How to Protect Your Home During Extreme Cold Weather

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 Keep 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.

How to Protect the Outside of Your Home

    • Clean your gutters and downspouts before cold weather arrives to prevent ice from forming in them.
    • Spray an ice repellent solution on steps and walks before freezing weather arrives
    • Check antifreeze levels in cars. Add if needed, then run the engine to circulate the new antifreeze through the radiator and engine block.
    • Add freeze resistant windshield wiper fluid, and spay to circulate it in lines.
    • Check air pressure in tires, since cold weather causes the pressure to lower.
    • Bring in container plants, add mulch around plants, and cover plants that are prone to frost damage. Remove covering when temperatures warm above freezing.
    • Drain birdbaths and fountains
    • Gently sweep snow off plants and shrubs in an upward motion with a broom.
    • Use rock salt, sand, or clay based kitty litter on walks and drives (NOTE: Salt can damage grass and other plants).
    • Don’t overdo it when using a snow shovel.
  • Stay off your roof during freezing weather, but once the ice and snow have melted, inspect your roof for any damage.

 

How to Stay Safe in an Ice or Snow Storm

    • Stockpile nonperishable food and water.
    • Refill prescription medications in advance of storm.
    • Fill car with gas.
    • Charge cell phones.
    • Have flashlights, batteries, a weather radio, and a manual can opener on hand.
    • A portable generator can come in handy when the lights go out, but take precautions to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning when using.
    • Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and the batteries powering them are fresh.
    • Have a working fire extinguisher on hand for emergencies.
  • A chain saw can come in handy for removing broken limbs after an ice storm.

 

What not to do as a new home owner

Becoming a new home owner is a very exciting time. There are plenty of new tasks to take on after obtaining the keys. However, there are some things a new home owner should NOT do after moving in.
1. Not being familiar with the new home
There are parts of a new home that the new owner should be aware of. The main water valve and circuit box are two crucial components of a home. Locating these two items is very important as a home owner. In case of an emergency such as a burst pipe, there may be no time for scrambling to find the circuit box or water valve. In addition, it is good practice to label it, so it is clear which fuses belong to each room.
2. Not paying attention to the foundation
The foundation is arguably the most important aspect of a home. Something as simple as the slope of soil around the foundation can be indicative of big problems. If the soil does not slope six inches over ten feet, water from snow and rain can seep into the foundation causing cracks and leaks. This kind of repair starts at several thousands of dollars and can be devastating for home owners.
3. Cutting down trees
Cutting down a tree can seem like a small task anyone can do. Home owners should always hire a professional for this service. Even smaller trees can be awkward and are hard to control once they are fall and can crash into a home or garage/shed. Fixing a repair from a tree taking out the roof is much more costly than hiring for professional removal.
4. Drilling into walls carelessly
Much like removing a tree, hanging décor or shelves can seem like an easy job. However, one must be very cautious when putting holes in the wall. Behind the walls, there could be electrical wires and cables, duct work and plumbing pipes that could be damaged by a drill. To prevent costly errors, use a stud finder to help avoid wires and ducts. Even if a stud indicates clear to drill, only drill about 1.25 inches in to avoid hitting anything important.
5. Not insulating
Not only is a house uncomfortable when it is too hot or too cold, it is also very costly to the home owner. Check the attic for insulation depth to know if a home needs to be insulated. Home owners should know where the entrance to the attic is, and how deep the insulation is. If insulation is not 10-14 inches deep, new insulation should be put down. Also, ensure the hatch to access the attic has insulation covering it as well to ensure minimal air leakage.
6. Not cleaning gutters
Cleaning gutters is a chore many people hate. It can be a pain to get on a ladder and clean filthy debris from above. However, neglecting this task can mean serious water damage to the roof and the home in general. Clogged gutters can interfere with proper water flow from the property. Clean gutters will ensure water flows away from the house and not into it.

How to Cut Your Heating Bill Without Freezing Your Tail Off

Baby, it’s cold outside.
And once the temperature drops, those utility bills start to rise—which can leave you and your bank account caught off guard.
The energy-savvy among us may already have a leg up on some power-saving moves, such as sealing the cracks around our doors or lowering our thermostats. But there’s a lot more you can do to offset that painful spike in utility costs—and it won’t involve expensive appliance upgrades or using TaskRabbit to find someone to make retrofits around the house.
We tapped experts to provide seven easy-on-the-wallet tips that will help lower your home’s energy use this winter with minimal effort from you—and you may even be able to use a few of them to save green all year-round.

