As a Minnesota Homeowner, we’re usually due for a formidable cold spell at least once a winter. Homeowners are sometimes caught off guard by this, whether through procrastination or just a busy life.

There’s a lot of preventive maintenance that can help if you took your time earlier in the season, but now that we’re into the cold, your best plan is to lessen the chance of damage due to the cold. There are two areas of concern for most homeowners; water pipes, and maintaining heat. These overlap a bit, but I wanted to share some tips you can do RIGHT NOW to protect your home over the next few days.

Take a look at this video, and read my comments below. If you have further questions, always feel free to contact me!

The two areas discussed and some suggestions to do on your own now:


If your furnace has been recently inspected and cleaned (since the start of the heating season), you’re likely in good shape. Here are some other items to address.

  • Replace your furnace filter. Air running through a dirty filter puts extra stress on the system, which could result in failure of a component.
  • Set your thermostat to a setting and push the HOLD button. If you use a programmable thermostat, you can gain piece of mind by bumping the temp a few degrees while you are away or asleep.
  • Ensure that the PVC pipe from the exterior of the house is unobstructed. If you have a High Efficiency Furnace, make sure that no snow or other obstructions block the air intake to the furnace from outside the house.
  • Resist the urge to jack up the temperature when you’re around the house. Your HVAC system can only maintain a certain temperature differential – you might be chilled, but turning the furnace up could add undue stress on the unit that could have to work longer intervals to keep the house at your desired temperature. It is a good idea to raise the temp by 2-4 degrees, but in any case, your furnace may not keep the house at your desired temperature. Cozy up in a blanket or make a cup of tea!
  • Open doors throughout the house. It might seem easier to shut the rooms you aren’t using, but keeping the house one temperature (especially rooms adjacent to plumbing) prevents any part of the house getting too cold.
  • Turn ceiling fans on (low) and switch them to the winter setting. Allowing air to circulate will help keep the room temp more even and disburse warm air that naturally rises to other parts of the room.

Water Pipes

No one wants to deal with a frozen pipe. It’s messy and it’s expensive to repair. If your house is unevenly heated, especially in basements, this can cause a situation where pipes might freeze. Here’s how to prevent that (with special attention to those houses where this is more possible):

  • Open Sink Doors to allow air to flow under sinks (especially useful on outside perimeter walls). Just like the room doors above, allowing air circulation is key to keeping things warm.
  • Run faucets slightly open and dripping. If you pay the water bill, you will see an increase next month, but not near as much as calling a plumber and clean up specialist to correct the issue. Turn the faucets on with cold and hot lines running just barely open. This will heat the pipes some and keep them from freezing. Think of how streams and rivers often don’t freeze – the moving water makes it harder to do so!
  • Use Heat Tape on susceptible pipes. We didn’t talk about this in the video, but heat tape is relatively safe option for pipes that are near outside walls or look like they may freeze. Here again, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Not sure what heat tape is? Home improvement stores likely stock something like THIS.
  • Know where your water shut off is. In the video above, we talk about how to shut off your water. Locate your main water line and know where to shut it off. The house side is the most logical, but either will work in a panic. This is only done when you KNOW a pipe is an issue or has frozen, and is intended to stop further damage.

The best thing you can hope for now is to stay warm, and be thankful you have a roof over your head. The inside of your house may be chillier than you like at times, but it looks to be comparatively warm by the weekend again. Heck, you might even break out the shorts after this is all over!