How to Protect Your Home During Extreme Cold Weather

You need to prepare for extreme weather before it comes.

Extreme cold weather can be hard on both you and your home. Here are some tips to put into practice when freezing weather, snow, and ice hit your area.

How to Deal with Frozen Pipes

  • Disconnect and drain garden hoses.
  • Cover outside faucets with insulating foam covers.
  • Turn off water to outside faucets, if available, and open valves on faucets to allow them to drain.
  • Turn off sprinkler system and blow compressed air through the lines to drain them.
  • Close or cover foundation vents under house and windows to basements.
  • Close garage doors.
  • Insulate exposed pipes (both hot and cold) under house with foam pipe insulation.
  • Open cabinet doors under sinks.
  • Drip hot and cold faucets in kitchen and bath. Drip single control faucets with lever set in middle.
  • Set icemaker to make ice if the water line to it runs under the house.
  • Don’t forget to check on pipes to your washing machine in the laundry room
  • Locate water main cut-off valve, and have a cut-off key handy.
  • Use a hair dryer, heat lamp, electric heat tape, or a portable space heater to thaw frozen pipes that have not burst.
  • Keep the faucet open when thawing frozen pipes to allow water to begin flowing through it.
  • After the weather has warmed above freezing and any frozen pipes have thawed, turn off dripping faucets and monitor your water meter to check for unseen leaks.

How to Stay Warm in Your Home

  • Have your furnace inspected before cold weather arrives. Inspect the heat exchanger for cracks, install a clean air filter, and check the thermostat to see if it’s working properly.
  • Inspect fireplaces, and chimneys before using, and have them cleaned if needed.
  • Keep drapes and blinds closed, except when windows are in direct sunlight.
  • Put up storm windows, or install sheet plastic window insulation kits on the inside of windows.
  • Cover or remove any window air conditioners.
  • Insulate electrical outlets and switches on exterior walls with foam seals available at home centers.
  • Caulk any cracks or holes on the outside of your house.
  • Repair or replace weather stripping and thresholds around doors and windows.
  • Run paddle ceiling fans on low in reverse (clockwise when looking up) to circulate warm air.
  • Put draft snakes on window sills, between window frames, and against doors.
  • If you heat with propane or fuel oil, make sure the tank is full.
  • If you heat with wood or coal, have plenty of fuel on hand.


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26 Comments on “How to Protect Your Home During Extreme Cold Weather”

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  • Franziska Says:
    February 7th, 2019 at 6:31 am

    Thank you for another informative blog. The place else may I am getting that
    kind of info written in such a perfect manner?
    I’ve a challenge that I am just now running on, and I have been at the glance out for such info.

  • Stan Says:
    January 29th, 2019 at 3:44 am

    It is a good rule of thumb that you drip water inside at around 20 degrees or colder make sure drains are not covered with dishs and are clear

  • jacqueline martin Says:
    January 1st, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    After a hard freeze (Texas) with temps overnight in the teens, what is the safe temperature the next day to turn the dripping indoor faucets?
    I’ve searched for the answer to no avail.
    Jackie Martin

  • anil mehta Says:
    February 19th, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    I have the same problem as above:

    We have pipes to the washer in a standard 2×4 wall on the north side of our slab foundation home. In cold weather, either the water to the washer or the drain to the sewer freezes. We have opened the wall and put more insulation, added an inside vent to allow house heat keep the area warm, placed a small electric heater behind the washer, and after every wash day add travel trailer antifreeze in the drain. Pipes still freeze. How do we correct this problem?

  • Diane Crabtree Says:
    January 18th, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    We have pipes to the washer in a standard 2×4 wall on the north side of our slab foundation home. In cold weather, either the water to the washer or the drain to the sewer freezes. We have opened the wall and put more insulation, added an inside vent to allow house heat keep the area warm, placed a small electric heater behind the washer, and after every wash day add travel trailer antifreeze in the drain. Pipes still freeze. How do we correct this problem?

  • Cecelia Watts Says:
    January 7th, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Antifreeze kills animals, including pets! ! My cat died from Antifreeze poisoning she got from somewhere else! Do not use! !!

  • Douglas Cross Says:
    January 1st, 2015 at 11:05 am

    I have a condenserate line from my furnace thats gravity fed to the outside (its 94% efficient) when it gets below 12 degrees it can freeze so I put a tilted foam ice chest over the outside pipe. Inside I put a “T” in the line going up with an inverted “U” pipe configuration to drain into a gallon jug. the “T” must be put in the line below the drain coming out of the furnace. I hope thats clear.

  • Raj Says:
    October 30th, 2014 at 11:47 am

    I have a cottage with windows that face the lake. To protect the bay window, I have used plywood till now. Is there a permanent installation e.g. Storm screen or awnings that I can use? I hate drilling holes for the plywood every winter. Many thanks.