1. Keep Your Hot Water Heater Cozy
Snuggling up with a good, warm blanket once the cold streak hits is likely a part of your winter ritual—and it’s also a good idea for your hot water heater, too.
Kerry Urbaniak, lead electronics instructor at the Ecotech Institute in Aurora, Colo., suggests wrapping a special insulating blanket around your water heater to minimize the amount of heat that escapes from it. “Depending on your [energy-usage] habits, you can get a 20% increase in savings by putting a wrap on it,” he says.
Luckily, water heater insulating blankets run in the $20 to $30 range, and you may be able to get discounts or rebates from your utility that help lower the cost further. Some utilities may even offer to install them for you at little to no extra cost (although you can find DIY instructions here).
Urbaniak also suggests keeping the appliance’s temperature setting at 120 degrees, which should be high enough to meet a typical household’s hot-water needs while also minimizing heat loss. “For every degree you set it above 120, you’re losing efficiency,” he adds.
And don’t shut your hot water heater off if you’re leaving town for the holidays. Rather, just turn the temperature down: “It’s costlier to let it cool down completely and then have to heat it back up again,” Urbaniak says.
2. Pay Attention to Your Pan Size
How many times have you stuck a tiny pot on a giant stove burner because it happened to be the only one without a dirty dish lying on top of it?
You may be inclined to stop that bad habit once you realize how much energy you’ve been wasting: According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, a six-inch pan placed on an eight-inch burner wastes more than 40% of the heat produced—so try to match your pot or pan size as closely as possible to the size of the heating element.
Cleanliness is also an energy-efficiency virtue when it comes to your stove: Wipe up splashes and spills on your reflector pans because they’ll better reflect heat when they shine, according to Kurt Blumenau, a spokesperson for PPL Electric Utilities, based in Allentown, Pa.
One other quick kitchen tip? Whenever possible, use a crock pot, pressure cooker or microwave to make your meal—all three use less wattage than an oven or stove. “Slow cookers and microwaves can cut as much as 50% of energy consumption, compared to other appliances like ranges or ovens,” says Lise Dirlam, a faculty instructor also with the Ecotech Institute.
3. Go Dark—With Your Curtains
You already know that window drafts are bad news for your energy bill—but did you know that the color of your curtains could also make a difference?
“Dark curtains help absorb sunlight and can take a passive solar approach,” says Urbaniak. He adds that in the winter, more light is also likely to enter your house because all the leaves that may normally block the sun’s rays have fallen to the ground.
Urbaniak uses this tip for his own home. He has louvered blinds installed on his sliding glass doors for privacy, but because they don’t provide much insulation, he covers them with dark drapes for the winter months.
4. Avoid a Deep Freeze in Your Fridge
We know, you like your water pitcher icy cold. But by keeping your refrigerator at icicle-forming temps, you’re paying for more chill than you need: According to the Department of Energy, the optimal temperature to keep your fridge is between 36 and 38 degrees, while your freezer should be between 0 and 5 degrees.
Urbaniak adds that it’s worthwhile to take a vacuum to the refrigerator’s coils to get rid of the dust and grime that can build on this oft-forgotten spot. “When the coils are clogged, heat doesn’t transfer as fast, so the motor has to work harder—which wastes energy and depletes the life of the fridge,” he says.
5. Give Your Radiators Room to Breathe
Forget feng shui. There’s another type of energy flow to keep in mind when it comes to your furnishings: “Make sure none of your furniture is blocking the radiator or the vents in the floor,” Urbaniak says. “If you interfere with the heat source, it will have to work harder.”
Also, if you’re thinking of painting a radiator to make it more aesthetically pleasing, you might want to think twice. “If there’s paint on it, it acts as an insulator—leaving it bare metal makes it more efficient,” Dirlam says.
If your heat comes through registers, you can also conserve energy by closing the ones in the rooms you’re not actively using. For example, if no one is in the bedrooms during the day, you can keep them closed until it’s time to sleep, suggests Urbaniak.
6. Create Better Light Bulb Moments
Even if you haven’t swapped out those old incandescents, you can still get more bang from your lighting buck with some careful placement: Positioning your lamps in corners will better illuminate your space because both walls will reflect the light back into the room, says Jorge Mastropietro, AIA, founder of JMA, a New York-based architecture firm with experience in low-energy passive design.
And don’t forget to dust off those bulbs—dirt can absorb as much as 50% of the light, according to Blumenau.
Ultimately, though, when your old bulbs burn out, you’ll want to upgrade to more energy-efficient versions for long-term cost savings. According to the Department of Energy, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) use only a quarter of the energy of incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer; Light emitting diodes (LED) bulbs use about 20% to 25% of incandescents and last up to 25 times longer.
7. Be Aggressive About Passive Energy
You’re likely already familiar with the notion that electricity-sucking “vampire” appliances are adding unnecessarily to your utility bill. But realistically, you can’t unplug all the tech in your house every day—so where should you be focusing your energy (pun intended)?
Here’s a hint: “Anything that can use a remote control is always drawing power,” Dirlam says. So while you may be loathe to unplug your big-screen TV or DVR every day (lest you lose the latest episode of your favorite hit show), you could probably stand to turn off your stereo equipment, speakers or DVD player, for instance.
An easy way to stop their passive energy use is to plug those energy suckers into the same power strip and then shut the power strip off each night, suggests Dirlam. Otherwise, she says, “they’re always on, even in standby mode.”

