Preparing for Cold Weather


  • Some good places to look:

    • In the middle of one of the basement concrete walls where a pipe comes out of the wall (or floor) and is followed by a valve.
    • In homes with attached garages at the front of the house, look on each side of the garage doors.
    • In basements with crawl spaces, look in the laundry room (under the utility sink cabinet?. or if you are unlucky it may be in the crawl space.
    • In some +/- 1940s homes without basements there may be a shutoff in the ground at the front of the house. the valve may be inside a concrete "tube," or there may be an L shaped metal rod sticking out of the ground.
    • Some houses have more than one 'main' shutoff, and some can only be shut off at the water meter or well.

    CAREFUL, if the valve does not operate easily, don't force it, it could break.

  • Some suggestions:

    • The pipes on the outside wall of a sink cabinet may not freeze if you leave the cabinet doors open during the cold snap.
    • Most furnaces have a register for the basement area which is normally closed, if basement pipes freeze, you may want to open that register.
    • There are numerous schools and inspection organizations throughout the country, and thousands of inspectors. Because the quality and purpose of the organizations vary, so do the qualifications and skills of inspectors.
    • Don't try to heat crawl spaces. Electric heating tapes work best on exposed pipes in unheated locations such as crawl spaces. Insulating the pipes may help, but even the best insulation will only reduce the time for the cold temperature to penetrate to the pipes.
    • For the weekend cabin, pipe insulation will not help unless you keep the cabin heated all the time. The only solution here is to modify the plumbing system so as to allow for the draining of the water from the pipes (even that will not help unless you remember to drain the pipes before you leave the cabin).
    • In areas of the house with little protection from the cold it may be necessary to leave faucets on at night. A thin stream or fast drip should do the trick (hot water lines can freeze just as easily as cold ones if they are unused and run through an uninsulated and unheated space).

    • Never use propane or kerosene heaters unless they are designed for indoor spaces. Check the instruction manual for safe use.
    • Check your portable electric heaters to make sure that they have "tip over" switches which shuts off the power when the heater is not in an upright position.
    • Never use extension cords or multiple plug-in devices with portable electric heaters.
    • Never increase the fuse size to prevent fuses from blowing (most household wiring should be fused with 15 or 20 amp fuses).
    • If fuses blow when you use a portable electric heater, shut off or disconnect as many other electrical appliances possible on the same circuit (or area of the house).

  • Set the thermostat at +/-58 degrees and leave all the interior doors open to increase air circulation.

    • Shutting off the water at the main valve will not prevent pipe bursts unless all of the water is drained from the pipes and the hot water heater is turned off. (If a hot water heater is drained, be sure that the electricity is turned off to the heater for the entire time that it is empty).

    • Burn only dry clean firewood, fire logs, and use black and white newspaper to start the fire. Never burn trash.
    • If you are unsure about the condition of your wood burning appliance, have it checked and cleaned by a professional.
    • Listen to the radio for burning bans (In King County call 296 5100).
    • A wood stove or insert can be used to heat portions of some homes, but most homes require additional sources of heat to provide even heat distribution. Most fireplaces look nice but are net heat losers.

      * Dampers must be kept open for a minimum of 12 hours after a fire is out.

  • Otherwise, subscribe to an automatic fill up service.

  • ...and enables you to use up some of the food which may go bad in a prolonged power outage. If you use cocoa powder to make the hot chocolate, you can prevent lumps by mixing the cocoa powder with the dry sugar before you add it to the warming milk.