What to do to protect your home and plumbing during extreme cold weather.

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Extreme cold can put your home at risk! Be proactive to protect your pipes.

There are typical tasks to do to get your home ready for winter: close or install storm windows, drain and disconnect your hose and outdoor faucet, make sure your door has weatherstripping. But what do you do when things get extreme? When a polar vortex dips down to your town, you can end up with frozen and burst plumbing that can cause extreme damage to your home.  Here are some steps you can take to protect your home and yourself:

Safety First
Heating systems, and backup heaters, can create carbon monoxide if they’re not operating correctly. Make sure you have a working CO detector, and check your smoke detector batteries, too. Know where your fire extinguishers are located.

If you are using a space heater, make sure it is placed away from flammable items, plugged in properly (no extension cords) or vented if it burns a fuel. NEVER use an oven to heat your home.

a wall-mounted carbon monoxide detector

Make sure your heating system is in good shape. 
Did you get a tune-up in the fall? There’s still time to schedule one.
If you have a hot-water boiler, bleed the radiators and oil the pump (if you have one.) If it’s a forced air furnace, make sure it has a clean filter.

clean and dirty furnace filters shown side-by-side

Open up to warmth
On extremely cold days, open the doors on your sink cabinets to let warm air from the room reach the water pipes underneath. This is especially important if the sink is along an outside wall. If these cupboards are normally protected with childproof latches, be sure to move potentially harmful cleaning supplies to a safe place.

a sink cabinet with doors open to let warmer air reach the supply pipes

Wrap your pipes
Insulating your hot and cold water lines can protect them from freezing.

Add some heat
If your basement isn’t heated, you may need to add a space heater or open up air ducts to make it warmer during cold snaps and protect pipes from freezing. Turning up your thermostat and keeping your whole home warmer will help too.

an electric heater provides warmth to a basement room

Let it flow
A steady trickle of water from your faucets during extreme cold will prevent ice and pressure build up. Burst pipes happen from a combination of ice formation and increased pressure when the ice expands and there’s nothing to let the pressure escape.

water trickles from a bathroom faucet to keep pipes from freezing

If that doesn’t work…
If a line freezes up, call a plumber to walk you through thawing it. Trying to thaw it on your own may cause greater damage. Opening faucets can help relieve pressure and prevent a burst pipe. Try increasing the temperature in your home. If you do have a leak, turn off your water at the main (where it enters your home.)


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