Tips to help you and your home survive severe cold

December 13, 2008

By Staff

NEW — 8:36 p.m. Dec. 13, 2008

When temperatures drop to freezing lows, plumbing problems are very common.  There are many things that homeowners can do to prevent these problems that have the potential to cause severe damage to your home.

Frozen pipes are common, but can be avoided. Watch your water pressure, because the first sign of a frozen pipe is restricted water flow. If you notice this, be sure to act quickly and call a professional. Let cold water trickle from your faucets, slightly smaller than a pencil’s width, during the evening when the temperature is the coldest. This helps prevent freezing as moving water does not freeze.


Garden hoses can cause major damage if not disconnected. Disconnect garden hoses and drain outdoor pipes to prevent damage during the winter.
During cold snaps, if a garden hose is left connected, ice will form and pressure will build up in the water lines inside your home. Once this occurs, a water line leak or break is common. This can cause severe damage to the home.
After disconnecting hoses, you should install an exterior, insulated faucet jacket. This will protect your outdoor faucets, as well as the connecting lines running into the home, from freezing temperatures.
Also, be sure to utilize the shut-off valves located inside your home to drain water from pipes leading to outdoor hose bibs. These valves can typically be found under sinks, in crawl spaces or basements, near your water heater or your meter, but every home is different and some homes may not be equipped with these valves.


Circulating warm air helps keep pipes in the walls from freezing. Keep your house temperature above 55 degrees to prevent pipes from freezing. Open cabinet doors under sinks and faucets and near exterior walls to help circulate warm air and keep pipes warmer. Close crawl space vents and garage doors, especially if your water heater is in the garage.

Check to be sure that snow is not restricting your water drainage. Watch the area around your sump pump discharge line used to avoid flooding indoors, as this line drains from a basement to an outside area. If the drainage area is blocked by snow or flowing into a puddle, freezing could occur as well as water backing-up into the house.

Clear leaves and debris to prevent flooding and damage. Gutter cleaning should occur in the fall, but as winter sets in, make sure your gutters are free of leaves and debris. By keeping them clean, it will allow for rain and snow to drain properly. If the gutters or drains become clogged, ice dams can form causing water to back-up and freeze. If this happens, water can begin to seep into the house.
Check your downspouts as well. Make sure they are clear and carrying water at least 10 feet away from the house’s foundation. If water settles around the house, flooding and structural damage could occur.

Prepare irrigation systems for cold weather to prevent freezing. Winterize your irrigation system by shutting off the water supply to the system. Don’t forget to drain the in-ground systems. This includes the backflow prevention device. To further prevent winter irrigation system issues, you can have a professional hook up an air hose to the system’s water main. This will allow compressed air from a compressor to blow through the lines, instead of water. This should be done before snow and severe cold set in.

Take advantage of the sun to bring in heat. On sunny days, adjust blinds so they are open and tilted toward the ceiling.
Set your ceiling fan in the reverse position, on low. When radiant heat enters your home from the windows aimed upward, the fan will help circulate warm air all around the room. Be sure to close the blinds again at sundown. Try to arrange your couch and chairs so they are away from windows and exterior walls as those areas are likely to be colder. 


Make sure you aren’t losing energy out of your fireplace. Fireplaces can waste a lot of energy, as they pull warm air out of the house through the chimney. Make sure the damper is closed when you’re not using your fireplace. Installing glass doors can also help keep heat in your home when the fireplace is not in use.


Homes become dried-out in the wintertime. During cold weather, increased use of your heater causes the home and its interior air to become dryer than usual. A humidifier can help add needed moisture to your home during the wintertime.
Humidifiers can improve health issues like dry sinuses, while saving energy. Since moist air holds heat, you may feel more comfortable and lower your normal heat setting due to the increased comfort.
Make sure to maintain your humidifier properly. Whether it is a portable or whole-house humidifier, consult the manufacturer’s instructions for care. However, in general, clean or replace the filters regularly and wash the base and reservoir.

(Source: Rescue Rooter)

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