Somehow, we're talking about summer already. 🤯
And while the weather doesn't quite reflect that yet (thank goodness!), we all know what's coming.
It's mid-May after all.
We hope you have a summer of family road trips and pool days planned. And that you find some lazy days amidst all the madness of kids home from school.
But first, the grown-up stuff. To set you up for ultimate relaxation, we have a few boring things you should think about now so that you can chill later (thanks to your fully-serviced AC, of course.) 🙂
Take some time to baby your air conditioner and have it serviced before temperatures spike. You'll thank yourself for doing it now rather than when it poops out on you when it's June and sweaty and gross. Tucson Electric Power even offers rebates for certain AC tune-ups, among other things. Go here for a list of contractors that participate in the rebate program. The power utility also has a small rebate if you install a smart thermostat — specifically the Nest Learning Thermostat. This will help you save energy over time, too.
You should be changing your air filters regularly anyway but definitely make sure you're doing it during the summer months. A clogged air filter means your air conditioner will have to work harder to keep you cool, which in turn is going to cost you more 💲💲💲.
If you have an evaporative cooler, install new cooler pads, make sure the fan belt is in good shape and not cracked, the unit is clear of debris and the float valve works.
Besides preparing your home for high temperatures, you also need to think about monsoon season.
A few years ago, we spoke with several home repair businesses about how to prevent monsoon damage to your home. A few takeaways: Make sure to prevent water damage by keeping your rain gutters unclogged and your trees trimmed so wind can pass through their canopies and they can't drop debris on your roof. You might also consider getting your roof inspected if it's older than 10 years.
Whatever work you need to do, do your homework and check with the Better Business Bureau, Rosie on the House or the Arizona Registrar of Contractors to make sure you're working with a legit, licensed business.
Now is also a good time to have your car serviced and inspected. We asked Brian Singleton, the foreman at Breathe Easy Automotive, a woman-owned auto shop, what to pay attention to as the summer approaches.
He suggests having your cooling system serviced to make sure there are working radiator fans, intact hoses and no leaks. Coolant leaks — which he says "includes hoses going bad and radiators leaking" — are pretty common in the summer.
You'll also obviously want to make sure the air conditioner is working and has plenty of freon.
"Have the engine drive belt/belts checked for cracking," he writes in an email. "If the belt fails, it can cause overheating and could also cause the alternator not to charge, which will cause the vehicle to stop running."
Other things to check include your battery and your tire tread depth. Singleton says your tires should not be worn below 3/32nd of an inch in tread depth (some sources even say 4/32 is when you should start shopping for new tires) and should not be older than five years (you can check the manufacture date on the side of the tire). Consistent heat can do a number on your tires, so make sure you keep them properly inflated (check the side of the driver's door to find those details).
You can get a free air pressure check from any Discount Tire. Go here for Tucson locations.
For monsoon season, make sure your windshield wiper blades don't streak or come apart and that your brakes work.
"A good practice throughout the summer should be to check or have someone check your oil level and coolant level whenever you get gas or at least once a week," Singleton says. "With our extreme heat, it's critical to keep your coolant level topped off to prevent overheating the engine."
If you've got questions, check out your car's manual.
Remember, your pets don't love the heat either. Pima Animal Care Center suggests you make sure your pet has a spot indoors for those hot days and access to all-day shade outside. Side note: On days when temperatures rise to 100 degrees and above, even shaded spots are going to be too hot for dogs with longer coats. You also want to make sure your pets have access to water — preferably in a container they're not going to knock over and spill everywhere.
Never leave your pets in a car, even with a cracked window. PACC says high temperatures can cause the interior of the car to become deadly within a few minutes. You'll also want to test the ground with the back of your hand for five seconds before you go on walks — if it burns you, it will burn your pet's paw pads.
First things first, now is not the time to plant your garden. Because plants need some time to get established before the heat hits, you'll need to wait if you haven't done your planting yet — and when you do, make sure you opt for drought and heat tolerant plants and pay attention to how much sunlight they can handle.
To prepare your existing garden, make sure you're watering your plants deeply. You want the soil to be moist as deep as the roots go. That means about 12 to 18 inches deep for vegetables, about 24 inches deep for shrubs and about 36 inches deep for trees, says Glenda Bavier, a Pima County Master Gardener.
You can buy a soil probe to test moisture. Basically just push it into the ground until it hits hard soil, AKA the dry ground. Watering in the morning is best.
"Not only does a plant grow stronger with those deep roots, but the roots carry down to where the soil is a little cooler," Bavier says.
Pima County Master Gardeners also recommends using a 40-percent shade cloth to protect your plants — especially if the plants are still relatively young.
Mulching around a plant can also help the soil preserve water in the hot summer months.
This is where we talk about sunscreen. Because we all need a reminder.
"The sun's rays are extremely intense in the summer," writes Lisa Quale, a senior health educator at the University of Arizona Cancer Center's Skin Cancer Institute, in an email. "Tucson is so close to the equator that we get even more than much of the U.S. Sunscreen on all areas that will be exposed to the sun (no matter how long you'll be out) is an absolute must!"
Take shade-seeking seriously but don't depend totally on it. Sun rays still bounce into shady areas. Prepare to avoid going outside as much as possible during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. so soak in these cooler days while you still can.
Now is the time to stock up on a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher and look for clothes with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), Quale suggests. Covering up is key.
Quale recommends finding sunscreen with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (better for the environment and sensitive skin) and applying it 20 minutes before you go outside to make sure it absorbs fully. And that's any time you're outside, not just for pool days and barbecues. You also need to reapply every two hours.
"A lot of people don't use enough," Quale says. "You need 1 ounce (golf-ball size) to cover the average amount of exposed skin in the summer months."
Let's do this. ☀️☀️☀️