Beat the heat, now and in the future

Ok, it’s hot right now in Northwest Oregon. Unusually hot. Unusually hot for several days in a row. But how unusual will it be in the future?

Today, the state of Oregon averages fewer than five days a year above 95°F. But in the future, that average is expected to increase by 3-6 more days—and even more than that in Southern Oregon. Factor in the trapped heat that lingers after a series of hot days, and preparing for a cooler future starts to seem like a good investment.

When it is truly hot, the most urgent concern is to get cool—especially for kids, pets and vulnerable older adults. See cooling centers across Oregon for 2017. But when it’s cool enough to think ahead, you might consider making some investments in a cooling future.

Create shade: Experts say that quality shade can cool an area by as much as 15 degrees. Anyone who has gone hiking in Oneonta Gorge on an 80 degree day has experienced this startling reality! A few degrees may not seem like a lot, but they can mean the difference between sweaty discomfort and heatstroke risk. Consider whether trees, arbors with vines, or other cooling structures might be right for your home.

Think cool when you renovate: The choices you make about roofing, pavement and landscaping can make all the difference in keeping your home cool. But even if you aren’t prepared to make major changes to your space, consider weatherizing. A weatherized home not only keeps the chill out in the winter, but can keep your home far cooler in the summer. Take OEC member Bill Sweat as an example. When renovating his space at Winderlea Vineyard, he utilized slab floors that collect heat and give it back during the day, providing a warming effect in the winter, while also containing heat, which provides a cooling effect in the summer. OEC’s Climate Director, Jana Gastellum, redid her roof with Energy Star rated shingles for a cooler roof that reflects heat back on hot days.

Clean up your own air: Hot, sunny, stagnant days can create air quality problems, as can the forest fires that go along with hot, dry conditions. Forest fires don’t even have to be nearby to affect our local communities; we’re seeing this with our current heat wave as the Portland area experiences smoky, stagnant air from British Columbia wildfire smoke blown south. So, one way to prepare for bad air days is to make clean air choices for your own home: cleaner-burning wood stoves are the way to go in winter. When it’s too hot to cook indoors, a cleaner-burning outdoor grill may be a great investment.

Get your fans and air conditioners in order: Fans work best when designed to draw hot air out and also circulate air to help people feel cool. You can design your system in advance to get the most out of your fans. Investing in a new, more efficient air conditioner may also be a good idea, especially if you live in hot urban areas or have kids, pets or older adults who may be more vulnerable to heat.

Be ready to be a good neighbor: The Centers for Disease Control has a lot of great suggestions for ways to plan for heat emergencies. One is to think through your plan for helping your neighbors. Are there kids, older adults or pets in your life that may be more vulnerable? Consider keeping a list of who to check on, and know ahead of time whether there are cooling centers or other community resources you can offer.

On a cooler, lighter note: Oregon is lucky to have a wealth of mountains, waterways, and coastline where temperatures are delightfully cool. If you’re lucky enough to visit them, take a moment to celebrate! As a member and supporter of OEC, you are doing your part to maintain the Oregon we love well into the future.

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