) 834-0148 for help with your air conditioner! We offer 24-hour emergency services.

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