How to Prepare Your Home for Subzero Weather
Put these tips to use when really nasty subzero weather blows in.
Bypass Your Thermostat
So during extreme cold, bypass your thermostat’s program, take it out of setback mode and leave the temperature steady. You may even want to turn it up a couple of degrees.
During a Cold Snap Open Kitchen Cabinet Doors
Being behind closed doors, kitchen plumbing frozen pipes are vulnerable, as the heat from the rest of the house can’t reach them. Open the cabinet doors to allow heat to circulate into the cabinets. A fan or portable heater pointed inside the cabinet also helps circulate warm air.
During a Cold Snap Leave Faucets Running
A trickling faucet acts as a relief valve for the pressure that builds up if frozen pipes do occur. That pressure relief can prevent frozen pipes from cracking. A slow trickle is all you need. It’ll bump up your next water bill a bit, but compared with major home repairs, that’s an easy price to pay. Don’t leave a faucet running if the drain is on an exterior wall, though; the drain can freeze, causing the sink to overflow.
Replace Furnace Filter
A dirty furnace filter will make your furnace work harder to keep your home warm and the last thing you want is a furnace problem in sub-zero weather.
Are the Registers Open or Blocked?
Cold House? Are the Radiators Clear?
Is the Radiator Air-Locked?
If you have a hot-water radiator that's not heating, the cause is usually trapped air. Getting rid of it is simple. Use a radiator key, 1/4-in. 12-point socket or a flat screw- driver (depending on your valve type) and slowly turn the valve counterclockwise until water drips out. This will release trapped air and let hot water flow. While you're at it, repeat the process on your other radiators. Bleeding the radiators will lower the pressure in your system, so you might have to slowly add water to increase the pressure. Do this by opening, then closing, the valve on the water pipe above the boiler.
If you're unfamiliar with your system, call a pro. How much pressure you need depends on how high the water has to rise. The basic rule is 1 lb. of pressure for every 2 ft. of rise. Your gauge may read in pounds, feet, or both. A basic two-story house, with the boiler and expansion tank in the basement, needs 12 to 15 lbs., or 25 to 30 ft., of pressure.
Consider an Electric Heat Cable
An electric heat cable is good protection during cold spells. A thermostat switches on the heat only when the temperature drops, so 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.
Boil a Pot of Water
Whether you use a tea kettle or an open pot, boiling water will help warm up your kitchen. And, when you’ve got that piping hot water, make your favorite tea and warm yourself from the inside. Here is another surprising way to use boiling water!
If you have a 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. Here are 10 ways to heat your home during an emergency.
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.
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. Here are 42 home security nightmares lurking around your home.