How to protect your house from dangerous cold coming tonight

  • Brutally cold air will hit the Chicago area tonight and send temperatures plummeting.

    Brutally cold air will hit the Chicago area tonight and send temperatures plummeting. Associated Press file photo

  • Homeowners should take steps to protect their homes from the extreme cold.

    Homeowners should take steps to protect their homes from the extreme cold. Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 2/4/2021 10:35 AM

An arctic cold front can give you that sinking feeling standing at your kitchen sink.

Forecasts call for frigid temperatures to grip the region starting tonight and over the next week, with wind chills below zero. It's the kind of cold spell that will leave homeowners shuddering at the thought of frozen pipes or a broken furnace.

 

Before hunkering down, consider these tips to protect your home, courtesy of Pat Armbrust, service manager for Armbrust Plumbing and Heating Solutions in Carol Stream:

• Keep a wary eye on plumbing close to exterior walls. Those pipes -- usually for the kitchen sink -- are more likely to freeze.

• Set your house's thermostat a few degrees higher than normal and open cabinet doors under kitchen or bathroom sinks near outside walls. That way, the ambient air temperature inside the house has a chance to enter those spaces and keep pipes warmer.

• To prevent serious property damage, run a steady, pencil-like trickle of water from those faucets during the next three to five days.

"Yes, you're going to waste some water, and it's going to cost you some money," Armbrust said. "However, the pipe that freezes and bursts and causes damage, that's a lot more expensive than a little bit of wasted water here over the next few days."

• Heading out of town? Turning into a snowbird? First, shut off the water to your house and drain the water system.

• If a pipe does freeze, you could try using a hair dryer to thaw it. But don't leave it unattended, and don't open a wall and stick the hair dryer in it. "That would become a fire hazard," Armbrust said.

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• The downside of the do-it-yourself approach: You may not be able to detect a crack or pinhole that leaks water as the pipe thaws. So know where to quickly reach the main water shut-off in the house before trying to thaw a frozen pipe.

• Unable to thaw it yourself? Seek professional help. Plumbers can use a de-thawing machine that runs an electric current through the pipe to essentially heat up the ice blockage.

• Make sure you have a clean furnace filter and keep up with annual maintenance.

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