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Protect your house in the cold

Many households on Grays Harbor got a skiff of snow over the Thanksgiving weekend. White or not outside, the mercury has definitely dipped and even if it’s not officially winter yet, it sure feels like it!

We’re not sure what’s in store for the next few weeks and months, but there’s nothing like a cold snap to focus our attention on making homes more weather resistant!

It’s not too late to make yourself more comfortable and your house tighter in this cold. Here are some common questions for cold-proofing your house.

Q. Can I close my foundation vents to prevent heat loss?

A. Yes. Are you surprised? We’re strong advocates of ventilating your house to keep moisture at bay. However, we do recommend closing your foundation vents as long as the temperature remains below freezing. It will keep the house more comfortable and save on your heating bill. (Just make sure to open them up again when the weather gets a bit warmer!)

Q. Can my pipes freeze when the temperature is at or below 32 degrees?

A. Yes. There’s never a bad time to insulate pipes. It’s fairly inexpensive and can help save money in energy costs.

However, what you’re probably really asking is "What can I do right now to prevent my pipes from freezing?” In extended cold spells one way to prevent a bursting pipe is to leave both hot and cold water dripping, preferably at the sink farthest from the hot water tank. This will help circulate the entire water system.

This may cost a little money in water and energy losses, but it will be a lot cheaper than replacing broken pipes and fixing the water damage.

Also, if you haven’t yet, unhook your garden hoses and put them away! Then, protect your outside faucets by wrapping them. It doesn’t have to be fancy – an old T-shirt or towel, even newspaper covered with plastic bags and rubber bands will do the trick.

Another thought: If the power goes out during a cold storm, remember you can put your refrigerated stuff outside. (However, make sure to animal-proof it by hanging it or placing items in plastic garbage sacks inside clean garbage-type containers.)

Q. When it’s cold, we often use alternative methods to help heat our house. Is there anything we should know about this?

A. Yes – please be extremely careful. There are many dangers lurking when using some alternative sources of heat.

Never use an open oven or a stove to heat a room or use a grill or barbecue inside of a structure. You would risk fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Be cautious when plugging in electric heaters, they draw a lot of power and you could easily overwhelm an extension cord or blow a circuit.

Q. Are there other ways to keep the cold out, and the heat in?

A. Weatherizing, generally, means to properly weather-strip, insulate and air seal for the purpose of keeping your house comfortable with the least amount of influence from the outside temperature.

Properly installed weatherization measures can stop both cold air from getting into the home and heated air from escaping.

If your house needs to be insulated make a plan to do that soon. However, if you want to do something today to help you feel warmer, first add layers of clothing, then bring in or shelter your animals. Finally, check your windows and doors for drafts and plug them as best you can. (And if you’re not using the fireplace, don’t forget to close the fireplace draft, after checking for live embers.)

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