Right now Pacific Northwest residents are more concerned about how to keep cool rather than what's baking their communities -- man-made global warming or Mother Nature turning up the thermostat.
In a region where average temperatures rarely reach the 70s, most homes are not equipped with air conditioning. That's left households unprepared for a record-breaking heat wave with, in some cases, triple-digit temperatures slow roasting the region for a week.
Portland Airport reached 101 degrees Sunday, smashing the old June 25th mark of 95 set back in 1987. Temperatures normally range between 40 and 65 and the warmest days don't typically arrive until August.
Earlier this month, the National Weather Service added Portland to the list of 14 other metropolitan areas where the weather service provides a customized Heat Health Watch/Warning System used to inform the public to take action to avoid health risks associated with unusually high heat.
The region's sweltering weather is an opportune time to circumvent global warming non-believers' knee jerk "No-way-am-I-responsible" attitudes as well as true-believers' repulsive doom-and-gloom approach, by turning attention to common sense actions that can help anyone chill out.
No matter which side you take, efforts to be cool are also measures that reduce reliance upon burning fossil fuels -- even if you don't think that habit is responsible for the growing number of unusual weather patterns.
Here's how to keep your cool without air conditioners and without fooling around with Mother Nature too much.
- Call your local utility for an energy audit to determine where you need to tighten up, repair or replace for maximum energy savings. A tighter home is warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer with less energy use.
- Button up your home. Install reflective white or light colored drapes, curtains, window shades, awnings, shutters, louvers or other covers you can keep closed during the day to prevent cool air from escaping and warm air and the sun's heat from seeping in. Add adequate ceiling, floor, attic and heating duct insulation.
- Complete energy efficient home improvements. Add a reflective coating to your roof, a radiant barrier under your roof; light colored paint on your exterior walls; storm, dual- or triple-pane thermal windows with ultra violet reflecting coating.
- Improve ventilation. Keep your foundation and eaves vents clear. If your basement is dry, use the furnace fan -- with a clean furnace filter -- to circulate cool basement air throughout your home. Install a wind or solar-driven roof ventilation system. At night and in the early morning open windows and doors to clear out the heat and allow fresh, cooler air to circulate. Use security measures on windows to protect against uninvited entry.
- Cooling appliances. When using a portable or window fan don't blow hot air into or around the home, blow it out. Cross-ventilation is also a good strategy, again, so long as you are not cross ventilating hot air. Instead of using central air for a whole house where many rooms typically aren't always used, use an Energy Star room air conditioner, air cooler, or ceiling or portable fan in a single room.
- Use Energy Star appliances wisely. Replace old appliances with Energy Star models, but avoid cooking during peak heat hours of the day. Instead, prepare cooler meals such as nutritious salads and sandwiches. Eating and burning off well-balanced, light meals generates less body heat than heavy meals.
Barbecue outdoors, provided it's not a Spare The Air day. Microwave instead of using the range or oven to reduce both heat gain and energy use. If you do use your oven, cook while preheating whenever possible.
Turn on your range hood when cooking or using other nearby heat-generating appliances to exhaust waste heat from your home. Wait until sunset or later to use washing machines, vacuum cleaners and other heavy appliances.
- Use appliance alternatives. Air-dry dishes instead of using your dishwasher's drying cycle. Line dry clothes. Sweep instead of vacuuming. Turn off lights when not in use. Replace hotter incandescent bulbs with cooler fluorescent bulbs and lighting whenever possible.
- Work with, not against Mother Nature. Strike a balance between fire and personal safety when shading with shade trees planted to the south, east and west sides of your home. Deciduous trees on the south provide cooling shade in the summer then loose their leaves so they do not block warming sun in the winter. When possible, avoid landscaping with lots of unshaded rock, cement, or asphalt on the south or west sides where it will increase the temperature around the house and later, after sunset, radiate heat to the house. Small shrubs can block heat reflected from patios and pavement. Small vines over southern windows can reduce the effect of the sun's heat.
- Above all else, use good, common sense. Don't be a hot head. Stay indoors during the hottest hours of the day as much as possible; keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water regularly (eight, 4-ounce, juice-size glasses a day) without waiting until you feel parched, thirsty or fatigued. Get enough rest and sleep.
Avoid alcohol, caffeine, sweets, salty foods and other foods and beverages that dehydrate you. Outside, wear adequate sunscreen, keep cool by protecting your face and head with a wide-brimmed hat, rather than a baseball cap and take a dip in the pool instead of the hot tub or sauna.