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How to Protect Your Home During Extreme Cold Weather

By: Danny Lipford

Extreme cold weather can be hard on both you and your home. Here are some tips to put into practice when freezing weather, snow, and ice hit your area.

How to Deal with Frozen Pipes

  • Disconnect and drain garden hoses.
  • Cover outside faucets with insulating foam covers.
  • Turn off water to outside faucets, if available, and open valves on faucets to allow them to drain.
  • Turn off sprinkler system and blow compressed air through the lines to drain them.
  • Close or cover foundation vents under house and windows to basements.
  • Close garage doors.
  • Insulate exposed pipes (both hot and cold) under house with foam pipe insulation.
  • Open cabinet doors under sinks.
  • Drip hot and cold faucets in kitchen and bath. Drip single control faucets with lever set in middle.
  • Set icemaker to make ice if the water line to it runs under the house.
  • Don’t forget to check on pipes to your washing machine in the laundry room
  • Locate water main cut-off valve, and have a cut-off key handy.
  • Use a hair dryer, heat lamp, electric heat tape, or a portable space heater to thaw frozen pipes that have not burst.
  • Keep the faucet open when thawing frozen pipes to allow water to begin flowing through it.
  • After the weather has warmed above freezing and any frozen pipes have thawed, turn off dripping faucets and monitor your water meter to check for unseen leaks.

How to Keep Warm in Your Home

  • Have your furnace inspected before cold weather arrives. Inspect the heat exchanger for cracks, install a clean air filter, and check the thermostat to see if it’s working properly.
  • Inspect fireplaces, and chimneys before using, and have them cleaned if needed.
  • Keep drapes and blinds closed, except when windows are in direct sunlight.
  • Put up storm windows, or install sheet plastic window insulation kits on the inside of windows.
  • Cover or remove any window air conditioners.
  • Insulate electrical outlets and switches on exterior walls with foam seals available at home centers.
  • Caulk any cracks or holes on the outside of your house.
  • Repair or replace weather stripping and thresholds around doors and windows.
  • Run paddle ceiling fans on low in reverse (clockwise when looking up) to circulate warm air.
  • Put draft snakes on window sills, between window frames, and against doors.
  • If you heat with propane or fuel oil, make sure the tank is full.
  • If you heat with wood or coal, have plenty of fuel on hand.

How to Protect the Outside of Your Home

  • Clean your gutters and downspouts before cold weather arrives to prevent ice from forming in them.
  • Spray an ice repellent solution on steps and walks before freezing weather arrives
  • Check antifreeze levels in cars. Add if needed, then run the engine to circulate the new antifreeze through the radiator and engine block.
  • Add freeze resistant windshield wiper fluid, and spay to circulate it in lines.
  • Check air pressure in tires, since cold weather causes the pressure to lower.
  • Bring in container plants, add mulch around plants, and cover plants that are prone to frost damage. Remove covering when temperatures warm above freezing.
  • Drain birdbaths and fountains
  • Gently sweep snow off plants and shrubs in an upward motion with a broom.
  • Use rock salt, sand, or clay based kitty litter on walks and drives (NOTE: Salt can damage grass and other plants).
  • Don’t overdo it when using a snow shovel.
  • Stay off your roof during freezing weather, but once the ice and snow have melted, inspect your roof for any damage.

House surrounded by snow

How to Stay Safe in an Ice or Snow Storm

  • Stockpile nonperishable food and water.
  • Refill prescription medications in advance of storm.
  • Fill car with gas.
  • Charge cell phones.
  • Have flashlights, batteries, a weather radio, and a manual can opener on hand.
  • A portable generator can come in handy when the lights go out, but take precautions to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning when using.
  • Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and the batteries powering them are fresh.
  • Have a working fire extinguisher on hand for emergencies.
  • A chain saw can come in handy for removing broken limbs after an ice storm.

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13 Comments on “How to Protect Your Home During Extreme Cold Weather”

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  1. forrest Says:
    January 9th, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    would it be safe to put a floodlight bulb of 150 watts under the foundation during very cold weather.or what is your recommendation for this.

  2. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 11:31 am

    As long as the wiring (extension cord?) and fixture are adequate and the bulb isn’t near combustible material, it should be okay. A better solution might be to use several smaller watt bulbs and spread them out in the crawlspace.

  3. Deborah Robinson Says:
    January 24th, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Question: My husband and I recently relocated to Raliegh, NC and we love it. However, we are apartment renters and our energy bill just doubled from December to January. Unfortunately, the apartments are not insulated very well. What steps can we take to lower our bill.
    Here’s what we’ve done so far:
    1. Purchased energy saver drapes for bedrooms (2)
    2. Turn of the water heater when not in use (probably should do it more).
    Thanks, thoroughly enjoy your show.

  4. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    January 25th, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Hi Deborah,
    I just posted an article on How to Winterize an Apartment to Save Energy that should give you some additional ideas. Good luck with your project!

  5. Billie McEwen Says:
    January 31st, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    I am looking for some kind of cover for vents in the foundation of our house. Any suggestions?

  6. Ron Natzel Says:
    February 3rd, 2010 at 2:30 am

    Just wanted to clarify something. You stated to add antifreeze to your car if needed, then let the car run to
    circulate the new antifreeze in the crankcase. Unfortunately, if the antifreeze is in the crankcase, you are in for a Long cold winter. Oil goes in the crankcase, antifreeze goes in the radiator and engine block. Do Not mix up the two.

  7. Marty Says:
    February 3rd, 2010 at 9:29 am

    I know cat litter will give you & your vehicle traction, but
    will it help melt ice, or should it be used together with rock salt? Thanks. Marty.

  8. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    February 3rd, 2010 at 10:11 am

    Good point, thanks. I corrected the article above.

  9. myra Says:
    December 28th, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Does the heat from your home help to warm the crawl space under the house?

  10. Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    December 29th, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Hi Myra,
    Yes, as does the ground, however, the most important factor is how well enclosed the foundation is.

  11. Kenny Says:
    January 27th, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    The only thing I see that you missed is insulation. A well insulated home will help keep you warmer with less energy being used.

  12. James De Says:
    February 12th, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Maybe a dumb ? but can one use car anti freeze on ice on driveway or deck?

  13. Mary W. Says:
    January 31st, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    I just saw James De ask if you can use anti freeze on ice on a driveway or deck and wanted to tell him a bag of ice melt is much cheaper and safer. I have a feeling anti freeze is toxic for animals and not a good idea. I just bought a huge 50 lb. bag of rock salt for $8. Antifreeze must be about $5 a gal

    Another subject:

    I watched a cool youtube video recently where a man made a box using coke cans, black paint, some 2x4s, plexiglass and some flexible hose and caulking and he made a sort of solar panel which heats up his crawl space and garage. It could be painted so that it looked nicer and the guy only uses it in the winter but it really made a huge difference in the temperature inside his garage. I thought I would mention it because it was interesting. I thought it would be a great summer project to build one with my son this summer and to see if it works next winter. HAVE YOU EVER BUILT ANYTHING LIKE THIS?

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