How to Have a House

Living with and understanding a home.

Now for the Real Cold Weather.

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IMG_0865It’s been cold enough this winter, with plenty of snow and ice. But if the forecast hold true, it’s going to get REAL cold. Here’s a few ideas to deal with this upcoming arctic air stream that is supposed to blow into the midwest.


  1. Get your pets indoors!  Little guys and short hairs can experience sudden effects of super cold air when stepping out to do their thing.  Keep an eye on them and get them and their bigger buddies back in quickly. If they’ll tolerate it, let them wear a jacket.  Watch for your neighbor’s pets too. If you see a neighbor’s animal out too long in this kind of weather, call the neighbor and remind them.  If your neighbor isn’t the kind of family that cares, call someone who does. They’ll come out, gather the animal up and keep them in a shelter.  Better to take action than watch them freeze to death.
  2. Keep the air filter on your furnace clean.  When it’s cold outside, the furnace needs all the help it can get.  In extreme cold, the furnace will run non stop at times, a clean furnace filter will allow the machine to run at correct temperatures and move lots of air.  
  3. Refrain from moving your thermostat back.  Don’t let your house cool off during the day while your at work, or at night while you sleep.  This weather will be challenging enough for the furnace. You may even find your furnace running almost non-stop.  Keep the house warm so the furnace is not trying to play catch up in extreme weather.
  4. Be ready for colder interior temperatures.  Furnaces are designed to provide only a certain amount of temperature rise above the outdoor temperature.  Usually between 70 and 80 degrees F. That means once the outdoor temperatures dip below 0 degrees F., it is likely the house temperature will dip too.  Bundle up, throw some blankets on the couch and beds. Remember basement family rooms are the last to warm up too.
  5. Keep the exterior intake and exhaust vents clear on your furnace.  High efficiency furnaces are vented through PVC pipes coming out the roof, or most cases the side, exterior wall of the house near the foundation.  Snow and ice build up can clog these vents. It’s not uncommon to find bug, bird or animal nests in these too. Make sure both the intake and exhaust are clear.  And remember the exhaust gasses are poisonous. Keep clear of that gas when working around these vents.
  6. Open the base cabinet doors on sink base cabinets, and washer dryer cabinets that are against an outside wall.  Depending on the direction the house faces, and the level of insulation in the house, pipes near outside walls will be the first to freeze.  If your basement is unfinished you may want to run a safe space heater under the plumbing that gets near the outside rim joist in the basement.  Make sure the area around the heater is clear of anything that can burn.  If you live in an antique home, and the wall insulation is missing or poor, this is important. In worse case scenarios, you may need to let those faucets run, pencil lead thin, streams of water overnight.
  7. If you haven’t done it yet, remove your garden hose from the frost free spigot.  This is normally done in October, but I still see a lot of hoses connected to houses all winter long.  If the frost free spigot has not frozen up to this point in winter, it probably will in the next few days.  And, you won’t know it’s a problem until the next time you turn that hose on and go into the basement to find a split frost free spigot flooding the room.  
  8. Ask a neighbor to check on your house if you are going to be away.  These are extreme temperatures like this region rarely experiences. If you are traveling away from your home, have a neighbor come and check the house for you.  Make sure they know where the main water shut off is in the case of a frozen and split pipe.
  9. And finally but most important, CHECK ON YOUR NEIGHBORS!  Take the time to consider your elderly and less abled neighbors.  Give them a call or knock on their door. Make sure they have your number in the case they need assistance.  This is one of those times when truly being a good neighbor counts.


We normally don’t get weather this cold in our region, so it’s easy to forget how damaging it can be to our homes.  Be vigilant and get ahead of things before they get ahead of you. Burn a fire, have some warm snacks, and do what you bought your house to do, stay in it and enjoy the safety and warmth it provides.  

Author: Jonas

Working on private homes since 2000 has inspired me to share the experiences and challenges customers face. Homeowners and non-homeowners alike are encouraged to make choices reflecting their hearts and minds. Acting on these choices and the realities of time, money and lifestyle add confidence and peace to the lives of those living in these homes.

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