Extreme Cold Weather Tips for Protecting Your Home and Keeping it Warm

tree branches covered in ice and snow

Extreme Cold Weather Tips for Protecting Your Home and Keeping it Warm


With EXTREMELY cold weather coming to the Chicago area in the next couple of days, we got together with our fellow Remodelers Advantage members and friends at Sebring Design Build and OHi Remodeling to offer these tips for keeping your home warm and protected.


Plumbing System Tips:

Number 1 and most important: protect pipes from freezing!

Don’t risk the chance of having your pipes freeze, or even worse bursting, during the cold weather.  Follow these simple tips to ensure your plumbing is ready for the cold temperatures.

How To Avoid Frozen Pipes

  • Wrap your pipes in your basement or crawl spaces with heat tape or insulated sleeves
  • Make sure all of your heating vents are open and furniture is not blocking the heat flow
  • Keep a slow trickle of water flowing through your faucets—especially the faucets connected to pipes that run through unheated or unprotected spaces or along outside walls
  • Keep your cabinet doors and pantry door open to allow warmer air to circulate around pipes in your kitchen and bathroom.
  • Make sure to keep your thermostat set at the same temperature during the day and night.  If you’re leaving town (to hopefully go to a warmer location!) set your thermostat to at least 55 degrees.
  • Keep doors, windows and garage doors shut during the inclement weather.
  • If plumbing pipes are located in a garage make sure snow and ice build up is removed from around garage door to make sure the door seals tight.

Garden Hoses

If you still haven’t removed your outdoor hose(s) and turned off your hose bib properly, do so immediately.  This also includes closing and draining your shut-off valves that lead to the outdoors.  The last thing you’ll want to repair this spring is your hose bib that was affected from the cold winter months.

If the home will be attended for a length of time

Make sure you keep your heat running and set at 55 degrees or higher.  You can also keep certain cupboards open to keep warmer air circulating—especially those that back up to an outside wall.

Water main shut off valves

Every homeowner and those who live in the home should know where the main shutoff valve is located.  This is especially critical during the winter months when frozen pipes occur.  If your pipes do burst, it’s important to turn off your main water supply as soon as possible!

What To Do If Your Pipes Freeze

Locate the general area where the pipe has frozen. Typically this will be anywhere against your exterior wall or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.

Make sure you keep your faucets open. Once the pipe begins to thaw, water will begin to flow.  Running water through a pipe will help melt the ice.

If you’re able to, try to apply heat to the section of the pipe using a heating pad, hair dryer, or a portable space heater.  Don’t put direct heat on the frozen area as this can make things worse and create a break.


Other Tips

  • 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.
  • Open cabinet doors under sinks.
  • Make sure your chimney flue is closed
  • if you have wood floor vents – consider removing the cover to increase airflow

Heating System Tips:

It is important to note typical homes heating systems are NOT designed for -20 to -30-degree temperatures with wind chills into -40 and up to -50+.  Newer homes will struggle to maintain temperature and older homes will NOT maintain temperature and the temperature WILL drop while the heating system is working at full capacity.

Please raise the temperature in your home on Monday and Tuesday, 2 to 4 degrees above your normal setting.

  • Take all programmable thermostats out of setback mode and set on a permanent HOLD.

  • If you have a furnace; replace the filter.

  • Keep garage doors closed.

  • Limit opening exterior doors.

  • Make sure air vents and radiators are not blocked or obstructed.

  • If you have a 90%+ furnace and boiler: You must keep the intake and exhaust clear of ice and snow. During these cold temperatures, ice can build up. A 90%+ furnace and boiler have 2 white PVC pipes; an exhaust pipe and an intake pipe that are generally on the side or back of your home. In some instances, they are on your roof, do NOT go on your roof to clear the pipe.

If the temperature in your home is dropping and your radiators are HOT with boiler systems or you have HOT air coming out of your vents with furnaces DO NOT PANIC. Please make sure that your heating system continues to operate.

If the temperatures drop in your home, it will not be able to recover until temperatures rise and the windchill diminishes. Typical heating systems cannot overcome temperatures -20 to -30 with wind chill up to -50+. They are sized to operate at 0 degrees outdoor. Put your thermostat on hold 70 degrees or higher.

To help minimize temperature loss you can boil water, make soup, or stews; they help introduce humidity and warmer temperatures into your home. DO NOT USE YOUR OVEN or a GRILL TO HEAT YOUR HOME. Please check on neighbors and elderly residents during these extreme temperatures. Stay warm and safe this week and share this with any of your family and friends.