Yes, it's cold -- as in, sub-freezing, teeth-chattering, when-will-this-ever-end? -- cold.
But there are still plenty of steps you can take to make sure that you, your pets and your possessions all stay safe, even when you're shivering.
Protecting Your Pipes:
- Keep your faucets running with a small drip to reduce the risk of freezing or bursting pipes.
- Open your cabinet doors to let warmer air circulate to reduce the chance of freezing your pipes. (Of course, take proper precautions -- or avoid this all together -- if you have small kids or pets, and there's anything in the cabinets to which they shouldn't have access.)
- If you turn on a faucet and no water comes out, don't take any chances -- call a plumber.
Protecting Your Car:
- Fill up on gas to reduce the chance that water vapor will freeze and block your fuel line.
- Top off your radiator and antifreeze.
- Check your tire pressure and add air if needed -- cold air tends to make tire pressure drop. Your driver's side door should indicate how much air your tires need.
- If your door locks freeze, dip your key in rubbing alcohol first.
Best Ways to Melt Ice:
- Consumer Reporters names the best deicers as magnesium chloride or calcium chloride. Both of these salts work in sub-zero temps, but keep in mind that the salts can damage to your concrete and plants, so Consumer Reports recommends using only a thin coat.
- If you want to try getting some traction without the damage, try sand, gravel, fireplace ashes, or kitty litter.
Keeping Safe With Space Heaters:
- If you're using a space heater to keep warm, the Consumer Product Safety Commission warns you to keep it on a hard surface.
- Remember the "three feet" rule: Keep that space heater three feet away from everything else, including curtains and furniture.
- Turn them off before you go to sleep.
Carbon Monoxide Safety:
- Make sure your carbon monoxide (CO) detector is safe -- it should read "Underwriters Laboratories" or "UL listed" somewhere on the device. Listed CO alarms must pass a number of performance tests that verify they operate reliably under a variety of conditions.
- An improperly installed gas appliance could cause unsafe levels of carbon monoxide in a home. All new gas appliances should be installed by a master plumber, who has specific qualifications. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) requires a permit and inspection after a gas appliance is installed in Prince George's and Montgomery counties.
- You should have at least one CO detector on every level of your home, especially near the bedrooms.
- The safest CO detectors are hard-wired and also have battery backup. Test CO detectors, like smoke detectors, once a month and replace the batteries twice a year.
- If your alarm sounds, get out immediately. CO is odorless and colorless, so you may not know of the danger.
Outside Your Home:
- Make sure any hoses are disconnected from their spigots.
- Clear debris or ice from gutters and outside drains, so melting snow can travel down the drain -- and not into your basement.
Keeping Pets Safe in the Cold:
- Some people pour anti-freeze on sidewalks as a deicer, which is a bad idea -- it can be lethal if ingested by a dog or a cat. What's worse, it has a sweet taste to dogs and cats, who might be attracted to it. Clean pets' paws after a walk so they don't lick off the chemicals when you get home. If your dog will tolerate booties, you can buy disposable and waterproof ones just for dogs.
- Friendship Animal Hospital says keep your cats inside during the cold. Cats left outside often seek warmth by crawling up onto the engine block of a car.