Bitterly cold winter weather makes your heating unit run longer to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, which can significantly impact your bill. Winter weather can also cause electric outages and costly damage from frozen/broken water pipes.
Follow these tips from KUB to prepare for outages, avoid frozen pipes, and help you keep your heating bills as low as possible (given extreme weather):
Cold weather forces your heating unit to run more to keep your home comfortable. The more it runs, the more energy you use, and the more your bill goes up. Here are some ways to save:
- Lower your thermostat to 68 degrees or less and dress in layers. Go lower when you’re away from home or sleeping. [You can turn the heat down manually or with a programmable thermostat.]
- Reduce or eliminate use of natural gas logs, grills, or other nonessential appliances.
- Close vents and doors to unused areas for gas systems (but not for electric systems).
- Close the fireplace damper to avoid losing heat up the chimney. Consider placing an inflatable-type insulator in the chimney. (Make sure to remove the insulation and open the damper before lighting a fire.)
- Seal leaks around windows and doors. (In a pinch, you can use cardboard, plastic, or blankets to minimize heat loss.)
- Try wearing extra layers in the winter to stay comfortable without having to adjust the thermostat.
- Replace filters and keep your heating and air conditioning equipment clean and well maintained. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm.
- Take a free online energy audit on the TVA site or for a more comprehensive and customized option, participate in TVA's eScore™ program.
Water pipes that freeze and burst can cause thousands of dollars in damage to your home. Here's how to minimize your risk:
- Insulate pipes in crawl spaces, in attics, and near outer walls.
- Open cabinet doors under sinks and vanities to let warm air in. If you have reason to be especially concerned (if your pipes have frozen before, for example), you may also want to let hot and cold water faucets trickle into an open drain overnight.
- Disconnect hoses and cover outside faucets.
- Close outside vents when nighttime temperatures fall below 32 degrees.
- Know where your water cut-off is and operate it several times yearly. Make sure it is properly marked and in good working condition.
Before going out of town, take these steps:
- Keep your thermostat set no lower than 55 degrees.
- Turn off your water valve to prevent damage if the pipes burst.
- Arrange for someone to check your home or building to make sure the heat is on.
If your pipes freeze:
- Shut the water off immediately. If the water is on when frozen pipes thaw out, water that collected behind the ice will shoot out of the ruptured pipes into your home.
- Never try to thaw a pipe with an open flame or torch. Use a hairdryer instead.
- Be careful of electrical shock in areas of standing water or dampness.
- Contact a licensed plumbing contractor if you are unsure that you can safely make repairs to your frozen pipes.
Electric Outage Tips
- Keep at least these emergency supplies on hand in case of outages: batteries, flashlights, a battery-operated radio, nonperishable food items, bottled water, and a cell phone or single line phone (cordless phones don't work without electricity). See these Red Cross tips for more: emergency kit.
- Stay away from any downed power lines you see and report them to KUB immediately at 524-2911.
- Call KUB at 524-2911 to report an outage. When you call, have this information handy: The name and number on your KUB account, your phone number, street address, and outage details of downed trees or power lines.
- Turn off all appliances that were on at the time of the outage, especially heating systems. This will prevent an overload on the system when the power comes back on. Leave a light on so you'll know when service is back and can turn them back on. Follow these electric heat pump tips if your power was off over three hours in the winter: Set your system on heat or auto at 60 degrees. Raise your thermostat in two degree increments to your usual setting. That keeps emergency heat from coming on and helps prevent any potential damage to your unit.
- Use portable generators properly.
- Have generators installed and inspected by licensed electricians. Improperly installed generators can be a safety hazard to utility workers as well as to homeowners.
- Never connect the generator to your home's main wiring circuit. Disconnect your home from the power system before hooking up a generator. If you don't, electricity may flow backward into the power lines, endangering you, your neighbors, and the linemen who are working to restore power.
- Locate the generator in a well ventilated area, preferably outside your home. Gasoline-powered generators can produce deadly carbon monoxide.
- Plug appliances directly into the generator. Use extension cords if necessary, but do not exceed the recommended wattage noted on the generator.
Use alternate heat sources properly and always have a fire extinguisher handy.
- Never use a fireplace without a screen. Be sure your chimney is free of flammable creosote buildup from wood smoke.
- Make sure wood/coal stoves are properly installed and connected to a suitable chimney or flue. Check local building and fire regulations for installation requirements.
- Use fuel-burning heaters only as directed and with proper ventilation. Fuel-burning heaters produce carbon monoxide, which can cause suffocation.
- Choose a small, well-insulated room with few or no windows as your emergency living quarters. Bring the whole family [pets, too] together to benefit from the combined body heat.
- Put cardboard and blankets over the windows at night to minimize heat loss. Remember, it is essential to have adequate ventilation if you use a heater in a small space.
- Cook in a fireplace, over a barbecue grill, or on a camping stove. Remember: Use grills and stoves outdoors to avoid the danger of toxic fumes and the possibility of fire.
- Keep your refrigerator/freezer closed as much as possible. In very cold weather, put food in a cooler outside in a shaded area away from animals.