How to Prepare Your Home for Severe Summer Storms
Fifteen ways you can help keep you and your home protected.
The "dog days of summer" are usually the hottest and most unbearable days of the season for those living in the northern hemisphere. Meteorologists are predicting a hotter July and August and also more severe summer storms, which can bring lightening, high winds, tornadoes, hurricanes, and even cause power outages.
These changes in weather patterns can have a big impact on homes, communities and the technicians serving them. For example, when high temperatures precede a severe storm, as it often does, a home's Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) network and the local electric grid runs on overdrive. Both are responding to the weather and balancing comfort in the home.
“When heat waves hit, especially the first few ones of the summer, our phone lines get slammed,” says Britton Swanson of Milestone Home Service Co., based in Dallas. “An air conditioning unit is going from running slow and steady throughout the day, to running multiple times within an hour. If a system isn't properly tuned up, the constant running can cause it to break. Our technicians prepare for this time of the year by stocking trucks with all the parts needed to repair systems in the first visit to avoid leaving the homeowner uncomfortable.”
While you don’t have control over mother nature's timing, you can take the proper precautions to avoid being caught with a home maintenance issue during a heat wave or severe storm.
Storm Prep 101
The hours leading up to a large storm are crucial in preparing your home. The National Weather Service can usually predict a storm 12-24 hours in advance, and sometimes residents have several days to brace for hurricane home preparation. When you get that first weather alert, ensure your family and property are safe by taking immediate action to prepare for severe weather.
Brace for a Power Outage
- 1. Consider investing in a generator. If power gets knocked out from any kind of storm, you may want a back-up energy source. "A whole home generator is another great option for those looking to invest in keeping your home comfortable when the power is out. A home generator runs on your existing natural gas or LP fuel supply and is connected to your main power line so that at the moment your power shuts off, your generator automatically turns on and begins supplying power in the home,” adds Swanson.
- 2. Install a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm. In the event of a power outage, refrain from using charcoal grills or camp stoves indoors as these are sources of CO and can lead to a build-up of the toxic gas in confided areas. Make sure to install First Alert CO alarms to help ensure you and your family are alerted to dangerous levels of CO.
- 3. Charge your phone and your battery pack. Connectivity in severe weather is critical. Keep your phone charged up before a storm hits to ensure you don’t lose contact, and always be prepared in case power is lost by keeping a battery pack.
4. Prepare a storm kit. In case of any damage or outages that may leave you vulnerable, you’ll want to have the necessities on hand. Your storm-prep kit should include:
- Shelf-stable food
- Bottled water
- First aid kit
- Backup battery
- Solar powered fans
- Cell phone charger
- 5. Ensure your bathtub is filled with water. In the event that your community's sewage lines become damaged from a tornado or hurricane, damaged sewage lines can contaminate your drinking or cleaning water. If you fill your bathtub with water, it can be used to flush the toilet, for drinking or cooking. Or, if the power goes out and your home is on a well system, the water pump may not work as designed so the tub water could suffice until power was restored.
Help Protect your Home
- 6. Check your HVAC filter. While you likely won't have enough notice to contact an HVAC professional and schedule an official air conditioner tune-up appointment ahead of a storm, you can at least ensure your HVAC filter is clean so that your system, when running continuously, is running optimally.
- 7. Check down spouts. Place a water leak detector in susceptible areas inside your home, and make sure your gutter's downspouts and extenders are connected and secured so they will not detach during the torrential downpour.
- 8. Clear your yard. Ensure that all patio furniture, plants, lights, or anything you do not want to be damaged gets moved into shelter.
Swanson recommends pre-season tune-up appointments to keep the HVAC system running smoothly.
- 9. Board up your windows before a hurricane. With high tropical winds, your glass windows become vulnerable. Installing seven-inch-thick plywood could prevent any indoor damage and save you money.
Following a Big Storm
After a severe storm has passed, its impact on your home – and your family’s mindset – may still linger.
- 10. Have Empathy. When severe weather strikes, service professionals (i.e., electricians, HVAC contractors, etc.,) can sometimes take several days to service, and several weeks to install parts. "Did you know many HVAC companies wait to purchase your equipment until you order it? While this might make sense to the company, it leaves the homeowner without a system until it arrives," Swanson said. "If you experience an HVAC system breakdown, resulting in the need to purchase a new system, be sure to research the company you call. The right company will have systems on hand and have next-day installation as an option."
- 11. Report any insurance claims quickly. Check your insurance company’s storm damage coverage and document any damage that may have occurred.
- 12. Speak to your kids about storm safety. Explain to your kids how storms work, and while they can be dangerous, there are many ways we can prepare for them. Have a designated place you and your family can go to in case of severe weather, and ensure your storm-prep kit is located in this designated spot.
- 13. Enroll your smart thermostat in an energy-saving program. To reduce your home’s energy during peak energy consumption timeframes, many local utilities offer a program you can enroll in that will lessen the impact on the electrical grid and help thwart rolling blackouts.
- 14. Research water-conservation methods. While some areas of the country have severe thunderstorms, others are experiencing severe rain droughts. If you live in a water-conscious area, consider upgrading your gutters by adding a rain barrel, which can conserve and hold 65-85 gallons of rainwater. You can use this rainwater to feed your plants or for multi-purpose, outside cleaning.
- 15. Consider installing whole home surge protector. While the odds of a home getting struck by lightning are a million to one, a whole home surge protector can help protect your home, and your variable-speed furnace, from a sudden surge in power from your utility due to storm damage. It's also designed to block the electricity surge of a lightning strike from entering home circuits and protect against lightning strikes.
You don't want to be caught off guard by unpredictable weather. Planning and taking the right steps can help you brace for these severe summer storms. One of the best ways to make sure your home and its critical, comfort-making appliances are ready, is to schedule a pre-season tune-up appointment with your local HVAC professional. Learn more at Resideo.com/FindApro.