Most of the time, air conditioning is a luxury. It’s a way to stay cool and dry during hot summer months, but if we didn’t have it, we’d just be a little bit hotter.
During a heatwave, or during regular summer months for particularly hot areas, it’s a different story. Air conditioners are a practical necessity for your health. If your AC unit stops working unexpectedly during such a heatwave, you’ll need to take precautions to either fix it or find an alternative way to stay cool.
Why Heatwaves Are So Dangerous
Every year, more than 1,300 people die from extreme heat, with a disproportionate number of those people being age 65 and over – and these deaths may be underreported.
High temperatures deserve to be taken seriously. Dealing with prolonged heat can put additional stress on the body, spur dehydration, interfere with your sleep hygiene, and cause a number of physical and mental health problems.
Important Steps to Take
If your AC unit stops working effectively during this critical time, there are a handful of important steps you’ll need to take, including:
1. Call a professional HVAC company. First, contact a residential HVAC service provider. There’s a chance you may be able to remedy the problem yourself, but a professional will likely be able to diagnose and fix the problem much quicker. During an emergency, HVAC professionals will likely experience high demand – so it’s important to contact them as soon as possible.
2. Assess the problem. Next, do your best to assess the problem. You’re not an AC technician, but you don’t have to be to form basic conclusions. For example, is the AC unit running, but not cooling? Or does it simply refuse to turn on? This can help you determine whether the AC unit has a core mechanical problem. Also, if the AC unit isn’t running, does the rest of your house have electricity? If not, this could be a heat-driven blackout that’s affecting everyone in the area.
3. Check for electricity disruptions. Even if you have electricity in the rest of your house, it’s important to check for possible electricity disruptions to your unit. If it’s not getting electricity, it’s not going to turn on. There are multiple disconnect switches that could render the unit inoperable, both inside and outside, and you might have tripped a breaker or blown a fuse as well.
4. Experiment with the thermostat. Thermostats can be finicky pieces of equipment. Try turning down the temperature by 5 or 10 degrees to see if that triggers the AC unit to start working. Also check to ensure the thermostat unit is equipped with working batteries.
5. Clean the coils. The condenser coils of your outdoor unit are one of the most important components to produce a cooling effect. If they’re bent, dirty, or otherwise unable to do their job, you’re not going to get cold air in the home. Clean and straighten them if you can.
6. Shade the house. If you’re not able to solve the AC unit problem on your own, you need to work on cooling yourself down. You can start by shading the house as much as possible with the help of curtains and blinds.
7. Use fans to circulate air. If you have electricity, employ the use of ceiling fans, box fans, and any other fans you can run to circulate air around you. Circulated air speeds up the cooling of your sweat, functionally cooling you down faster.
8. Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is a leading cause of death during heatwaves, so it’s important to drink plenty of water. Drinking cold water can actively cool you down and help you feel more refreshed, and if your hydration levels stay adequate, you’ll be able to think more clearly as well.
9. Try to rest. Moving around and doing work will increase your body’s heat levels. Because of this, it’s important to stay in one place and rest, especially if you’re feeling the effects of the heat. When you’re done checking your AC unit, sit down or lie down while trying to stay cool.
10. Cool down with cold water and/or ice. You can also make use of external cold water or ice to cool down your body. Taking a cool bath or a cold shower can help, as can sucking on ice chips.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to get your AC unit up and running again. If not, you’ll at least be able to stay cool in this intense heat. While you’re at it, make sure you check on your friends, family members, and other loved ones in the area to make sure they’re able to stay cool as well.