How to protect your home in a cold spell

When the temperature drops you need to prepare your home to prevent damage and keep warm. Here are a few tips to ensure you’re ready for the cold.

Before the cold spell:

Service your heat sources

It’s best to do this before the temperature drops as prevention is cheaper and more convenient than repairs. It’s also likely that furnace companies will be swamped with emergency calls so avoid being one of those that are fighting for an urgent appointment.

  • Change your furnace filters every quarter, especially at the start of winter. If you have pets or a dusty home, you should consider changing them more often as they will get dirty and clogged faster which may lead to your home not heating efficiently.
  • Inspect the heat exchanger for cracks.
  • Install a programmable thermostat to save money by decreasing the temperature by a few degrees at night or when you’re not home.
  • Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans to turn clockwise. Warm air rises and this will circulate the warm air down to the room.
  • Make sure your furniture isn’t blocking your home’s heating vents.


Seal windows and doors

Cracks or gaps around windows and doors can make it tough to keep your home warm. Install weather stripping and caulk around windows if needed. It’s a simple and inexpensive fix that can have a large impact on your heating costs.

Protect your pipes

Water expands as it freezes which could cause burst pipes.

  • Drain water from outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems to keep those pipes from freezing.
  • Disconnect and store outdoor hoses; cover outdoor faucets with foam insulators.
  • Protect water pipes that run through unheated areas of your home with insulation, such as the attic, basement, or garage.
  • If your house will be unattended during cold periods, consider draining the water system.
Avoid Ice Dams

Ice dams form when heat escapes through the roof and melts snow that’s accumulated there. The melted snow travels to the roof’s edge and refreezes at the eaves. Icicles are often a sign that an ice dam has formed. An ice damn causes problems when more snow melts but it cannot drain. Without the ability to drain properly, it can leak through your roof and damage your home.

  • Clean clogged gutters and downspouts to keep the water flowing.
  • Seal vents, exhaust fans, chimneys, or light fixtures that may allow warm air to leak from your home to your attic.
  • Clear soffit vents along the eaves of the house to ensure airflow into the attic.
Prune trees around the house

If you have long tree branches hanging near your house, your roof, or your gutters, be sure to prune them before it gets too cold. Branches broken from heavy snow and ice can cause all kinds of damage to your home. A few hours with the pruner now could save you thousands of dollars in damages later this winter.

Inspect and clean your chimney and fireplace

Starting a fire in the fireplace is a cozy way to warm up on a cold winter’s night but it’s important that it’s clean and safe.
Having the chimney professionally cleaned will clean out soot and other debris that could catch fire. Keep your home’s warm air from escaping out the chimney when you’re not using it by keeping the flue closed all the way (but make sure you always open it when you start a fire).

During the cold spell:

  1. Monitor condensation and ice build-up on windows and wipe up the moisture as it happens.
  2. Open all window coverings a little as well as under sink cabinet doors to allow circulation of air.
  3. Run your ventilation fan if you have one. Turning on bathroom fans for up to 24 hours during cold temperatures. Turning on kitchen fan when cooking and boiling water.
  4. Ensure all furnace registers and vents are open and not blocked.
  5. If there is a central humidifier in the home, make sure to turn the Humidistat down to about 10-12% relative humidity to help prevent condensation buildup inside the house.
  6. If the home has a high-efficiency furnace, go outside and check the exhaust vents at the sidewall, there could be a giant growing icicle that may block the exhaust vent, which would cause the furnace to not turn on. Knock the icicle out of the way, check daily (especially during really cold spells).
  7. If there are signs of freezing pipes, slowly drip water from the faucets to keep the water flowing.

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