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    January 28th, 2014 at 7:10 am

    Hi Ron,
    Glad you enjoyed them. I lived in the Mobile area, too, and have had the same thing happen in winter with my tires. It’s always happened when the weather gets cold, but it’s more noticeable now with tire sensors that alert you when the pressure is low.

  • Ron Lee Says:
    January 27th, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Great tips. Just info: The last cold snap we had,Mobile AL,the air pressure in my truck tires lost 5-6 lbs pressure. Never have seen this before. (Tires only 2 yrs. old)thanks got the tips!!

  • Stephanie Says:
    January 6th, 2014 at 5:18 am

    Had roof replaced recently with insulation removed from attic rafters. Water line to attic humidifier system closed off. Heard 3 loud bangs up there over past couple hours with no problem visible. Any guesses? Thx!!

  • Shelly Says:
    August 24th, 2013 at 8:16 am

    We are planning a build in southern Quebec. This will be a summer cottage built on sandy soil near a lake. The contractor is telling us that we will have to heat the basement in the winter to avoid damage. Is there any alternative construction options that will offset paying a very high electric bill 9 months of the year? We have thought of solar panels, but have not done any research yet. There is also the consideration that the solar panels may be damaged by hunters. If heating the basement is the only alternative, how high do we have to set the thermostats?

  • carol N Says:
    January 23rd, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    looking for advice on insulating outside oil tank which froze up and cost $500 to have the home heating oil company come and defrost with a blowtourch.

  • Mary W. Says:
    January 31st, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    I just saw James De ask if you can use anti freeze on ice on a driveway or deck and wanted to tell him a bag of ice melt is much cheaper and safer. I have a feeling anti freeze is toxic for animals and not a good idea. I just bought a huge 50 lb. bag of rock salt for $8. Antifreeze must be about $5 a gal

    Another subject:

    I watched a cool youtube video recently where a man made a box using coke cans, black paint, some 2x4s, plexiglass and some flexible hose and caulking and he made a sort of solar panel which heats up his crawl space and garage. It could be painted so that it looked nicer and the guy only uses it in the winter but it really made a huge difference in the temperature inside his garage. I thought I would mention it because it was interesting. I thought it would be a great summer project to build one with my son this summer and to see if it works next winter. HAVE YOU EVER BUILT ANYTHING LIKE THIS?

  • James De Says:
    February 12th, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Maybe a dumb ? but can one use car anti freeze on ice on driveway or deck?

  • Kenny Says:
    January 27th, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    The only thing I see that you missed is insulation. A well insulated home will help keep you warmer with less energy being used.

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    December 29th, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Hi Myra,
    Yes, as does the ground, however, the most important factor is how well enclosed the foundation is.

  • myra Says:
    December 28th, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Does the heat from your home help to warm the crawl space under the house?

  • Marty Says:
    February 3rd, 2010 at 9:29 am

    I know cat litter will give you & your vehicle traction, but
    will it help melt ice, or should it be used together with rock salt? Thanks. Marty.

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    February 3rd, 2010 at 10:11 am

    Good point, thanks. I corrected the article above.

  • Ron Natzel Says:
    February 3rd, 2010 at 2:30 am

    Just wanted to clarify something. You stated to add antifreeze to your car if needed, then let the car run to
    circulate the new antifreeze in the crankcase. Unfortunately, if the antifreeze is in the crankcase, you are in for a Long cold winter. Oil goes in the crankcase, antifreeze goes in the radiator and engine block. Do Not mix up the two.

  • Billie McEwen Says:
    January 31st, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    I am looking for some kind of cover for vents in the foundation of our house. Any suggestions?

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    January 25th, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Hi Deborah,
    I just posted an article on How to Winterize an Apartment to Save Energy that should give you some additional ideas. Good luck with your project!

  • Deborah Robinson Says:
    January 24th, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Question: My husband and I recently relocated to Raliegh, NC and we love it. However, we are apartment renters and our energy bill just doubled from December to January. Unfortunately, the apartments are not insulated very well. What steps can we take to lower our bill.
    Here’s what we’ve done so far:
    1. Purchased energy saver drapes for bedrooms (2)
    2. Turn of the water heater when not in use (probably should do it more).
    Thanks, thoroughly enjoy your show.

  • Official Comment:

    Ben Erickson Says:
    January 11th, 2010 at 11:31 am

    As long as the wiring (extension cord?) and fixture are adequate and the bulb isn’t near combustible material, it should be okay. A better solution might be to use several smaller watt bulbs and spread them out in the crawlspace.

  • forrest Says:
    January 9th, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    would it be safe to put a floodlight bulb of 150 watts under the foundation during very cold weather.or what is your recommendation for this.

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How to Protect Your Home During Extreme Cold Weather