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How to protect your home from winter cold damage

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Illinois — With temperatures expected to drop to sub-zero levels in the coming week, it is important to stay warm, keep your house as safe as possible and be prepared in case ice or wind causes your home to lose power.

Winterize your house

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency recommends insulating your home by caulking doors and windows and installing storm windows or covering windows with plastic before a severe cold event.

Protect pipes from bursting in low temperatures by insulating pipes near outer walls or in crawl spaces and attics with heat tape or thermostatically controlled heat cables. Try to keep cold air away from pipes by sealing drafts or holes that would let cold in, and open cabinets under sinks or near plumbing to let warm air circulate.

Shut off water to outside faucets and drain them, and bring in outdoor garden hoses.

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Create an emergency home supply kit in case of a power outage. This should include items such as a battery-powered radio and extra batteries; nonperishable food that does not need to be cooked, such as protein bars or dried fruits; extra medication; extra special supplies for babies, elderly, or disabled family members; necessary pet supplies and food; flashlights; a first aid kit; clean water; and hand sanitizer.

Also consider having an emergency heat source and fuel for it. If you do not have a fireplace, a kerosene-powered space heater or wood-burning stove are good options. Do not use an outdoor grill as an indoor heat source and keep a fire extinguisher on hand.

Staying warm indoors

During extreme cold the Illinois Emergency Management Agency recommends avoiding travel and staying indoors in a heated room as much as possible.

If you need to use an alternate heat source to keep a room warm, make sure it is well ventilated and keep a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector in the room.

Never use a gas powered generator indoors or outside next to an open window.

Hang blankets over windows at night and let sun in during the day for extra heat. Make sure cracks are covered with towels, blankets, or paper for extra insulation. If there is no heat in other rooms of the house, seal off the heated room from others and put towels or rugs under doorframes to preserve heat.

If pipes freeze, shut off water from its source and call a plumber. Do not attempt to thaw pipes with fire.

If you must go outside, do not over exert yourself as the cold will put extra strain on the circulatory system.

To stay warmest, wear multiple loose fitting layers of tightly knit or water repellent materials and use a hood or hat to prevent heat loss through the top of the head.

Keep animals inside or in a sheltered outdoor area with fresh food and water.

Jessie Molloy

Jessie has been reporting in Chicago and south suburban Will and Cook counties since 2011.