The weather outside is certainly about to turn frightful. With Halloween now behind us, cold weather will be settling on Houston, dropping temperatures down into the 40s and 50s during the day and then into the 30s at night.
In Houston, we’re lucky we rarely see temperatures drop very low below freezing, but we do see temperatures right around freezing almost every year. Those temperatures can affect your home and how it functions. Like homeowners in any other state, you need to be diligent to protect your home against the worst effects of winter and keep it running smoothly.
Now Houston may never get a polar vortex, but that doesn’t mean that homes are safe from the effects of winter. Here’s what cold weather can do to your home — and how you can prevent the worst of it.
Fluctuating temperatures in your home
Have you ever walked from your living room into your kitchen and felt so chilly that you needed to grab a sweater? Normally, you feel temperature changes in your home when you go to different levels. Your basement is usually cool, even a bit chilly, and your upper floors get warmer and warmer. This is because heat rises, so if you’re running your furnace, a lot of that heat is going upstairs.
So why then does it matter if one room on the main level is chilly and the others aren’t?
When this happens, it usually means a window or door is not properly insulated. As a result, cold air is pushing itself into your home. There could be several causes for this. Your weather stripping around your windows may be wearing thin, or if you don’t have weather stripping at all, there may be air coming in from cracks along the window. In more extreme cases, you could have a hole around your window or a gap forming between your window and wall.
Closed doors can also let cold air into your home. When there’s a large gap between the door itself and the frame, cold air comes right in. If you have weather stripping around your door and you’re still feeling a draft, it may be a sign that your weather stripping needs to be replaced.
On the surface, fluctuating temperatures may seem like a minor annoyance, but it almost certainly costing you money on your electric bill. When so much warm air is escaping, your furnace is going to have to work extra hard to try to replace the lost warm air. This means your furnace will be running more than usual.
This problem could have a drastic effect on your furnace. When it’s running so much, especially without a break, you’re increasing your risks for a service call to a repairman. Your furnace could potentially stop working, and if it’s an older furnace already, it could stop working for good, which is a costly replacement.
As a result of your furnace working overtime, you may find that your electric bill looks quite a bit higher than usual, even for winter. When your furnace doesn’t shut off periodically, it means you’re going to pay a hefty bill.
So what can you do to prevent these problems? Here are a few tips:
- Replace the filters in your furnace if you hadn’t done so before the end of last winter. Turn it on for an hour on a more mild day and make sure it’s working.
- Pay attention to temperature changes around your home. It’s not uncommon for basements to be cooler and attics to be warmer, but you shouldn’t feel a draft from one room to the next.
- Replace any weather stripping that may be worn. If you don’t have weather stripping for your windows and doors, consider installing it.
Houstonians often don’t think about this because it’s rare that temperatures dip so low, but all homeowners should be aware that their pipes can freeze and burst if the temperature in the home is too cold.
A burst in the pipes will require an emergency call to a plumber, and it will be an expensive fix. Not only that, but the damage alone could set you back thousands of dollars and have other consequences that arise farther down the line.
When pipes freeze and burst, any water running will start to spill out into your walls. Depending on where the break occurs, you might not realize it’s there until you see significant water damage in your walls or even your ceiling. You may think you’ll be able to catch it in time and turn off your water, but pipes often break when homeowners are away for the holidays and the temperature in their homes dips below 65 degrees.
As if water damage weren’t bad enough, moisture in your walls and ceiling could lead to a mold infestation. Mold thrives in damp, dark locations, and it can take as little as 24 hours to begin growing. Every homeowner in Houston should be concerned with mold because it has the potential to eat away at the structure of a home and cause thousands of dollars worth of damage.
There are a few ways you can mitigate the risk of a burst pipe. Here are our best tips:
- Locate your main water shutoff and learn how to turn the water off and on. Make sure your spouse knows how to do this and any older teenagers you may have. In the event that a pipe bursts when they’re home without you, they all need to know how to shut off the water immediately.
- Set your thermostat to 65 degrees or slightly higher when you leave your home for a holiday trip. This will prevent pipes from freezing, but it shouldn’t drive up your energy bill when no one is around to enjoy it.
- If you will be gone for several days, turn the hot and cold faucets on to a very slow drip in one of your sinks. This will keep the water moving in the pipes, but not at the expense of wasted water.
