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Protect your house during cold, wet winter

It may snow, it may snow, it may snow!

Just like last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has predicted a “La Nina” winter in the Pacific Northwest, which typically means cooler and wetter weather.

While the average snowfall in the Seattle area during La Nina winters is about 7.75 inches, last year, we experienced some 13 inches! This year the folks at NOAA are guessing that we’ll get about 8 inches.

If you recall, last year’s biggest snow was in February. But with winter officially starting today, cold and snow shouldn’t catch us off guard!

While we certainly not climatologists or weather predicters, we suggest you plan ahead to make your home as comfortable and safe as possible! We all might as well make our homes as comfortable and as weatherproof as possible in case the predictions are accurate.

Close foundation vents in severe cold

During a real cold snap, we recommend closing your foundation vents as long as the temperature remains below freezing. You may be surprised to hear that because we are so big on making sure your house is adequately ventilated.

However, closing those vents for a short time will both keep the house more comfortable and save on your heating bill. But do write yourself a note to open them up again when the weather gets a bit warmer!)

Time to insulate pipes

Insulating pipes is fairly inexpensive and can help you save money in energy costs. The “insulation” doesn’t have to be fancy. Remove all hoses and drain them then wrap your outside faucets in an old T-shirt or towel, even newspaper covered with plastic bags and rubber bands, will do the trick.

Another trick you can use to prevent pipes from freezing – during a true cold snap – 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. Yes, 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.

Keeping the heat in

One of the biggest ways to stay warm during the winter months is to make sure your house is properly “weatherized.”

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. Then check for open windows and drafts coming in under doors. A $10 (or less) draft stopper at the edge of your outside door can make a world of difference.

Also, if you’re not using the fireplace, don’t forget to close the fireplace draft – after checking for warm ashes and live embers.

Beware of alternative heating methods

When it’s cold, understandably people often use alternative means to help heat their house. Please be extremely careful when doing this. Using some alternative sources of heat can be very dangerous.

For instance, never use an open oven or a stove to heat a room. And especially never use a grill or barbecue inside of a structure. You would risk fire and carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be fatal.

Also, 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.

The best plan is to have a plan. Do you have an alternative source of heat if the electrical power goes out? If not, what is your plan to stay warm? We all think clearer when we aren’t freezing cold and shaking, so think through your options for an alternative source of heat in case you may need one in the months to come.

Next week we will again talk about the Ductless Heat Pump program to replace those expensive-to-operate base board heaters and inefficient electric furnaces.

Merry Christmas

From all of us at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor, Have a safe and merry Christmas!


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