Climate change has led to an increase in severe weather in recent years. And the problem is expected to only get worse.
A recent report by research and technology group First Street Foundation found that 8.1 million US citizens will experience temperatures above 125 degrees Fahrenheit as early as 2023. And by 2053, 107.6 million Americans could live in an extreme heat belt. Climate change could make weather events like hurricanes even worse in the future, increasing the likelihood of homes being damaged by wind and flooding.
Homeowners insurance group Hippo recently found that one in three homeowners has suffered damage from severe weather or climate change-related issues. Still, only 40% have updated their homes to protect them from similar damage in the future.
Whether you’re a current or potential homeowner, it’s important to consider the impact of climate change – and make sure your property is weather-proof. The good news is that there are steps you can take to renovate your home to adapt to climate change.
Extreme heat isn’t just uncomfortable. It can actually damage your home.
Too much heat and humidity can cause problems like mold and warping of wood floors. The former could cause health problems for those who occupy your home, and it can be very costly to mitigate.
Protecting your home from extreme heat starts with upgrading to the most efficient insulation you can install. Mallory Micetich, home care expert at home improvement network and information company Angi, says spray foam insulation is generally the best choice. “It can penetrate your walls and fill every nook and cranny,” she explains.
Next, update your windows. Double and triple panes offer better protection than single-glazed windows, so it’s a worthwhile investment, says Micetich. You can also buy sunscreen film to put on the outside of your windows, which should help keep your home cooler.
Also, think about updating your siding. Homes prone to extreme heat often do well with stucco over vinyl siding, which can melt and warp. Darker panels generally absorb and retain heat, so a lighter color is a better choice if you’re concerned about temperature extremes.
You can also protect your home from moisture by upgrading to a more powerful HVAC system or installing a whole house dehumidification system. Those are all big investments, but they could save you a world of damage down the line, Micetich says.
Finally, Micetich says, focus on your attic. Your attic allows heat to enter your home, so adding ventilation and fans is essential.
Hurricanes can hit a double whammy of wind and water, both of which can cause major damage. Micetich says if you’re buying a home in an area prone to hurricanes, you need to have a really well-maintained roof. This means there are no loose clapboards or weak points to collapse in a storm.
If your roof is more than 10 years old and nearing the end of its lifespan, you should consider replacing it with more durable materials, says Micetich. Metal roofs are safer than shingles in terms of hurricanes. But Micetich says, “They’re a lot more expensive, so they’re not always an affordable option.”
Another important step you can take to protect your home from hurricanes is to install storm shutters and doors. “Broken glass getting into your home poses a hazard to you,” Micetich says, so it’s an investment worth making. Likewise, you may want to upgrade to storm-resistant garage doors that are double-reinforced.
Finally, Micetich says, “Think about what you have in your garden. Your house can take a lot. … But it’s often trees that do a lot of the damage.”
Removing dead or dying trees could prevent disaster in the event of a storm. And if you’re in the process of building a home, planting trees farther away could prevent later damage.
Flooding is already a problem for homes in low-lying areas, and climate change is only likely to make the problem worse. Micetich says that one of the most important steps you can take to protect your home from flood damage is to invest in a sump pump and flood vents. A sump pump can remove excess water that begins to pool at the lowest level of your home, while flood vents prevent hydrostatic pressure build-up that can destroy walls and foundations.
Of course, a sump pump can only work if your house has electricity. If you live in a storm-prone area, you might want to invest in a standby generator, Micetich says — one that turns on automatically when the power goes out.
Not only can a standby generator keep a sump pump running, but it can also be crucial in minimizing damage after a storm. “After flood damage, you need a dry home,” says Micetich. And drying out a home often means using tools like wet/dry vacuums, dehumidifiers, and fans to circulate the air, none of which work when your home has no power.
Micetich also recommends caulking basement walls every few years to reduce water seepage. Additionally, she recommends evaluating your lawn and making changes to the way it’s being evaluated if water retention is a problem.
“You don’t want water standing on your lawn or flowing toward the foundation,” she explains. So if you’re seeing this on a regular basis, it’s important to consult a landscaper for better protection from major storms.
It’s always a good idea to see if a home is in a flood zone and consider that risk before proceeding with a purchase. The problem, however, is that while your home might be outside of a flood zone 20 years from now, it could end up being far more vulnerable to flooding if climate change rears its ugly head.
Similarly, many homes that don’t typically experience heat waves today could end up experiencing extreme temperatures. That’s why it’s important to consider not only the location of a home when buying it, but also how well it will withstand weather-related damage.
To do this, evaluate the current setup of a home before making an offer. Is it well insulated? Does it have a strong roof system? Does the basement already have a sump pump and is the apartment well ventilated?
Plus, Micetich says, whether you’re buying a new home or already own one, it’s a good idea to have an energy audit done. That can tell you how well equipped your home’s various systems are to cope with factors like extreme heat (or cold).