The homeowner's guide to Calgary's deep freeze

It's not news that Calgary is in the middle of a cold snap. Pipes are freezing, cars won't start and it's too frigid to take your furry friends on their usual walks. But two handymen say there are ways you can keep these sub-zero temperatures from leading to an unpleasant repair bill.

So how do you defend your home from the weather? 

Here are some suggestions for how to protect your pipes and keep your heaters out of harm's way. 

Pipes

If you're in a 40- or 50-year-old house, or have a history of pipes freezing, keep a small trickle of water running at all times, says Pete Archdekin, owner of Pete the Plumber. He adds that Inglewood and Bowness are particularly risky areas in the winter because the water mains aren't buried as deep and are more susceptible to freezing. 

He also advises to open up the kitchen and bathroom cabinets, take out all the contents and leave the doors open. Cabinets typically don't get enough air circulation, so leave them open to let heat enter and warm the pipes behind the cabinets.

You can also take a small space heater, leave it a foot away from the cabinets and allow it to warm up the walls. Do not place the heater inside the cabinets, Archdekin warns.

Outside your home

Archdekin suggests checking your outdoor vents to ensure there are no icicles, snow or blockage of the tubes. Often, water heaters have a safety auto-stop function if the tubes are blocked. If the vents aren't clear, you could be taking some cold showers. 

If you find there's ice building up on your windows, it could be that there's too much moisture inside the home. Avoid things like air drying clothing. Place a rolled towel along the window sill to absorb excess water.

Once the cold snap breaks, Alex Campbell at Handyman Connection says adding proper weather stripping to your doors and windows could save you a lot of stress and money next time the temperature drops. 

Submitted by Ritchie Gilby

Furnaces

Campbell says it's important to check your furnace filter and get maintenance done if needed. That way, your furnace will keep you warm and prevent any safety concerns. 

Other dos and don'ts

If you're planning a vacation, Campbell recommends setting your thermostat to kick in every few hours so the pipes and other important infrastructure keeps warm. 

Both experts say open flames are a very bad idea — something a Calgary family learned the hard way Tuesday when their house in Beddington Heights almost burned down as they attempted to thaw frozen pipes. No matter what you're trying to thaw (doors, windows, pipes), stay away from fire. 

If your pipes are frozen, they suggest trying a small space heater or a hairdryer. Make sure to turn off the water valves if the pipes are blocked to prevent bursting. 

Above all, the best way to keep your home warm and safe is what Campbell calls "preventative maintenance" — taking care of things before there's an issue. 

"Don't wait until it's too late," he cautions.