Who invented the Furnace?

Alice H. Parker was an African-American inventor who filed the first United States patent for the precursor to a central heating system. Parker was highly educated compared to most Americans during the early 1900s. She was a graduate of Howard University, a historically African-American university that accepted both male and female students since its founding in November 1866, shortly after the Civil War. While little is known about her life, her design for a heating furnace is a definite forerunner to what was developed decades later as a means of heating residential and commercial structures.
Parker was officially granted her patent on December 23, 1919, while she was a resident of Morristown, NJ. The drawings included in the patent filing show a heating furnace that was powered by gas. To heat an entire house, there were several heating units, each controlled by individual hot air ducts. The ducts were then directed to different parts of the building structure.
Although this design was never used in an actual structure, using gas to power a heating furnace was a revolutionary idea since coal and wood dominated at this time. This patent also marks the first time that a patent documents the idea that duct work could individually deliver heat to different areas of the house.

8 Furnace Warning Signs

Discover 8 fast and easy ways to know when to replace your gas furnace before it costs you money or becomes unsafe. A comfortable and healthy home environment requires an efficient and sound heating system. Such a system heats the home without using large amounts of energy and it does not endanger the indoor air quality by overtaxing the supply of oxygen needed for combustion.
It is important to know the 8 warning signs that your furnace may need replacing. It is especially important not to wait until a crisis occurs . A cold night in January, with the furnace faltering or failed, is not the time to assess your heating system. Do it now.
Information is the key to making a wise decision. This report will teach you what the 8 warning signs that your furnace may need replacing.
This report is based on research undertaken by the federal Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, Minnesota Department of Public Service and electric and gas utilities. It also draws on the training resources of heating and cooling manufacturers, trade associations, and field service personnel.
1. How old is your furnace?
A good place to start is to compare your furnaces age to the national average. The average life expectancy of furnaces in homes today is between 16 and 20 years. If your furnace is close to this age or older, you should begin shopping. Shopping for a replacement furnace in an emergency does not allow time to make your best decision. Most people prefer to replace their furnace as a planned home improvement rather than a panic replacement when your furnace is faltering or failed. For starters, look at your furnace to see if you have a pilot light. If you do, it is almost certain to be over 25 years old!
2. Gas & Electric Bills Going Up?
Rising gas and electric prices are not the only reason for high bills. Furnaces often lose their efficiency as they age especially if they have not been properly maintained. As a result your furnace may run longer to provide the same amount of heat. This will cause your gas & electric bills to go up. The money you pay the gas & electric company every month could be used to pay for new furnace.
3. Any Furnace Repairs in the last 2 years?
Furnaces are like cars. As they age, you can replace one part only to have to replace another part next year. It doesn’t take long to spend $500 just to keep the old furnace running. Furnaces incur the most breakdowns in the last 2 years of their lives. Another repair sign is whether you had to wait to get parts replaced. As a furnace ages, it gets harder to get replacement parts. This waiting can really be cold on a below zero night.
4. Does your thermostat keep you comfortable?
Do you feel that some rooms are too cold while others are too hot? Or are you always trying to adjust your thermostat to make your home more comfortable? This is a sign that your furnace lacks the ability to properly distribute the air to keep you comfortable in your home.
5. Is your burner flame yellow instead of blue?
A yellow or flickering flame may be a sign that poisonous carbon monoxide could be created by your furnace. Other possible signs of carbon monoxide are: Streaks of soot around furnace; Absence of an upward draft in your chimney; Excess moisture found on windows, walls, or other cold surfaces; Excessive rusting on flue pipes, other pipe connections, or appliance jacks; Small amount of water leaking from the base of the chimney, vent, or flue pipe; Rust on the portion of the vent pipe visible from the outside.
6. Is your furnace making strange noises?
Old furnaces often start to make some strange noises as they get toward the end of their life. Have you heard any banging, popping, rattling, or squealing noises coming from your furnace? Another noise is when you hear the furnace blower running excessively. Does your blower turn on & off frequently or does it blow cold air sometimes? If so, this is a sign that your furnace may need to be replaced.
7. How have you & your family been feeling?
Furnaces as they age run the risk of developing cracks in the heat exchanger inside your furnace. Carbon monoxide, if present, could leak into your home undetected. Signs of this may be frequent headaches, a burning feeling in nose or eyes, nausea, disorientation, flu-like symptoms. Should you experience any of these, air out your house, open a window to the furnace room and immediately call a gas service technician. Cracks in the heat exchanger can occur undetected which is why no one advises waiting until they occur.
8. Is your house dry or dusty?
Old furnaces often lack the ability to moisturize and clean the air in your home. Your house air may feel stuffy or stale. Does anyone in your family suffer from allergies to airborne dust, mold, pollen, viruses or dander? Or does anyone suffer from dry nose, dry throat, or dry skin? Other signs may be frequent dust accumulation, static shocks, drooping plants, furniture cracking and musical instruments that do not stay in tune. These signs all suggest that your old furnace is not capable of providing you with the comfort you and your family may want.

