Protecting Your Home in the Polar Vortex

Temperatures are plunging! A few weeks ago, we gave you some tips on preparing your home for winter. We’ll be facing dangerously cold temperatures this week. You need to protect yourself, your family, your pets—and your home! Here are some tips to help you stay warm and toasty.

Frozen Pipes

One of the biggest issues that we see are frozen pipes. When water freezes in your pipes, it creates enough pressure that the pipe can actually burst. Most of the time, it is from faucets and pipes on the outside that were not properly drained and shut off. And, believe it or not, most of the time, a burst pipe is a warm water pipe, not one for cold water.

A few simple steps, like making sure your outside water is shut off and your accessible pipes are insulated, can be taken care of before the change of season. But now that it’s cold—and especially in extreme conditions like this—there are a few things you can do:

  • Leave your inside cold water running. Having the water running through the pipes at a trickle helps prevent pipes from freezing. You want to keep the water moving.

  • Keep your vanity and kitchen sink cabinet doors open. This will help keep the pipes warm as well.

  • Before leaving your home unoccupied for an extended period of time, shut off your water supply and drain your water system.

  • Arrange to have someone check on your home if you will be away.

  • After the temperature warms above freezing and any frozen pipes have thawed, turn off your dripping faucets and keep monitoring your water meter for any unseen leaks.

Make sure you know where the water shut off is within your home. You won’t want to be searching for that in an emergency. And, just in case, have the number for your water company handy, should emergencies arise. Believe it or not, you’re more likely to face a burst pipe once the temperatures begin to rise again.

Keep The Inside Warm

Now that temperatures have dipped, you may notice it’s even harder to keep your home warm inside. We recommending keeping your inside temperature at 68-69 degrees and use an extra layer to keep warm. Remember that your furnace is having to work extra hard to keep temperatures up inside. Here are some easy things you can do to survive the bitter cold inside:

  • If you’re not using your fireplace, make sure the damper and doors are closed. We lose a lot of heat through the chimney.

  • Repair or replace weather stripping around doors and windows. In a pinch, a rolled up towel will do a good job.

  • If you haven’t put up your storm windows, consider installing sheet plastic window insulation on the inside of your windows.

  • Keep your drapes and blinds closed when your windows are not in direct sunlight.

  • Run ceiling fans on low in reverse (clockwise when looking up) to circulate warm air.

Home Care from the Outside In

Don’t forget to regularly inspect the outside of your home during extreme winter weather. Even if you’ve fully winterized your home, you’ll need to monitor the outside of your home to solve cold weather issues before they start.

  • Heavy icicles can pull gutters away from the house. Sometimes, you can just knock them off with your snow shovel.

  • Ice dams can often form in gutters as the water runs off the roof and freezes. They can be a sign of improper ventilation. Take a picture so you and a certified contractor can trouble shoot once temperatures rise again.

Looking for ways to prepare your home before winter weather hits? Check out our blog on home winterization tips and remember the 3 W’s of winterization: wind, water and wasted energy.

Jennifer Buchholz