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How to Prepare Your Home for Subzero Weather

When the temperature drops in a cold snap it can wreak havoc on your home and pipes. Prepare for subzero weather with these tips.

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FH18DJF_583_07_012_preview space heater to prevent frozen pipesFamily Handyman

Open Kitchen Cabinet Doors

The pipes that make up your kitchen’s plumping are particularly vulnerable to the cold because they are stuck behind closed doors where the heat from the rest of the house can’t reach them. Open the cabinet doors to allow heat to circulate into the cabinets. Positioning a fan or portable heater so that it is pointed inside the cabinet will also help circulate warm air.

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Leave Faucets Running During a Cold Snap

When pipes freeze it causes pressure to build up within them. Opening a kitchen faucet to a slight trickle can act as a relief valve for that pressure and prevent frozen pipes from cracking. A slow, barely noticeable stream of water is all you need. You might notice a slight bump in your next water bill a bit, but that’s an easy price to pay compared to the cost of major home repairs. Don’t leave a faucet running if the drain is on an exterior wall, though; the drain can freeze, causing the sink to overflow.

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Clean and dirty furnace filters, changing furnace filterFamily Handyman

Replace Your Furnace Filter

The last thing you want is a furnace problem in sub-zero weather. A dirty furnace filter will just force your furnace to work harder to keep your home warm, and overworking a furnace can quickly lead to mechanical issues. Avoid that headache by always having a few backup furnace filters in storage so you’ve got a fresh replacement ready to go.

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Are the Registers Open or Blocked?

Every furnace technician has a story about how they fixed a cold room just by opening a register or two. Don’t make yourself the star of one of those stories. Besides checking to make sure the register itself is open, make sure there’s no furniture or rugs blocking airflow.

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Cold House? Make Sure the Radiators Are Clear

Whether you have electric or hydronic baseboard units or old-fashioned radiators, they won’t put out maximum heat unless air can flow through them. If you move the bed against a baseboard unit or toss a blanket across a radiator, the room will start to get chilly.

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Consider an Electric Heat Cable

Wrapping an electric heat cable around your pipes will help keep them from freezing during cold spells. A thermostat switches on the heat only when the temperature drops, so the heat cable won’t waste electricity when it isn’t needed. But if you need to protect lots of pipes for long periods, heat cable is an expensive solution.

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Boil a Pot of Water

Whether you use a tea kettle or an open pot, boiling water will help warm up your kitchen. And as long as you’ve got that piping hot water, why not make a pot of your favorite tea and warm yourself up from the inside?

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Use Tin Foil

If you have an old radiator attached to an external wall, use some aluminum foil behind the radiator. The reflective nature of the foil will prevent heat from disappearing through the wall and instead will reflect it back into the room.

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Try a Fireplace Plug

You can lose up to 20 percent of your home’s warm air through leaks in a loose fireplace damper. A fireplace plug can help you seal the flue to keep that warm air in. Fireplace plugs come in different sizes so be sure you know what size you need before purchasing.

Is it time to clean your chimney? This is the ultimate cleaning guide.

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Cut Down on Mini Drafts

You can lose a lot of warm air through mail slots and doggy doors. When possible, keep these areas covered when subzero weather hits. You can use a wool blanket to plug an animal door or even an old towel to close up a mail slot when the temperature really drops.