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Extreme Cold Temperature – Home Awareness

Jan. 06, 2014
Thornton & Grooms is offering home awareness tips to the Detroit Metro Area in response to the extreme cold weather that hit the area in early January. The following offers advice to homeowners on what to expect inside their home, how to prepare, and how to manage effectively.

What You Need To Know

Furnaces in the metro Detroit area are designed to maintain the indoor temperature at 70 degrees near the thermostat when outdoor temperatures are 5 degrees Fahrenheit (or greater).

When outdoor temperatures dip below 5 degrees Fahrenheit, furnaces in our area may struggle to maintain a desired comfort level. On Tuesday & Wednesday, weather forecasters are predicting lows close to negative 17.

It will be COMMON for homes to be MUCH COOLER during this extreme temperature. INDOOR TEMPERATURES COULD BE AS LOW AS 55 DEGREES.

Tips to keep you home warmer during these extreme cold temperatures
  • OVERRIDE YOUR PROGRAMMABLE THERMOSTAT. Many homes have programmable thermostats, which provide convenience and save you money on your utility bills. To help keep your home warmer during the extreme cold temperatures, override your thermostats programming. Most programmable thermostats have a "HOLD" button that overrides the programming function. Press "HOLD" then adjust the temperature up to your desired indoor temperature. If your thermostat does not have a "HOLD" button, please reference the thermostat's operation manual or visit the thermostat manufacture's website.
  • CLEAN YOUR AIR FILTER. Furnaces need to breathe. A dirty filter will reduce the capacity of your furnace - leaving your home less comfortable than you would prefer. In addition, a dirty filter will cost you money. During these extreme temperatures, we would recommend removing your filter for a short period of time rather than suffocate your furnace or risk traveling outside of your home to get a replacement.
  • AUXILLIARY HEAT. First, a disclaimer - auxiliary heating units can be extremely dangerous and are a leading cause of home fires and potentially a health risk. Please only use units that are designed for space heating. If you choose to use auxiliary heating units, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions and safety guidelines. Be careful not to overload electrical circuits and make sure the units are located away from people or combustible items.
  • CLEAR THE SNOW. High efficiency furnaces (greater than 90%) use PVC piping to exhaust the fumes from combustion and to provide proper air for combustion. Typically these pipes terminate through the outside wall and are located about one to two feet from the ground outside your home. In heavy snow conditions, these pipes can become blocked by snow accumulation. High efficiency furnaces have safety devices that recognize the blocked pipe and will shut off. While this prevents an unsafe situation it also leaves you without heat. If your furnace stops working, check these pipes first. If you find they are blocked, clear the obstruction. Then reset the power to your furnace. This is simply done by turning the power off to furnace for 30 seconds and then back on (typically there is a toggle or light switch located on the side of the furnace). If this was the reason for the furnace failure, the furnace will restart automatically and you will soon be on your way to "comfy".

Prevent Freezing Pipes

It is common for water piping to freeze during these cold temperatures. A frozen and split pipe can be horribly inconvenient and cause a tremendous amount of damage. Here are some ways to help prevent frozen pipes from occurring:
  • MOVING WATER DOESN'T FREEZE. Ever see a flowing river freeze? It's rare. Same with water in your home's plumbing system. During the extreme temperatures, it's advisable to let the water trickle from faucets in the home to keep the water moving in the pipes.
  • OPEN THE CABINET DOORS. In some homes, the water piping is located in the exterior walls. This creates a recipe for disaster during extreme cold temperatures. Open the doors to the sink base cabinets (i.e. kitchen sink and bathroom sinks). The heat from the room will move into the cabinet and help to heat the piping in walls.
  • HEAT TAPE. Some piping is located in an attic or crawl space and is accessible. Heat tape is an electrical cord that is designed to wrap around water piping to keep the pipe warm where it is impossible or difficult to heat the air around the pipe.
  • PIPE INSULATION. Pipes can also be insulated to keep them from freezing. In attics, we recommend "tenting" the piping. This allows the heat from the room below to travel through the ceiling and heat the piping. The insulation "tent" helps contain the heat around the pipe.
  • SEAL OPENINGS IN EXTERIOR WALLS. It doesn't take a very large hole - located in just the right spot - to freeze a water line. Check for small holes, gaps, and cracks in your exterior walls and seal them with the proper caulking to reduce the cold temperatures from infiltrating your home and freezing nearby pipes.
  • PIPE THAWING. Sometimes, no matter what you do, pipes will freeze. If this happens to you, first turn the water off to this pipe or the piping network that serves this pipe. This is recommended to prevent excessive water damage in the event that there is a split in the pipe. Then unthaw the pipe. Try a hair dryer, electric space heater, or even light bulb. Please do not use a torch; it can make a bad situation worse. If the pipe is inaccessible, call your local plumber. Most reputable full service plumbers have pipe thawing equipment for such a situation.
  • REMOVE EXTERIOR HOSES. Hoses can trap water inside of the water piping that is located within the exterior wall. During cold temperatures, this piping will be highly susceptible to freezing. If you forgot to remove your hoses and discover this mid-winter season, remove the hose and make sure the valve serving the pipe for the hose is turned off, then call a licensed plumber to inspect the condition of your pipe before you use the hose again.
For more information about keeping your home comfortable and safe or about Thornton & Grooms, visit www.thorntonandgrooms.com.

Thornton and Grooms has been serving homeowners for more than 75 years with experience and a local reputation for superior technical skills in heating, air conditioning, plumbing, and indoor air quality systems. With products ranging from furnaces and heat pumps to air purifiers and thermostats, they can equip your home for any season while saving you money.

Contact: Dave Knight
Thornton & Grooms
(248) 430-0919
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Thornton & Grooms
24565 Hallwood Ct
Farmington Hills, MI 48335
(248) 644-7810
MI Plumbing Lic. #: 8106666
MI Contractors Lic. #: 7100232
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