How to Prepare Your Home for Extreme Weather: Heatwaves and Cold Snaps

House in the winter at dusk

Living in Canada has always meant hot summers and cold winters. But as our climate changes, extreme weather is becoming more common, including cold snaps and heatwaves that can have a big impact on you and your family. Here are some tips to help you prepare your home for not only the typical annual temperature changes but also extreme heat and cold. 

How to Stay Cool During a Heatwave

A heatwave is an extended period of unusually high temperatures — about 10 degrees or more above average. Heatwaves can be especially dangerous for people susceptible to heat-related illnesses such as kids and seniors. Fortunately, there are ways to get your home ready before the heat kicks in.

Get Your AC Unit Inspected

If you want to keep your home cool all summer, you need to have your air conditioner maintained regularly by a licensed HVAC technician. Have your AC unit inspected and tested once a year, ideally in the spring. That way, if any air conditioner repairs are needed, you can get them done before it gets too hot. Make sure the air filters are clean and have the technician check for leaks in your ductwork or ventilation — your AC won’t have to work as hard if everything is sealed tight.

Check Doors and Windows for Leaks

To keep cool air inside your home, ensure exterior doors and windows are sealed properly. Check the condition of the weatherstripping around window and door frames as it can wear out quickly, especially under doors. If there’s a noticeable draft, replace the weatherstripping. Caulk can also be used to fill in cracks and prevent air leakage.

Cover Your Windows

To stop heat from getting into your home through your windows, you can install awnings or plant shade-giving shrubs and trees. (Just make sure trees are trimmed so they don’t hang over the roof or touch electrical wires.) Blinds or light-coloured curtains/drapes can also keep direct sunlight out, while storm windows and window film help control the amount of solar heat that gets inside. 

How to Stay Warm During a Cold Snap 

An AC tech showing a lugnut wrench on an outdoor air conditioner

A cold snap is a brief period of extremely cold weather when the outside temperature falls very suddenly. By getting your home prepared for winter ahead of time, you can stay warm no matter how chilly it gets — and save big on your heating costs. 

Get Your Furnace Inspected

As with your AC, a regular furnace inspection from an HVAC technician is a must — ideally once a year, sometime in the autumn. Routine furnace maintenance helps keep your furnace is running in top condition. And if there are any issues, you can book a service appointment and get repairs before the cold weather arrives. To improve furnace performance and efficiency, check and replace air filters as needed and make sure your heat vents aren’t being blocked by furniture. And if you have a gas or oil furnace, don’t forget to test your carbon monoxide detectors.

Seal Drafty Windows and Doors

If there are any gaps in your window and door frames, you’re letting warm inside air escape and providing a way for cold outside air to get in. Check that doors and windows are sealed, replacing old or cracked caulking and weatherstripping as needed. If air leaks are happening elsewhere, like electrical outlets or gas service entrances, it’s best to call a professional.

Insulate Plumbing and Pipes

Wrap plumbing and pipes in insulating sleeves to keep them from freezing. This is especially important for pipes in unheated areas like basements, crawlspaces and attics. Never turn your furnace off completely in the winter. If you’re away, keep your thermostat set to at least 10°C. Otherwise, if there’s a cold snap, your pipes could freeze and burst.

Check Your Roof and Gutters

During the autumn, leaves, dirt and sticks can build up in your eavestroughs and downspouts. If this debris isn’t cleared out before winter, it can stop rain or melting snow from draining properly, possibly damaging your roof. As you clean your gutters, check the roof for missing, loose or damaged shingles.

Prepare Your Fireplace

Before using your fireplace for the first time each winter, have the chimney and air vents looked at by a professional to ensure they’re clean and in good shape. Proper ventilation is key to preventing carbon monoxide build-up.

Be Ready for Anything

While these tips will help keep you comfortable during heatwaves and cold snaps, extreme weather can also cause power outages, floods, wildfires and more. Put together an emergency kit with a three-day supply of non-perishable food and water, first-aid supplies, layered clothing for everyone in your home, flashlights, a pocketknife, duct tape and anything else you might need. That way, you’ll be ready for whatever Mother Nature brings.