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What To Do If Your AC Breaks Down During a Heat Wave

woman drinking water in front of a fan

There is no worse time to lose your air conditioning than during a heat wave. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for aging or poorly-maintained AC systems to give out while working against such extreme temperatures. If the air conditioner in your home breaks down during a heat wave, you’ll want to remain as safe and comfortable as possible while waiting for a technician to repair your system.

Below, we’ll share tips about:

  • how to keep your home comfortable;

  • how to stay hydrated and avoid heatstroke;

  • and how to prevent AC failures during heat waves.


Without an air conditioning system to remove heat from your home, you’ll need to eliminate heat sources to keep your living space as cool as possible until help arrives.

1. Close Your Blinds

First, focus your attention on your windows and glass doors. According to the Department of Energy, 76% of the sunlight that falls on standard double-pane windows enters to become heat. Prevent this heat gain in your home by closing all of your curtains and blinds. Also, double-check that every single door and window is completely shut.

2. Use Your Fans

Next, get your floor, tabletop, and ceiling fans going. Make sure that your ceiling fans are rotating in a counterclockwise direction so that they can produce a wind-chill effect in whichever room they’re located. For an extra chilly effect, fill a big mixing bowl with ice and place it in front of a large fan so that the air blows across the ice.

3. Avoid Unnecessary Heat Sources

After your fans are running, turn off or avoid using anything that will produce heat in your home. This means shutting off any unnecessary light fixtures (incandescent bulbs tend to get particularly hot) and making meals that won’t require the stove or oven. Certain electronics, such as desktop computers, can also give off a lot of heat, so it’s best to unplug those temporarily.


Along with keeping your home as comfortable as possible without AC, you should also focus on keeping your body cool and hydrated. Exposure to a hot environment can make you susceptible to heatstroke, especially if you perform strenuous activities and don’t stay hydrated. Small children and the elderly are particularly prone to heatstroke, so it’s important to take care of family members in those age groups if air conditioning is unavailable.

Here are some tips to stay hydrated and avoid overheating:

  • Drink plenty of hydrating fluids, such as water or drinks containing electrolytes, over ice.

  • Avoid beverages that are dehydrating, such as alcoholic and caffeinated drinks.

  • Place cold, wet cloths on your wrists and neck.

  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing.

  • Put some ice water in the bathtub or a large bucket, and dip your feet in.

  • Postpone strenuous activity.

  • Avoid cooking over a hot stove or oven.

If possible, you can also take a break from your home by visiting an air-conditioned business or browsing at your local public library--and you can enjoy the AC in your car on the way there!


Rather than dealing with a broken air conditioner during a heat wave, most people would much rather prevent that situation altogether. The best way to do that is by making sure your AC gets professional maintenance annually. Some time during spring is usually preferable because you won’t be heavily relying on your AC yet, and if there’s a problem with the equipment, you’ll have time to solve it before summer arrives.

In addition to getting your air conditioner professionally maintained, you can also reduce the strain on the equipment during a heat wave by using a lot of the tips listed above:

  • Keep your window treatments closed to block out the sunlight.

  • Make use of floor and ceiling fans.

  • Avoid using heat-generating appliances (ovens, stoves, dishwashers, washing machines, etc.) during the hottest times of the day.

The less heat you’re adding to your home, the less work your AC has to do to keep it cool. Also, by helping out your air conditioner, you’ll enjoy lower energy bills at the end of the month.

If you need AC installation, replacement, repair, or maintenance, our friendly technicians at 1st Home & Commercial Services are ready to help! Your household’s comfort and safety are our top priority. If we can’t get your AC up and running the same day of your service appointment, we will provide you with a temporary unit for the night before we come back to complete the repair. Call (512) 957-2992 or contact us online.

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