The current blast of single-digit temperatures is a great reminder that an ounce of prevention is worth of cure. In the case of your home, taking time to prepare your home for cold weather can help save when it comes to heating bills and avoid potential costly plumbing repairs. So to help you stay warm and protect your home (and wallet), here are a few tips:
- Protect Pipes from Freezing – expanding pipes due to frozen water is one of, if not the primary risk when temperatures plunge. To protect against this, shut off the water flow to outside spigots and clear a path to your main water shut off in case of an emergency. Keep cabinet doors open to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes, especially in bathrooms and the kitchen. For pipes located in exposed or unheated areas, keep a running steady drip of cold water, or alternatively, wrap heating cables (available at your local hardware store) around the pipe (if you can get to them).
- Keep your Garage Doors Closed– garages often contain exposed pipes, especially if there is a room directly above it. While it’s easy to forget to close the garage door, just remembering to close it is probably the simplest tip we can offer. In addition, make sure the home entrance door from the garage is properly insulated.
- Avoid Ice Dams – if you’re unsure of what an ice dam is, it’s a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents water or melting snow from draining off the roof. This causes the water to back up behind the dam and potentially leak into your home causing damage to ceilings, walls, etc. To prevent ice dams, you need to keep your attic and roof cold. To accomplish this, close up attic bypasses to keep warm air from reaching the attic. Also, make sure your attic has the proper level of insulation and when necessary, add attic and soffit vents. If you notice that an ice dam has formed, a roof rake or a calcium chloride ice melt product can be used, or alternatively (and easier), call a roofing or gutter professional.
- Keep the Fireplace Flue Closed When Not in Use – if you remember anything from middle school science, hopefully it’s that warm air rises. But did you know that as the warm air rises, it draws cold air inside through cracks around windows, doors, vents and other places? So, if you’re not using your fireplace, keep the flue closed. Better yet, consider sealing and weather stripping your fireplace. By doing so, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that a typical home owner can reduce air leaks by up to 14% and save as much as $275 a year.
- Make the Rest of Your Home Airtight – although windows and doors are two primary sources of heat loss, there are other reasons why your furnace may be working overtime to heat your house. For example, it could be poor thermal insulation or improperly sealed ductwork. The easiest way to identify the causes is to have someone do it for you by hiring a home energy audit company. However, you can also do it on your own using a smoke stick that you can buy at a local hardware store. In addition, you can examine your home for insulation. This can be especially important for pre-1980 houses, where the Department of Energy says that only 20% of the homes are properly insulated. Checking exposed walls, such as those in the attic or basement, is easy. But for interior walls, after turning off the power to the electrical outlet, remove the cover to the outlet and with a flashlight, take a look at the insulation.