The most unpleasant part of winter has got to be the ultra-cold temperatures that rush in from the Arctic. If you’re going to do battle with an Alberta Clipper, you’re going to have to be prepared. Here are a few tips for beating the cold, no matter where you are.
Protecting yourself from cold temperatures
The best way to beat the cold is to employ two strategies – one designed to keep yourself warm, and the other to keep your home safe!
Let’s tackle personal comfort, first.
Keep moving. Keeping your body moving is the best way to maintain your personal comfort. Moving regularly will help you avoid the aching joints and muscles that always seem to accompany Arctic air.
Layer your clothes. Keeping your core warm – that is, your head, chest and abdomen – will coax your body into maintaining good blood flow to your extremities. Your body’s first priority is to keep its internal organs warm, so it will naturally reduce blood flow to your extremities if it’s having trouble minding the store. Keeping your core warm with layers of clothes will make it easier to maintain proper circulation throughout your body. Even if it means wearing a jacket, vest, hat or sweater inside, keeping your core warm will benefit your entire body.
Wear wool and down. Wool and down are traditional winter wear, but they have a special property that other materials don’t have. Both wool and down will retain heat even when they’re wet. Other fabrics lose their insulating properties when they come in contact with water. Choose wool and down over other materials – including synthetics – to keep yourself downright toasty.
Ditch your wet clothes. If you have to go outside and your clothes get wet, change them ASAP. Wet clothes offer a double whammy. First, they generally don’t retain heat. Worse than that, the water will freeze before it will evaporate. That puts you at serious risk of developing hypothermia.
Helping your home beat the cold
Now, let’s look at ways to improve the comfort of your personal space.
Use a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats can actually help you save money and heat your home to a comfortable temperature. Regardless of your programmed schedule, leave the heat turned up when temperatures drop to single digits or below zero. At that point, your pipes are at risk of freezing. It costs less to run the furnace than it does to repair your plumbing!
Humidify your home. Dry air will make you feel cold, even when the temperature is 70°F or better. A whole house humidifier attached to your furnace can help keep your home comfortably warm and save you money, too.
Adding humidity to dry air will help the air retain heat better and will make you feel more comfortable. It also reduces the air’s ability to transfer moisture from your body. 50% humidity is ideal. If your home’s humidity is lower than that, you’ll feel cold, even when the thermostat says you shouldn’t.
If you don’ t have a whole house humidifier, leave your bathroom door open while you shower. You can also put shallow dishes of water near the heat ducts and radiators to force more water into the air.
Run your ceiling fans clockwise. Ceiling fans have a switch that allows them to run clockwise or counterclockwise. In the winter, run your ceiling fans clockwise, so they force heat that has risen to the ceiling back toward the floors.
Change your furnace filters regularly. Keeping your furnace filters clean is the best way to maintain your heating system’s efficiency. Clogged filters make the furnace work harder, and causes it to consume more energy. Regular filter maintenance will also improve the air quality in your home.
A special note about pipes
Take care of your pipes. Keep pipes from freezing by keeping the heat on. Open sink cabinet doors to help air circulate around the pipes. If the worst happens, turn the water off as the shutoff. Clean the area around the pipe to remove cobwebs, lint, dust and insulation. These things can all ignite! Use an incandescent bulb or a hairdryer to thaw a frozen pipe. You can also use heat tape. Do not use a torch!
If you have to thaw a pipe, open the tap and work your way back to the frozen section. Pressure from the ice will have weakened the affected pipe. It will need to be replaced, even if it isn’t leaking.
Because water expands when it freezes, ice exerts enormous pressure on a pipe. According to one insurance adjuster, the average cost to repair a frozen pipe and its associated damage is $10,000. The repair process can take weeks or months. Most often, water damage caused by pipes isn’t covered by insurance.
The best way to deal with frozen pipes is to avoid them! If you have pipes on or near an outer wall or crawl space, insulate them. Pipe insulation is inexpensive and is readily available at home improvement stores. Flowing water doesn’t freeze readily You can open the tap and let the water run continuously in a stream about the diameter of a pencil. If the thought of wasting water bothers you, remember that paying a larger water bill is cheaper than repairing the damage from a broken pipe.
At Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating, we’re here to help. If you experience trouble with your plumbing, furnace or boiler, or you’d like more information about adding a humidifier to your home, please give us a call at (617) 288-2911.
Photo Credit: Marcus Jeffrey, via Flickr