Summer officially arrived at 7:09 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday, June 20, and the heat wave was right on time.
Eastern seaboard residents, used to early summer temperatures in the low 80s, watched in dismay as thermometers in many places climbed almost 20 degrees higher than that.
Here in Texas, areas all over the state have already recorded 100-plus degree days and more are expected well into next week.
And in Arizona, legendary for its triple-digit temperatures, residents have been coping with readings nudging 110 since late May. But at least it's a dry heat.
Yeah, right. Hot is hot.
Actually, though, you do need to pay attention to the moisture in the air. The National Weather Service issues heat alerts based primarily on the heat index, a measurement of how hot it feels when the relative humidity is added to the air temperature.
For example, if the air temperature is 96 degrees and the relative humidity is 65 percent, the heat index, or how hot it feels when you venture outside, is 121 degrees.
The Weather Service will issue alerts when the heat index is expected to exceed 105 to 110 degrees for at least two consecutive days.
Hot summer tax tips: In addition to keeping yourself, your family and your pets safe in dangerously hot weather, you also should pay attention heat-related ways to reduce your tax bill.
Let's start with your home's cooling system.
Unfortunately, the relatively easy to implement home energy improvement tax credit option is no longer in effect for the 2012 tax year.
However, if some of your home upgrades in 2011 did qualify for the Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit and you got an extension to file last year's return, don't forget to claim this potential $500 tax credit when you do finish your filing.
And if the fast and furious start of the summer of 2012 has you considering alternative air conditioning systems, Uncle Sam still offers a generous tax credit in this area.
Certain residential solar, geothermal, wind and fuel cell systems are worth a tax credit of up to 30 percent of the system's cost, with no limit on the amount you can claim by filing Form 5695.
True, these types of energy units are more costly than conventional home A/C systems. But remember that the tax break is a credit that counts dollar-for-dollar against any tax you owe and could possibly wipe out your tax liability.
Some cooling costs also might be deductible as a medical expense.
This could apply, for example, when your doctor recommends a portable or permanent air conditioning unit to relieve a medical condition.
A couple of quick caveats. First, this is not a typical medical deduction, so make sure that you have the backup to support any claim because the IRS is likely to have questions. And remember that medical expenses must be itemized and exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income before you can deduct it on Schedule A.
Also check with your workplace benefits adviser if you have a flexible spending account. Some heat relief expenses might qualify for reimbursement.
Once you get your home cooling under control, consider helping others who need heat relief.
Fan drives provide low-income and/or elderly folks who have no or poor air conditioning with the welcome cooling devices. If the group conducting the fan drive is an IRS qualified charity, your donation could be tax deductible.
Check with your church or favorite community groups about weather-related relief programs.
Also give your electric company a call. Many utilities have customer assistance programs, set up as separate nonprofit organizations, that accept contributions to help others who can't afford to pay their cooling bills.
Whatever way you give, be sure to get a receipt as IRS-required proof of your donation.
Helping someone out is one of the coolest things, regardless of the season, you can do.
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