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Consumer Focus: Beat the Heat: Tips for Summer Survival
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Beat the Heat: Tips for Summer Survival

No matter where you live, the energy crunch will affect us all--rolling blackouts are predicted in California over the summer; New York City will likely experience power shortages; and the price of gasoline may continue to rise. Brownouts will also affect more areas once the hot weather hits. Even if your area is not vulnerable to blackouts or brownouts, the following tips and strategies will help you survive those energy-related challenges and keep you safe in the summer heat.

Here are some tips on making smart energy choices, protecting yourself from summer health dangers, staying safe in the sun and what to do in during power outages. Get more help from other resources on the web or share this info with a friend.

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Keep Your Cool - Make Smart Energy Choices

Concerned about the rising cost to cool your home? Fortunately, there are strategies you can employ to reduce costs and conserve energy and fuel without sacrificing comfort. The Department of Energy's (DOE) "Consumer Energy Information" web page is full of suggestions to improve energy efficiency during hot weather. Check out their tips on cooling your home and how to conduct an energy audit. The Alliance to Save Energy's publication Power$mart discusses how to improve energy efficiency in your home. Improving energy efficiency means getting the most out of each unit of energy consumed. Some examples include: installing a programmable thermostat or replacing standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs which use less energy while supplying the same amount of light.

Here are some things you can do to save money and improve energy efficiency around your home:

  • Clean or replace ventilation system filters each month.
  • Close shades on the sunny side of your home on hot days.
  • Install ceiling fans to help cool the house.
  • Install a programmable thermostat.
  • Conduct a home energy audit or hire a professional to conduct one and develop an energy efficiency plan for the whole house. Check out DOE's online publication, Home Energy Audits for more information.
  • If your home uses electricity, consider installing an energy-efficient heat pump.
  • Consider replacing an older central air-conditioning system with a newer "Energy-Star" rated system which can be twice as efficient as existing equipment.
  • Replace old style single-pane windows with newer double-pane models, made with special materials to reduce energy loss or reflect the sun's rays. The model recommended depends upon the climate in your area.

Have you noticed lately that when you fill your car up with gas, the price per gallon is higher than ever? Here are some steps you can take to save money on gasoline:

  • Keep your car tuned-up.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated.
  • Use cruise control when possible.
  • Minimize your speed.
  • Buy the minimum octane gas recommended for your car.
  • Replace that old gas-guzzler with a fuel-efficient vehicle.
  • Take public transportation whenever possible, or join a car-pool.
  • Map out your route so you can cover multiple errands on each trip.

Other Resources

This is just a brief overview. For more information check out these resources on the World Wide Web:

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Summer Health Dangers

When the temperature soars and humidity rises, it's time to take precautions to avoid dangerous health consequences such as heat exhaustion, heat stroke and overexposure to the sun. With heat exhaustion and stroke, the most susceptible among us are seniors, children, and people with chronic illnesses. However, everyone is at risk. The early symptoms of heat exhaustion can sneak up on us. Some people feel a bit lightheaded and weak and might have a touch of nausea. The serious problems develop when symptoms are ignored and additional fluids are not taken right away. The primary cause of heat exhaustion is dehydration and a loss of electrolytes such as sodium. Generally, try to stay well-hydrated and take in extra salt (for those of you who can use salt). Drink even though you don't feel like it - you can't count on your thirst mechanism to prompt you. Here are the major symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke and some safety tips to help you cope with health emergencies during the dog days of summer.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
  • Body temperature usually normal or only slightly elevated.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Fatigue, weakness.
  • Dizziness.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea, sometimes vomiting.
  • Weak and rapid pulse.
  • Sweating.
  • Cool, clammy, pale skin.

NOTE: Symptoms take time to develop - sometimes several hours after dehydration occurs.

Treatments for heat exhaustion:
  • Get out of the sun and into a cool place.
  • Drink more fluids (electrolyte sports drinks may help), but don't drink too fast or you could become nauseous.
  • Eat salty snacks.
  • Rest.
  • Loosen clothing.

Be aware that heat stroke can come after heat exhaustion, but it can also develop quickly and independently if one's core body temperature rises too high.

Symptoms of heat stroke include:
  • Very high body temperature (103 degrees or higher).
  • Hot, dry, red skin.
  • No sweating.
  • Disorientation, hallucinations, delirium
  • Rapid breathing and fast pulse, then slow breathing and weak pulse.
  • Convulsions.
  • Loss of consciousness.

NOTE: Symptoms can come on quickly.
Heat stroke can occur within 10 - 15 minutes of the first symptoms. If treatment is not given immediately, permanent damage can occur to internal organs.



Immediate care for a heat stroke victim includes:
  • Move person to cool place indoors or in the shade outdoors.
  • Lower body temperature as soon as possible.
  • Remove clothing and wrap person in a wet sheet, or wet their cotton clothing.
  • Fan person with electric fan or manually (do not place wet items too close to electric fan).
  • Place ice packs or cold compresses on the neck, under armpits, and in the groin area.
  • If child is unconscious, carefully place them in cool water up to their neck.
  • If child is conscious, try to get them to drink cool water, slowly.
  • Person may not be able to drink if delirious (do not force them).
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Too Much Fun in the Sun

Exposure to too much sun can cause skin cancer, excessive wrinkling of the skin, cataracts, and suppression of the immune system. The culprit that causes these problems is ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) publication Sun, UV, and You teaches you how to protect yourself from excessive sun exposure. Generally, it is wise to limit mid-day exposure from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., wear sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of the UV radiation, wear a hat, and wear protective clothing. Be sure to apply sunscreen lotion of at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15 to exposed areas. Listen for the UV Index forecast in your local weather forecast. The EPA publication Stay Healthy in the Sun features a chart called "Using the UV Index" which describes the precautions which should be taken at each level of the UV Index.

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Power Outages and Summer Heat

Whether a power outage in your home is caused by a blackout or thunderstorm, during hot weather you can take the following steps to prepare and cope while you wait for the electricity to come back on.

  • Stay on the lowest floor - usually the coolest - and out of the sunshine.
  • Slow down and wait until cooler times during the day to do activities that are physically demanding.
  • Dress in lightweight loose clothing.
  • Drink, drink, drink - water and non-alcohol drinks!! Don't wait until you feel thirsty - stay hydrated. In hot weather, as much as 3-4 quarts per day are recommended while exercising.
  • Avoid opening the fridge or freezer. Food should be safe as long as the outage lasts no more than 4-6 hours.
  • Avoid heavy meals, alcohol, and caffeine -- all of which can make you feel hotter.
  • Be sure to check on vulnerable people you know -- seniors, people with disabilities, and children -- to see that they drink enough and stay as comfortable as possible.
  • If someone in your home requires medical equipment that runs on electricity, consider purchasing a small generator to use as a back-up.
  • Keep a supply of flashlights, batteries, and a battery-powered radio on hand. Try not to use candles as they pose a fire hazard.
  • Consider purchasing a battery-operated table fan.
  • Unplug computers or other equipment which might be damaged by an electrical surge when the power is restored, or get surge protectors.
  • When driving, be careful at intersections - traffic lights may be out, creating a dangerous situation.

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