The cold weather this past week has brought a flood, literally, of headaches for homeowners, sellers and buyers around our area. While the temperatures will go up a bit this week it is unlikely that winter is over. Broken pipes, flooding homes, busted furnaces, ice filled gutters are everywhere. Here are a few tips that can help you weather the storm.
House cold? Bills high? Start with an energy audit. Western Pennsylvania is filled with thousands of homes that could use serious energy efficiency upgrades. Built at a time when energy was cheap and building science was weak, these homes are filled with pipes on exterior walls, poor air sealing, lack of insulation and bad ductwork. While it may be tempting to put a call in to an insulator, that may be money wasted without a good plan. A qualified energy auditor analyzes your house with a blower door test and infrared photos to determine where you are losing heat, or cooling in the summer, and the most cost effective ways to stop it. Sometimes more can be done with a good foam gun than with all the insulation money can buy. Looking for an auditor? Give New Leaf Home Energy a call.
Turn off the water! If you are leaving your home vacant or even leaving for a few days when the temperatures get cold it is best practice to turn off the water before you walk out. Furnaces can turn off in serious cold, leaving your house in a deep freeze even when you don't expect it. If a pipe bursts and the water is on the house will keep flooding until it is discovered. If you turn the water off before you leave, even if the pipe freezes and breaks all that can escape is the limited amount of water in that line. You might have a small mess to clean up but it is better than a full scale disaster.
Warm it up. If you know you have pipes that are prone to freezing, especially those that run on exterior walls or through your unheated garage ceiling, take some precautions ahead of time. Simple things like leaving the cabinet doors open to let heat from the house get closer to the pipes or a small space heater in the garage can keep the water above freezing. Or let your water drip a bit from the faucet to keep water moving so it doesn't have as much time to freeze. While these are not the best options, they can avert disaster for the short term.