Prep Your House
for Winter Cold
Living so near the coast, we can sometimes go a year or two between very cold weather episodes. That means we can get a little rusty on just what to do for our houses when the temperature dips below freezing. Here’s how to keep your house snug and safe in winter weather.
PROTECT YOUR PIPES
If you haven’t detached your hoses from the outside
faucets by the time the mercury dips below freezing, that’s
the first thing to do right away. While there, wrap each
outside faucet. You can buy insulated covers for not much
money, but you can also make one using an old T-shirt or
towel, or even newspaper covered with plastic bags and
secured by rubber bands. Frost-free faucets only work
when the hose is detached.
Also, if you can, insulate the pipes under the house. It’s fairly inexpensive and can save money in energy costs – not to mention the money it can save if you successfully avert the danger of having burst pipes!
If you don’t have the money or time for those solutions, one way to prevent a bursting pipe in very cold weather – is to leave both cold and hot water dripping from an inside faucet, preferably at the sink farthest from the hot water tank. This helps the circulate water through the entire water system, helping to prevent frozen and then broken pipes. You don’t need to do that unless the temperatures are below freezing for more than a day or two. Yes, this will cost you a little in water and energy loss, but consider it cheap insurance for preventing the hassle and costly results of burst pipes!
CONSIDER CLOSING VENTS
We are strong advocates of having plenty of working foundation vents around your house so that it doesn’t have moisture issues. However, if the temperature remains below freezing, we do recommend closing your foundation vents until the temperature is expected to stay above freezing again. Write yourself a note to open them up again when the weather warms up.
BE AWARE OF ICY CONDITIONS
It’s not just your house we’re concerned about – it’s you
and yours. Icy conditions – on a sidewalk porch, deck or
stairs – can cause an injurious fall. So stay aware and be
prepared and proactive. Remember, ice is hard to see,
particularly at night, so if in doubt, assume it’s there
during cold days, and act with appropriate caution.
So, if you can, shovel off icy stairs, decks, porches,
walkways, etc. Sometimes a stiff broom can do the trick
to get snow off before it turns icy. You can also use good ‘ole rock salt – both to get rid of ice and to prevent it. If that’s what you have on hand, use it. However, we recommend the chemical de-icer because over time rock salt can damage concrete. Local hardware stores and big box stores all carry it.
In a cold snap or power outage – or both, don’t forget the practical ways to keep yourself warm.
If you can, close off a room, or even a floor of your house to keep the cold out and the heat in the areas that you are living in.
Layer clothing so that not only will the added bulk keep you warm, the trapped layers of air between layers will also insulate you.
Check for drafts by windows, doors and fireplaces. If you are not using your fireplace, shut the draft! Even a rolled up towel against the bottom of an outside door can keep the cold from seeping in.
Leave any sink cabinet doors open to help prevent freezing pipes.
GETTING WEATHER NEWS
For normal weather trends, you likely watch the TV news,
check the newspaper or look online. There you can tell if
you may want to close your foundation vents or embark
on an insulating frenzy. However, it’s also quite helpful
to know when severe weather conditions are imminent in
our local areas.
The quickest way to receive emergency and disaster
information from Grays Harbor County Emergency
Management is to follow that office on Facebook and Twitter. (Twitter at twitter.com/ghcdem, and Facebook under Grays Harbor County Emergency Management.) In addition, we recommend signing up for the Grays Harbor County Notification System for emergency and disaster alerts from Grays Harbor County Emergency Management via phone call, text and e-mail. To sign up for the notification system, go to www.co.grays-harbor.wa.us/info?DEM/EMailTWS.asp.
Another way to learn about severe weather is to purchase an All Hazard ALERT Weather Radio. This radio comes on with immediate alerts for severe weather and disaster information. They can be purchased at many hardware stores. Speaking of radio, our excellent local AM/FM radio stations are also experts at transmitting the most up-to-date information about disasters and weather conditions.
ANOTHER WEATHERIZATION BASIC
If you have time for a project before the cold hits, probably the most basic thing you can do to stay warm during the winter months is to ensure that your house is fully “weatherized.” Generally when people talk about weatherizing – they are talking about properly weather stripping, insulating and air sealing floors, walls, ceiling, attics, doors and windows.
Even if you decide not to tackle it all at once, anything you do will make a difference in comfort, cost and energy efficiency. We suggest you start at the top! Starting with attic insulation will lower your energy use the most, heat rises and this definitely helps keep most of it in the house!
NEED HELP WITH WEATHERIZATION?
Our local PUD has great programs for weatherization. Talk to the helpful folks in the Conservation department to become qualified for a rebate. They may inspect your house and recommend the best insulation measures, then share their list of qualified contractors and determine your rebate amount if you elect to go through the program.
Let’s say, your home needs to be weatherized, but you don’t have the money right now to put out for the materials and/or to hire someone to do it. Well, that’s something we may be able to help you here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor. Give us a call at (360) 533-7828. We work closely with the PUD and can offer tailored loans for weatherization for income- and credit-qualified homeowners.