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Extreme heat – budget-friendly ways to prepare your home


a kitchen window with a heavy blanked covering it so that the sun can't heat the room
Install thermal curtains on your windows and keep them closed during the day. If you don't have access to thermal curtains, use something from around your house. In this example, a fleece blanket was used help block the sun.

Because of climate change, Northern BC is experiencing hotter average summer temperatures and many extremely hot days.

While we can’t control the weather, there are steps we can take to make our homes better equipped to deal with Extreme Heat Emergencies.

Installing an air conditioner in at least one room is one of the best ways to help your home cool down. However, not everyone has the means to purchase or install an air conditioner. So, here are some budget-friendly options to help keep your home cooler during extreme heat.

Preparing your space for extreme heat

  • a long window on a door is covered with a yoga mat to block out the sun and heat
    Covering your windows can help to reduce the temperature in your space by 2 to 3 degrees.  
    Install insulating curtains or window coverings and keep them closed during the day. Blackout curtains and blinds can help block both extreme heat and extreme cold (as well as light).
  • Keep windows and doors shut during the day when temperatures are higher. During the night, when it often gets cooler, open windows and use a fan to help circulate cooler air around your space.
  • Use cardboard or thick blankets on the exterior of your windows to stop the sun from hitting your windows. This can help to reduce the temperature in your space by 2 to 3 degrees.

How to cool your body

If you don’t have access to air conditioning or a cool room, you can take these steps to help keep your temperature down:

  • Stay hydrated – make sure to drink lots of fluids. Try to avoid caffeine, as it’s known to dehydrate the body. Sugary drinks and alcohol can also be dehydrating.
  • Wear a damp shirt or towel on your neck/head.
  • Fill your bathtub with cool/lukewarm water to draw heat from the body into the water or take a cool/lukewarm shower.
  • Use a damp sheet at night.
  • Put an ice tray in front of a fan.
  • Use a personal mister or spray bottle.
  • Freeze plastic water bottles and use them to cool down, or use cold packs. The most effective places to put them are on your wrists, elbow and joint creases, temples, forehead, and feet.

What if my home’s still too hot?

If your home gets very hot, with sustained internal temperatures of 31 degrees or higher, and if you don’t have air conditioning, plan to go elsewhere during an Extreme Heat Emergency. Some places within your community may offer space for people to cool down and get relief from extreme heat. These will vary depending on the community you live in, so be sure to check before the weather gets too hot. Here are some potential options to consider:

  • Libraries
  • Community centres
  • Shopping malls
  • Movie theaters
  • Religious centres
  • Parks and other shaded green spaces

Getting too hot

Overheating can be harmful to your health and potentially deadly. If you’re experiencing rapid breathing and heartbeat, extreme thirst, and decreased urination with unusually dark yellow urine, take immediate steps to cool down and seek emergency care:

  • Get medical attention or call 911
  • Submerge yourself or the person you’re helping in cool water
  • Remove clothes and apply wet cloths

Heat stroke is an emergency. Call 911 or your local emergency number if you are caring for someone who displays symptoms, then take immediate action to cool them down while waiting for help to arrive.

Learn more about the signs of heat stroke from HealthLink BC.

Stay connected

As temperatures rise throughout the summer months, make sure you stay connected to reliable information sources like Environment Canada, EmergencyInfoBC, the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), and Northern Health. Staying connected with these sources means you will have up-to-date information about Heat Warnings and Extreme Heat Emergencies.

For more tips and information, visit the Government of BC’s website on preparing for extreme heat, and download their extreme heat guide (PDF).