Common Home Problems in Crazy Cold Weather

Posted by Justin Havre. on Monday, December 12th, 2016 at 2:56pm.

Living in Western Canada tends to make us a hardy bunch but new Canadians, visitors and those from warmer climates who are just here to work, play or go to school may be struggling when a deep freeze hits.  And if you're a first-time home owner, you might not know how to cope.

Extremely harsh weather in the winter can be hard on you and the home in which you live.  Check out these tips on how to prevent or deal with common problems in the home during a cold snap in Calgary.

Frozen Water Pipes

Pipes can often freeze anytime water isn’t regularly run through them.  You could come home after a weekend away and turn on the tap only to find nothing is coming out.  Sometimes pipes can freeze overnight especially in older homes that aren’t up to today’s building codes.

If it’s super cold and you’re concerned, keep the door on cabinets under the sink open to allow the warm room air to circulate.  You can keep a tap running, ever so slowly (depending on how long you’ll be away.  Overnight shouldn’t be so costly when you’re on a water metre).

If your pipes freeze, check the area where the water line comes into your home.  The main shut off valve were the water comes in is well below ground but if the main line travels up an outside wall you could be in trouble when it hits minus 25.   Blow torches aren’t recommended, but a hair dryer or space heater will do the trick.  It might take half an hour to heat up the pipe but you want a slow thaw.  A quick thaw might burst your pipe and you don’t want burst pipes.  Keep a tap open while you’re doing this.

Keep Your Home Warm

If you’re reading this and shivering because your furnace or boiler is out, you will be happy to know that whatever heats your home should have been inspected before the Arctic air grabbed hold.  This is when common problems can be detected like a cracked heat exchanger or a broken thermostat.   Most furnace repair companies have a 24-hour emergency hotline.

If cold air is coming through your electrical boxes or light switches on outside walls, you can take the plate off and squirt foam insulation inside.  This product should be available at any home centre or hardwood store.

If your windows are drafty get an insulation kit while you’re getting your spray foam.  Fit a plastic sheet around your window and tape it up.  It’s not much to look at but it does the trick.

Hot air rises, so if you have a ceiling fan you can run it in the winter but put it in reverse, which is clockwise.  This will circulate that lovely warm air hanging out on the ceiling.

If you have a window sill or a drafty door and you’re fresh out of caulking or weather stripping, roll up a towel to block the cold air.  Or a draft snake, but towels work well too.

Outdoor Safety

Keep sidewalks around your home free of ice with an ice-repellent solution, often a spray, or good old-fashioned salt.  The trouble with salt is, it won’t work in temperatures below minus 20 however even if it doesn’t melt ice it will act as grit under your feet, just like kitty litter or sand.  It will hurt your grass and plants though, so don’t overuse it.

Safety in a Storm

We are lucky in Calgary that we have such excellent municipal maintenance crews.  Once in a while we get a doozy of a storm and people are well and truly snowbound for a few days.

During the winter it pays to keep prepared by:

  • Keeping non-perishable food on hand in case you can’t get to the store.
  • Keep prescription medications filled.
  • Keep your cell phone charged.
  • Make sure your smoke detector and your carbon monoxide alarms are in good order.
  • Check your fire extinguisher to make sure it hasn’t expired.

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