The extreme cold snap caused by a polar vortex is nearly upon us, and home service experts and utility officials are telling people to take action now to protect their homes.

There are several ways to avoid disasters like frozen and broken water pipes and loss of heat. 

Here are a few tips from Fort Wayne City Utilities:

  • Trickle a small stream of lukewarm water, about the diameter of a pencil lead,  from a faucet in your home. The flow keeps water moving to prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Wrap pipes that run through unheated garages or crawl spaces to help prevent freezing.  Use insulation tape and wrap it over the entire length of exposed pipe. You can also use molded flexible pipe sleeves.
  • Cover all valves, joints, etc. with insulating tape or fiberglass insulation.
  • If the home’s water meter is in an unheated garage, it should be protected with an insulated box, and the garage door should be kept closed to hold in as much warmth as possible.
  • Know where your master valve or a main water shut-off control is located that will allow you to turn off all the water coming into the house if you have a broken pipe. The valve is usually located in a spot near where the main water line enters the house. If a pipe breaks somewhere in the house, you can turn off the water at this main valve.
  • Open doors below sinks, especially if the sink is located against an exterior wall. Opening the cabinet doors will allow warm air to reach the pipes. Remember that drains can freeze, too.  Residents may want to consider using a space heater to keep warm air circulating around drains and water pipes.
  •  If the home’s water meter is in an unheated garage, protect it with an insulated box, and the garage door should be kept closed to hold in as much warmth as possible.
  • For water meter’s located outdoors in a pit, check to make sure the lid is not broken or missing.

Heating and cooling professionals also suggest turning up your thermostat and keeping it at a consistent temperature day and night.

They say furnaces aren’t designed to heat homes below zero degrees, so you will lose heat as temperatures reach close to 20 below, without wind chills. That’s why it’s important to start at a higher temperature, so your furnace isn’t trying to catch up. 

Fire officials are also warning people to be careful when using alternative heat sources.

If you use a space heater in your home, you should keep them at least three feet away from furniture, curtains, and children. 

You should limit space heaters to one per room so your electrical system isn’t overworked, and always make sure you turn them off when you leave your home.

It’s also a good idea to make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order, as chances for house fires are increased when furnaces are working extra hard.