The first taste of winter for 2017 is here. Tonight (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday) we will experience our first hard freeze. To help you prepare for this weather, here are a few things you need to know:
Protect Your Pipes
The water inside pipes can freeze when outdoor temperatures drop below freezing. As freezing water expands, it causes the pressure inside the pipes to increase, possibly leading to bursting pipes.
Frozen pipes can lead to a big mess. Here are a few tips for avoiding weather-related disasters at home:
- Allow a small trickle of water to run overnight, preferably through a faucet on an outside wall.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets so warmer air can circulate below the sinks.
- Know the locations of your shut-off valves, in case a pipe bursts.
- Insulate pipes, especially those close to outside walls, attics or crawl spaces where the chance of freezing is greatest
- Seal air leaks surrounding or near pipes
- Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage
- Disconnect all outdoor hoses and turn off water to exterior faucets and sprinkler systems
- Keep heat at 55 degrees F. or higher even when you are out of town
- During a cold spell turn on both hot and cold faucets near outside walls to allow a small trickle of water to run during the night
- If you need to be away from home, leave the heat on and drain your water system before you go
What to Do When Pipes Freeze or Burst
If pipes freeze:
- Open all faucets
- Remove insulation and wrap pipes in rags
- If all else fails, call your plumber
If pipes burst:
- Shut off the water immediately to prevent additional damage
- Take proper precautions to avoid an electrical shock from being in or near standing water
- Take an inventory of any damaged property or possessions
- Contact your homeowner’s insurance adjuster to help you locate a vendor specializing in emergency water mitigation services that can properly dry out the damaged area
Protect Your Pets
- Pet owners should take special precautions with their animals during freezing temperatures. It’s best to keep all pets indoors.
- Dogs that live outdoors should have a doghouse that’s elevated a few inches and has cedar shavings, straw or a blanket to trap body heat. Pets that spend time outdoors need more food because cold weather saps energy.
- Cats will curl up against almost anything to stay warm, including car engines. Before you turn your engine on, check beneath the car or make plenty of noise by honking the horn.
- Some animals can safely remain outside longer in the winter than others. Long-haired breeds like huskies will do better in cold weather than short-haired breeds like dachshunds. Your pet’s health also will affect how long the pet can stay out. Conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and hormonal imbalances can compromise a pet’s ability to regulate body heat.
- Consider dog sweaters during walks. When outside with your pets, watch them for signs of discomfort. If they whine, shiver, seem anxious, slow down or stop moving, or start to look for warm places to burrow, they’re saying they want to get back someplace warm.
Protect Your Plants
If you haven’t already taken steps to protect your plants, here a few ways to care for them during the cold weather:
- Bring your smaller container plants, especially succulents, indoors. Mulch or cover outdoor plants with straw, blankets or cardboard.
- To prevent heat loss from sides of containers, push together large outdoor pots and wrap the bases with plastic, burlap or a blanket.
- Rosemary topiaries or potted citrus plants or roses should be moved close to the wall of your house for warmth. Cover plants such as camellias with an old sheet or, for plants taller than 3 feet, black plastic.
- Be sure to turn off automatic sprinklers, detach hoses from faucets and wrap the faucets to protect outdoor pipes.
- Don’t worry if plant leaves wilt; they protect themselves against cold by dehydrating themselves. Given time, most will perk back up.
- If you see damage from frost (black or purple flaccid leaves or stems), particularly on woody perennials, wait until the spring to prune so as to not shear off healthy tissue.