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How to protect your property from extreme heat

By HUB SmartCoverage Team on July 2nd, 2024

July is traditionally the hottest month in Canada, but by mid-June we had already experienced one extended scorcher.

Ontario, Quebec, and parts of the Maritimes were stuck in a heat wave the week of June 17 with temperatures in the low 30s and humidex values in between 40-45C

Projections from the Canadian Centre of Climate Modelling and Analysis say between 2021-2040 Windsor, Ont., can expect more than 40 days over 30C. Toronto can expect close to 25. By 2041-2060, the same cities would experience over 50 days over 30C and almost 40 respectively. Out west, Calgary can expect over 10 between 2021-2040 and close to 20 between 2041-2060.

This hot “soupy” air is not only uncomfortable, it can also do damage to your property. Restoration and cleanup specialists Servpro and other experts list some of the following ways extreme heat can affect your home:

  • Floors can warp and floorboards can expand. Hardwood is particularly susceptible.
  • Attics that lack sufficient airflow can invite dampness and moisture, potentially causing roof shingles to deteriorate.
  • Roofs can expand and warp, causing shingles to crack. This can increase the likelihood of leaks. Caulking around the flashing can also dry out.
  • Foundations can be exposed because as the ground heats up, the soil shrinks and moisture evaporates. This can cause soil to separate from the footing of a structure which may lead to foundation damage.
  • Paint can flake, bubble and peel. Cracks or openings in paint can allow moisture or even mold to set in.
  • Pipeshave a greater likelihood of leaking or bursting because water usage typically increases.

The good news is other than turning on the air conditioner to get cool, there are things a homeowner can do. The Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR), is a program endorsed by Canadian insurers to promote disaster resilient homes, has a handbook that recommends a number of ways to protect their homes – and themselves – from extreme heat. Some are simple, others cost money. All help reduce the impact on your home when the mercury rises.

The first step is to understand your home’s vulnerabilities. This is the time to seek out advice and the resources available in your community.

  1. Talk to local governmentFind out what recommendations your municipality has and whether there are any incentives to take advantage of. In addition, if you’re building, be sure to follow any bylaws and get necessary permits.
  2. Have a private building inspector evaluate your home– As an expert, they can offer insights on what you can do to protect it and make the indoor environment more comfortable.
  3. Landscaping choices– Use shade trees and other plants near the south, east and west-facing exposures. This helps minimize solar heat gain through windows. It is recommended that 25 per cent of your lot surface (excluding the roof) should be comprised of tree cover. If you live where wildfires present a risk to urban structures, it is essential to follow the guidelines of firesmartcanada.ca to reduce that risk as much as possible.


Tips to make your property fire smart 

  1. Windows – It is critical to balance the location, size and thermal quality of windows. When replacing windows and doors look for a low U-value – the amount of heat loss or gain through a construction material. A low value translates into minimal air leakage. Homes built to reduce the impact of extreme heat use windows that swing inward which provide a better seal. Positioning is very important. Experts recommend the window area on south elevations should be maximized, while east-facing elevations should be limited in size or protected by overhangs or trees and west elevations should be avoided unless they can be fully shaded during the summer. The overall number of windows should be kept to a minimum. Consult a professional for more information.
  2. Window shadingDon’t just rely on curtains and blinds. The idea is to reduce heat from the sun before it enters the home. Think exterior window shading, covered porches, vertical/horizontal louvres, roll-out awnings, exterior shutters and heat control window film, which is a more cost-effective option.
  3. Lighting– The availability of natural light reduces the need for artificial light indoors which, in turn, keeps interior temperatures down and reduces energy bills. Use energy efficient bulbs that emit less heat. Paint with lighter colours that reflect more light than darker colours.
  4. Roofs– When it comes time to replace the roof, consider a cool roof. These are designed to reflect more sunlight (and absorb less heat) than a standard roof. A cool roof reduces the reliance on air conditioning, improves thermal comfort indoors and offers other temperature/energy benefits. Another option is a green roof – which can be anything from basic plant cover to a garden. Discuss installing a green roof with your insurance company first before proceeding.
  5. Insulation –This product mitigates heat loss and gain. It lessens or eliminates radiant energy from hot surfaces such as an asphalt roof in warmer months.
  6. Design Strategy– Passive cooling design optimizes a house’s orientation, shape and glazing to limit overheating during heat waves and power outages. Decisions regarding the placement and size of windows can make houses more resilient towards extreme heat by both influencing the amount of glazing that is exposed to the sun and promoting cross-ventilation inside the building.

The risk of health impacts from extreme heat is expected to continue rising due to climate change. Fortunately, there are actions that can be taken to ensure that new homes are designed, and existing homes are retrofitted, to protect those who live in them. Access resources and consult professionals in your community today to see what you can do.


Little steps save big on energy 

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