Preparing Your Home for Extreme Cold

Get Ready for Extreme Weather: Week 5

Prepare Your Home for Cold

car in snow

In the next three e-newsletters, we will talk about protecting you and your home in cold weather if you lose power (no fan for a forced-air furnace and no heaters), or if your boiler breaks (for radiator heating). Nature always wants to be at the same temperature. The greater the difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures, the faster your house will lose heat. And once temperatures indoors hit freezing, your water pipes can freeze and burst, causing devastating damage to your home.

Take These Actions BEFORE a Problem Occurs

Prepare Your Home for Cold:  The most valuable steps you can take right now are to seal air leaks and add insulation. Insulation doesn’t function as well in a home with lots of air leaks so it’s better to have a tight home with less insulation than a well-insulated home with a lot of air leaks.

  • Go to Xcel Energy to sign up for a home energy audit. The Standard Audit ($60) includes a blower door test to locate air leaks. In addition, if applicable, the audit includes an infrared test to pinpoints insulation gaps and air leaks and provides a comprehensive profile of your home’s energy performance and specific areas for improvement.

Have An Alternate Heat/Electric Source: If you have a gas furnace but no electricity to run the fan, consider buying a gas-powered generator and work with an electrician so it can operate outdoors while providing electricity to the furnace and key appliances. You will need a transfer switch to allow your household to switch to the backup generator.

You could install a separate heating source that does not require electricity: a natural gas fireplace, or gas-, wood- or pellet-fired stove. This is an expensive project, but it gives you options when heat or power goes out. Some can be used for cooking. (Note: an open-hearth fireplace is not an efficient way to heat your home. You may lose more heat than you gain.)

Know Who to Call:

  • Xcel Energy for electrical outages, call 1-800-895-1999 or their website
  • Centerpoint for gas emergency 1-800-895-2999 or 911 (if you suspect a leak leave immediately! Call from elsewhere!)
  • A plumber
  • Heating/furnace company (for help restarting a furnace)

Know Where Things Are Located In Your Home:

  • Locate utility shutoffs — power, gas, and water
  • Draw a simple map with instructions for how to turn these off. Keep this map in a spot where it will be easy to locate – perhaps attached to the furnace or electrical box.
  • Familiarize yourself with the water shut-off valves for each toilet in your home. If old, make sure they are working properly.

Use this CHEAT SHEET as a template to gather your own information. Then post it where it can easily be found.

Steps to Take This Week

  • Schedule an energy audit
  • Consider adding a secondary heat source – do some research
  • Locate utility shut-offs
  • Create a cheat sheet so everyone knows where shut-offs are located and who to call in case of emergency
This email series is brought to you by neighborhood volunteers at Transition Longfellow. It is designed to help you become more prepared for extreme weather emergencies. Transition Longfellow does not endorse or recommend any of the products mentioned in this email series. Neither Transition Longfellow nor Transition Twin Cities receives any compensation for products mentioned on their websites. Products are mentioned for illustration purposes only.