Air filters, portable air conditioners fans and more — surviving a smoky summer requires electricity. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Air filters, portable air conditioners fans and more — surviving a smoky summer requires electricity. (Jennifer Bardsley)

Hot household was just one fuse away from total meltdown

Lost electricity during the heatwave and wildfires turned their whir of multiple fans and air filters into heated silence.

Wildfire smoke, temperature spikes and germs everywhere — this summer has been one for the books. After the horrible heatwave in June, I thought I’d learned a thing or two. When the thermostat rose last weekend, I was prepared. “Don’t worry,” I told my family. “We’ll be fine this time.” Or so I thought…

As soon as I read reports that there would be a double whammy of heat and wildfire smoke, I brought out my arsenal of heat shields that I’d been accumulating underneath my bed. Those included blackout curtains I had purchased from Amazon and insulated cardboard packaging material that had come in my meal-prep boxes.

I spent Thursday morning blacking out windows and pulling down shades. I also loaded up the chest freezer in our garage with gallons of water. That way we could blow fans across ice.

It turns out that the temperature in our house never got high enough for ice to be necessary. The blackout materials did their trick, but our best tool was the new portable air conditioner we set up in the family room. Between the AC unit, the air filters and fans, our house sounded like a helicopter landing pad. Still, even though our house was in the low 80s, it was much more bearable than the smoky outdoors.

Friday night, my husband and I popped a bottle of champagne and declared victory. No, we hadn’t spent $7,000 to install real air conditioning in our house, but our hodgepodge of other improvements had worked. We wedged a stack of magazines underneath the air conditioner unit to keep it from rattling so loud and turned on Netflix.

But halfway through “Red Joan” starring Judi Dench, disaster struck. Our daughter plugged in her hairdryer and everything went dark.

From the whir of multiple fans and filters to total silence, the electricity crapped out on us. “Oops! Sorry,” our daughter called, but it was too late.

“I’ll go pop the circuit breaker in the bathroom.” I rose from the couch, a little wobbly after my glass of champagne.

“That should do it,” said my husband.

Unfortunately, both of us were wrong. Yes, we brought the electricity back to life, but the Wi-Fi was dead. There went movie night. Without the internet, our entertainment options crumbled one by one.

I gave up after 10 minutes of trying to bring the Wi-Fi back online, but my husband kept at it until midnight. He finally determined that the internet wasn’t coming into the house because a power outlet in the beastly hot garage had been triggered by the breaker.

Once he fixed that, the internet was saved.

The next morning, as I sat in our darkened family room next to the precariously perched air conditioner unit, I thought about our new reality. Some people might say hope has kept people going these past two years, but I know the truth: It’s been the electricity and Wi-Fi.

Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at

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