6 Last Minute Tips to Protect Your Home From the Extreme Cold

Are you ready for the deep freeze in the Midwest? With the polar vortex on the way, historically cold temps are expected and will bring dangerous conditions. Not only is it important to keep you and your loved ones safe during this time, but also to make sure that your home is prepared for the extreme temperatures. It’s not too late to protect your home!

1. Keep your pipes warm

Some of the most expensive winter damage comes from burst pipes. Even if the rest of your house is warm, the water in the pipes in your attic, basement, crawl space and in the back of cabinets can freeze. Wrap the pipes in the cold parts of your house in insulation, and open kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes. Also, let water drip slowly from the faucets to help keep the water flowing.

2. Avoid Ice-Dam Damage

Another cause of winter damage is from ice dams. This happens when the heat inside your house causes water to melt in the middle of your roof and it then refreezes near the edges, creating a dam that can lead to leaks in your roof and damage to your ceilings and walls. If you have icicles hanging from your roof, that may be a sign that ice dams are forming. To help protect against this problem, keep your attic cold — no more than 5 to 10 degrees warmer than the outside temperature — by sealing holes from light fixtures and ceiling fans to prevent warm air from escaping into your attic.

3. Check Your Exhaust Pipes

Check downspouts and make sure water will be diverted away from your house. Trim any low-hanging tree branches that can freeze, become brittle, snap and damage your house or power lines. It’s very important to make sure your exhaust pipes for your water heaters and furnaces are clear of snow and ice. Bushes can overgrow, they can condensate and freeze up and create a problem with carbon monoxide.

4. Inspect Your Roof

If a lot of snow accumulates, your roof could collapse — especially flat roofs or the roof over porches and additions. You shouldn’t have a problem with average accumulations or very dry snow. But if heavy snow starts to build up, consider getting a roof rake with a long handle so you can remove packed snow while you are on the ground. Going on the roof to shovel it yourself could damage the roof (and possibly you, too).

5. Check your carbon-monoxide detectors

One of the biggest winter dangers is carbon-monoxide poisoning, caused by improper ventilation of furnaces, generators, charcoal-burning or propane-burning devices, or wood-burning stoves. Check your existing detectors to ensure they are working properly. Experts recommend keeping a carbon-monoxide detector on all floors of your home. If you don’t have any in your home, buy them!

6. Keep 2 emergency kits

Keep one kit in your home and one in your car. In case the power goes out, stock flashlights, extra batteries, a battery-powered radio and, if you still have a landline, a phone that plugs into your wall and doesn’t need electricity to run. (If you don’t have a landline, a car charger in your vehicle can power your cell phone and other electronics.) Keep some extra cash on hand, too, in case you have trouble getting to an ATM. The Red Cross also recommends stocking a three-day supply of food and water for everyone in your house, a first-aid kit and a seven-day supply of medications. And don’t forget to have extra food for your pets, too.

In case you get stuck or stalled in the cold for a long time in your car, keep a shovel, windshield scraper and small broom, some energy bars and water, extra hats, socks and mittens, and booster cables. Keep some road salt (or cat litter), a first-aid kit, a car charger for your phone and electronics, a battery-powered radio and flashlight (with extra batteries), and a sleeping bag or blanket. Also keep your gas tank at least half full during the winter.