9 Ingenious Ways to Save on Heating This Winter

Winter’s chill brings cozy decor and lazy afternoons spent sipping cocoa in front of the fire, but it can also bring major electrical bills. If heating your home is seriously expensive, then you’re going to want to read these nine cost-effective ways to stay warm this Winter.
Plastic Wrap Windows
If you’ve ever stood next to a drafty window, then you can attest that they’re major culprits of heat loss. Keep the cold air out affordably by covering windows with plastic. DIY window insulation kits are generally under $20 and allow you to secure plastic sheets with insulated tape and shrink wrap it with a hair dryer.
Add a Storm Door
Create an extra layer of padding between the elements and your house by adding a storm door. While it’s a little bit pricier up front, you can reduce energy loss up to 50 percent by purchasing a storm door made with low-emissivity glass or coating.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
Instead of keeping your heat on full blast all day, use a programable thermostat to set the temperature to turn it down while you’re out in the middle of the day and turn it back up right before you come home in the evening. Turning the temperature back at least 10 degrees for eight hours a day can save you up to 15 percent a year on your heating bill.
Fill in Insulation Gaps
Invisible cracks and gaps around the house allow valuable heat to seep out. Taking a little time in Summer or Fall to caulk or weatherstrip these leaks around the house will save you big money on your energy bill come Winter. Common areas in need of insulation include the space between the baseboard and the floorboard, behind electrical outlets, and around windows and attack hatches.
Hang Thermal Curtains
Invest in curtains with thermal lining. They’ll block heat and UV rays in the Summer and keep the cold air out in the Winter. When the mercury plummets, you can cut your energy bill down by up to 20 percent by keeping drapes closed during the day.
Reverse the Ceiling Fan
Ceiling fans usually have a switch you can flip to change the direction the fan blades are rotating in. By simply switching it to clockwise rotation in Winter, you’ll push hot air that has risen to the ceiling back down into the room. Doesn’t get easier than that.
Put Layers on Yourself
It’s a lot cheaper to throw on a sweater and some fuzzy slippers than to crank up the heat every time you get chilly, so keep warm layers close at hand and the temperature at a reasonable setting.
Improvise Wall Insulation
If tearing down the drywall to add insulation isn’t an option, then it’s time to get clever. You can line chilly external walls with cold-absorbing materials like a tall shelf filled with books, use decorative screens as cold air blockers, and even line baseboards with cardboard.
Position Furniture Around Heat Sources
For a free and temporary fix, give your living spaces a Winter makeover by rearranging furniture away from cold external walls and around heat sources, like the fireplace. It will make those frigid nights more enjoyable.