When the outside temperature plunges below zero degrees, it can pose challenges to keeping our homes warm and cozy. In this educational blog post, we will explore what happens when the mercury drops to single digits or below zero and provide valuable insights into how to maintain a comfortable indoor environment while safeguarding your home.
Engineering Design Conditions for Kansas City: The Midwest is known for experiencing frigid winter temperatures. The engineering design conditions for this region specify that the outside temperature can drop to zero degrees while maintaining a comfortable 70 degrees indoors. Most heating systems, whether electric or gas-powered, are designed to handle this difference, although some may be on the edge of their capacity.
Heating System Operation in Single Digit Temperatures: When the outside temperature hovers in single digits, your heating system will work diligently, running for close to 60 minutes per hour. During this time, it won’t cycle off or have short on-off periods, ensuring that your indoor environment remains warm and comfortable.
Utilizing Thermal Mass: Homes possess a quality known as “thermal mass,” which resists rapid temperature changes. Even when the outside temperature dips below zero, your heating system can often maintain the desired indoor temperature. To help your heating system, consider preheating your home by raising the thermostat setting before the sub-zero cold snap arrives.
Supplemental Heating Options: If you need additional warmth during extreme cold, you can use supplemental heating methods. However, it’s essential to do so wisely:
- Avoid Fireplaces: Lighting a fire in your fireplace for supplemental heat is not recommended, as it can draw a significant amount of heated air out of your home.
- Avoid Ovens and Stoves: Using your oven or stove as a heat source is also discouraged for safety reasons.
- Electric Heaters: You can use supplemental electric heaters, but ensure they are not placed near the main system thermostat to avoid temperature imbalances.
Electric Homes with Heat Pumps: For those with electric homes equipped with heat pumps, rest assured that your system will continue to function as normal. There’s no need to switch to emergency heat mode at the thermostat during extremely cold weather. Operating the heat pump remains more efficient than relying solely on the electric furnace.
Homes with Gas Furnace Backup: If you have a heat pump with a gas furnace backup, it’s advisable to switch to emergency heat mode (sometimes labeled as auxiliary heat on the thermostat) during colder periods. Heating your home with gas is generally more cost-effective than using electricity, and this mode will lock out the heat pump for more efficient heating.
Protecting Pipes in Susceptible Areas: In areas of your home where water pipes are vulnerable to freezing, such as attics, crawl spaces, garages, and rim joist areas above basement foundation walls, take precautions:
- Insulate Pipes: Insulate pipes or use electric heat tape to prevent freezing.
- Open Cabinet Doors: Leave vanity and kitchen sink cabinet doors open to allow room air to circulate around water piping.
- Use Electric Heaters: Place portable electric heaters near areas where pipes have frozen in the past.
- Dripping Faucets: Leave faucets (both hot and cold) on with a slow drip to help prevent pipes from freezing.
- Consider Garage Heaters: Auto Ray garage heaters are an excellent solution to prevent pipe freezing near garages.
By following these guidelines, you can ensure your home stays warm, and your plumbing remains intact, even when the outside temperature drops to extreme lows. Stay warm and comfortable during the coldest days of winter!