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A hand cracks some window blinds, allowing the sun to glare through.

Extreme heat waves have become a pressing issue in recent years, posing serious dangers to infrastructure, ecosystems, and human health. Heat waves cause more fatalities than any other weather event, including hurricanes and tornadoes. Maricopa County, including the Phoenix metro area, saw 425 heat-related deaths in 2022. 

Meanwhile, Atlanta, Georgia has seen average temperatures increase by 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970, showing that recent heat waves are part of a trend, not an anomaly. These southern coastal areas, such as Atlanta, will need to protect their house — which starts with durable exterior materials.

Excessive heat not only affects humans, but also wreaks havoc on homes, businesses, electrical grids, and landscapes. Extreme weather can affect your home in unexpected ways, but you can take steps to counteract the effects. 

Threats From Extreme Heat Waves 

The meaning of the term "extreme heat" can vary depending on geographic region and local climatic patterns. However, risks are often present when temperatures exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit for two or more days without relief.  


In addition to understanding the health risks and warning signs of problems like heat stroke, homeowners need to look for structural or electrical issues that could cause problems in their houses. 

Here is a look at three extreme heat threats confronting homeowners. 

Electrical Malfunction 

During the summer, several different factors combine to contribute to an increased occurrence of electrical problems in homes.

  • A surge in electricity demand can cause an overload on the electrical grid. This can cause blackouts, which shut off the power to the entire area, or brownouts, which reduce voltage so that only low-energy features like lights work. 

  • Homeowners can also overload their own circuit breaker by running high-power appliances like air conditioners constantly. 

  • High temperatures and overuse can cause excessive heat in the electrical system, increasing the danger of a fire. The use of extension cords for fans or window-unit air conditioners can raise this risk because it increases demand on a single outlet or circuit. 

Finally, excessive humidity, which often accompanies high temperatures, can cause corrosion and damage to outlets, wiring, and electrical devices. This problem can increase the risk of malfunction in your home system. 

Roof degradation 

Due to the combination of high temperatures, bright sunlight, and other weather-related causes, roof degradation is a frequent problem in climates with extreme heat. Roofs are often completely exposed to the sun throughout the day, making them the most susceptible part of a building. 

Excessive heat and wear can accelerate the aging process of roofing materials, causing shingles to become brittle and more susceptible to damage. Asphalt shingles, for example, may blister, crack, or curl under prolonged exposure to high temperatures. The resulting weakness may allow water to get into the roof deck and supports, causing structural issues, mold growth, and other compounding problems. 

Foundation Separation 

Extreme heat can indeed contribute to foundation damage by causing the ground to shrink and pull away from the foundation. Three related issues can lead to foundation problems. 

  • Loss of soil moisture: High temperatures speed up evaporation, causing the soil to dry up and lose moisture. In areas with clay soils, which are more prone to shrinkage and expansion, this problem is particularly pronounced.

  • Variable Movement: An imbalance in the foundation's support is produced when the soil around it contracts and pulls away. One portion of the foundation sinks more than the other portions as a result of this imbalance. The strain on the foundation may cause cracks, shifting, or structural damage.

  • Cyclical drying: The foundation may remain intact during one hot season. However, annual soil drying can cause repeated stress that eventually leads to cracking. 

Foundation problems can cause issues in the rest of your home, such as sloping floors and windows or doors that do not close. 

How to Keep Your Home Safe From Extreme Heat 

A comprehensive heat response plan can help mitigate the dangers and potential long-term damage to your home during the summertime. Preventative measures can help you avoid damage before it starts, while also reducing summertime energy bills and lowering the house’s environmental footprint. 

Work on Improving Energy Security 

Energy-efficient appliances can lower the strain on your electrical system during the summer. However, this step alone will not limit energy use in your home. Simpler energy security steps, like sealing air leaks around doors or window frames and adding insulation to your attic or crawlspace can help you conserve the cool air produced by an air conditioner while keeping hot air outside from flowing into the home. 

The Department of Energy's Energy Saver tool offers advice on improving energy performance and reducing the strain on your electrical system during the summertime. 

Invest In Alternative Cooling Options 

Investing in alternative cooling options can help reduce reliance on traditional HVAC systems and minimize the strain on the electricity grid during extreme heat. By incorporating exterior improvements and non-electrical efficiency features like blackout curtains or other window treatments, you can keep your home cooler without any electricity. 

  • Fire-resistant or fire-proof siding makes your home less susceptible to fire, and it also reduces heat transfer. In other words, it keeps the hot air from heating the walls and moving into the interior of the home. 

  • Reflective roofing materials for all seasons can help reduce heat absorption by reflecting sunlight instead of absorbing it.

  • Heat-reflective window films can be applied to existing windows to reduce solar heat gain without impeding natural light. 

  • Blackout curtains do not allow natural light to enter the home, but they are extremely effective at stopping solar heat gain and heat transfer. 

Homeowners often overlook these non-appliance improvements, but they can offer significant energy-saving benefits. 

Landscape For Sustainability and Water Scarcity 

Landscaping for sustainability and water scarcity is an effective approach to mitigate the impacts of extreme heat, conserve water resources, and reduce the strain on utilities. By implementing thoughtful landscape design and practices, you can create a more sustainable and cooler environment around your home.

Native plants that thrive in your climate typically do not need additional watering. For foliage that does need assistance, you can rely on a drip irrigation system to conserve up to 80% of the water needed to keep plant life moist. 

Plants can also provide shade and improve interior ventilation if properly planned for the sun's position and wind direction most common during the summertime in your location. 

Incorporate Biophilic Design 

An advantage of incorporating biophilic design into your home is that it will automatically create a shaded and cool atmosphere. This approach incorporates natural characteristics and elements into a building. 

Here's how biophilic design can contribute to keeping your home shady and cool. 

  • Natural ventilation can generate airflow and cool interiors. Cross-ventilation with vents, large windows, screens, and other elements can keep cool breezes from shady exterior areas flowing through the home.

  • Emphasizes the use of natural shading using trees, tall bushes, trellises, or pergolas with climbing plants. These elements provide shade and block direct sunlight without reducing airflow. 

  • Some homeowners may carry the natural motif indoors by adding real or artificial plants and flowers, which may provide further shading. 

With a combination of steps, you can reduce the impact of hot summer weather on your home and your family’s health and comfort.