Here are some tips on safeguarding your home from Mother Nature's wintry wrath

The Detroit News
Subzero temperatures can be dangerous to travel in, but they can cause unexpected problems to occur in your home, as well.

Preventing frozen pipes:

  • To prevent frozen pipes, keep the temperature inside the house at a minimum of 55 degrees. Let a trickle of hot and cold water (about the size of a pencil lead) run from the highest faucet in your home or the faucet farthest from the water meter. Or, if a faucet has frozen before, let that one run. 
  • During extremely cold temperatures, place a protected light bulb near exposed water pipes in open crawl spaces, or where the pipes enter the house. 
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors under sinks. This allows warm air from the room to circulate around the pipes. 
  • To thaw a pipe, use a hair dryer but do not try to thaw a pipe with an open flame. Try wrapping a frozen pipe in a towel soaked in boiling water or squirting hot water on the frozen area with a turkey baster. 
  • If a pipe does burst, shut off the main water supply. Reduce pipe pressure by opening the faucets at the lowest level of the home, usually the basement. Then, identify the exact location of the problem. If it's the hot water line, turn off the water supply into the water heater. Turn the main line back on so cold water can be used while the pipe is being fixed. 

Preparing your home*:

Create an emergency winter preparedness kit for you home that includes the following items:

  • Water, at least three gallons of water per person
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food per person
  • Prescribed medications
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Pet supplies
  • A complete change of clothing and footwear for each person
  • Bedding
  • Important family documents
  • Extra clothes and blankets

Keep on hand items for your pets. Animals feel the effects of wind chill. Be sure to have suitable shelter with food and water.

Winterize your home by weather-stripping and insulating walls, attics and basements. It will not only allow your house to maintain heat, but extends the life of your fuel supply, which can save money on heating costs.

Insulating pipes that run through you walls and attic can help prevent them from bursting during the winter season.

Know where the water valves are located in your home in case you have to shut them off to prevent pipes from bursting.

Clean gutters to prevent ice dams from forming. Roof ice dams can cause water build-up leading to interior damage.

Clear storm drains along the curb to enable water to drain. If plugged, water has the potential to go into low-lying areas and flood basements.

Have a backup heating source. A backup heating source will prevent pipes from freezing and keep your home warm in the event of an outage. Make sure that gas generators or fuel-based heating systems are vented outside to prevent carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Install battery-operated CO detectors near every sleeping area. CO poisoning is most prevalent when furnaces are turned on to fight cold winter temperatures or when people rely on portable generators for electricity during outages.

Preparing your vehicle:

Winterize your vehicle by late fall. This includes having the proper mix of antifreeze and water in the cooling system, topping off windshield washing solution and replacing worn windshield wipers.

Check your tires to make sure you have an adequate amount of tread for the winter. Adequate tire tread will improve the safety of your vehicle on the road. Make sure to check tire pressure regularly throughout the winter season.

It’s good practice to have your radiator system, engine and heating system checked every fall before winter comes. Also check brakes, brake fluid, oil and car battery as well.

Keep your gas tank at least half full at all times during the winter to avoid fuel lines freezing up and getting ice buildup in your tank.

Keep an emergency preparedness kit in your vehicle stocked in the event you get stranded or stuck. Your car should always be equipped with a container of emergency supplies. Keep the following items in your kit:

  • Small battery powered or hand-crank radio
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Cellular phone and charger
  • Windshield scraper
  • Jumper cables
  • Shovel
  • Extra blankets and clothes
  • Flares
  • Non-perishable food and bottled water
  • First aid kit
  • Tire repair kit and pump
  • “Call Police” or other “Help” sign


Avoid overexertion when shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car, or walking in deep snow. Sweating can lead to chill, hypothermia, and abnormally low body temperatures. Cold weather puts extra strain on the heart, so elderly with heart conditions should be especially cautious when out in the cold.

Be careful when walking on snowy or icy sidewalks.

Do your best to keep clothes dry. Change wet socks and clothing quickly to prevent loss of body heat. Wear loose-fitting, lightweight warm clothing in layers, with a waterproof outer layer. Wear a wool hat and mittens.

Understand the hazards of wind chill. As wind speed increases, heat is carried away from a person’s body and can lead to severe hypothermia.

*Source: Michigan State Police