Last week’s incredibly low temperatures left many homeoners in the region with unexpected frozen pipes. It seems in Pittsburgh we may not build with as much attention to cold air defense as they do in historically colder regions of our country, and these unusually low temperatures catch us off guard. As we rebound a bit from the extreme cold, however, it is a great time to think about how your home responds to super cold temperatures. If enough cold leaks in to freeze pipes when we are below zero, chances are you are spending a lot of money heating and cooling the great outdoors year round! A quick energy audit might save you hundreds of dollars in energy bills.
A really cold day is a great time to canvas your home for air infiltration – there is no easier time to find your leaky areas then when cold air is coming into a really warm space. Caulk cracks around windows and doors to eliminate drafts. Add weather stripping to doors and windows, and gaskets to plugs and switches on outside walls. Be sure to check your fireplaces if you live in an old home – decorative fireplaces can be a direct vent out for all of your heat and may require a cap or some insulation if they are never used.
Several of my clients have commented on how dramatically reduced their energy bills are when they add a second blanket of insulation to their attics. If your attic is accessible, you might consider that option if your bills are on the higher side. If your home’s windows are still single pane, replacing them with a good quality double pane window will also reduce your bills, and assuming you choose a better window (wood clad interior), greatly enhance the value of your home.
There are several other things you can do to prevent cold weather damage to your home. Keep your furnace filters clean so that your furnace operates efficiently and can keep your house up to temperature. Clean your gutters to avoid ice dams that can cause water to infiltrate and damage the interior of your home. Make sure all of your water supply pipes are wrapped to help prevent freezing, particularly in colder areas of your home, such as pipes that run through the garage and unheated portions of the basement or crawlspace. And if we do hit below zero temperatures again, don’t forget to leave the water dripping in the sink at night to prevent water from freezing while sitting in your pipes and open cabinet doors under sinks to keep the warmth of your rooms heating the supply lines!