- Thaw pipes immediately if they freeze. Call a plumber if this is difficult.
Ice in gutters
Now that winter has started to set in, you will probably see the leaves on your trees falling at a much faster rate. Wind and rain blow leaves right off of trees, as well as twigs and dead tree branches. All of this debris can clog your gutters, which can become a serious problem in the wintertime.
Though it usually stays above freezing during the day, temperatures often drop below freezing at night, which means the water trapped by leaves and twigs in your gutter will freeze and unfreeze almost every day. As you probably know, water expands when it freezes and contracts when it unfreezes. So that ice will continuously push against your gutters, causing them to bend and maybe even break. The extra weight of the ice can also break your gutters.
Ice can also build up on the roof of your home, and when it melts, it may seep into your home. If there are any small cracks or holes on your roof line, water may drip down into your attic, causing serious water damage and maybe even a mold infestation. Water can also rot the wooden frame of your roof, creating an expensive repair.
Not only that, but if the water found a way in, you can bet that pests can find their way in as well. A mouse, for example, can fit into a hole as small as the size of a quarter, so it doesn’t take much for rodents and insects to find their way into your home.
All this to say that not clearing out your gutters before the temperature in Houston really drops can result in serious damage to your home. There’s still time to schedule a gutter cleaning service in Houston. While you could do the work yourself, it would save you time and energy to hire a professional gutter cleaning service.
If you have questions, call Advantage Pro Services for all your gutter cleaning needs.
There’s nothing more enjoyable than sitting in front of a warm fire in the fireplace. Having a fire in the fireplace warms your home without turning on the furnace, and it certainly sets a mood in a home. When all the kids are home, it can be fun to roast hot dogs or toast marshmallows all together — or even roast chestnuts on an open fire.
But of course, your fireplace and chimney can be a serious fire hazard. Chimney fires often start when flue gases build up over time. The soot in your chimney stops the gases from escaping out the top of your chimney. This is called creosote, and it can build up after just a few fires. When combined with the heat from a fire below, the result can be a very serious chimney fire.
Some chimney fires can be slow-burning, and you might never know they occur until an inspector comes and takes a look at your chimney. But if there’s a lot of creosote built up, a more serious chimney fire can occur. If it does, you’ll likely hear loud crackling and popping noises inside the chimney, and you may see a dense smoke in your living room. You will also detect a dense, hot smell in your room. It’s even possible that neighbors can see the flames from outside.
Chimney fires can cause massive amounts of damage to the structure of your home, so it’s important that you get your chimney inspected and cleaned every year. If you haven’t yet, schedule a cleaning with an expert to ensure that your chimney burns clean this year.
Frozen pool pumps
There’s something so sad about closing up the pool at the end of summer. Even though it’ll be spring before you know it, it’s never fun to see the cover go over the pool for the final time of the season. But just because the pool’s been covered doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about it until next spring.
Like the pipes in your home, the pump and plumbing in your pool can also freeze when the temperature drops. The problem with pool pumps though is that you can’t just turn up the heat in your home to fix the problem. Broken pool pumps can be extremely expensive to replace, and doing it every year is certainly not doable.
What you should do instead is run your pump on the nights when the temperature is supposed to drop below freezing. This will keep the water moving and circulating, and it should stop the pumps from freezing up and breaking.
When to call in a professional
While the temperature outside remains above freezing in Houston, it’s important that you check windows, pipes, gutters and pumps. You can do a basic inspection yourself just by being aware of your surroundings. As mentioned, you can usually tell when the weather stripping on your windows is wearing thin because you’ll feel the draft. You can also see where water may be spilling out from the top of your gutters — a true sign that gutters are clogged.
When you notice some of these signs, it’s time to call in an expert. For work like gutter cleanings, it takes time and the right equipment to get the job done right — two things you may not have handy. If temperatures do fall even more, then you won’t want to be out in the cold cleaning cold water, leaves and debris out of your gutters. In these instances, it’s better to higher a professional gutter cleaning service to get the job done right so you don’t have to worry about your gutters all winter long.
As the weather gets colder and colder, we want to know: How are you preparing your home for winter? What do you do to make your home comfy and cozy? Share your tips with us in the comments — and let us know how our gutter cleaning services can help you with winterizing your home.