a lady standing in front of a window watching the snow outside the window

Four Ways to Help Protect Your Home During a Polar Vortex

How to prepare your home for emergency cold weather

Updated 1/14/22

When your local meteorologist utters the words 'polar vortex', you know you can expect bitterly cold temperatures and even dangerous wind chills. You can also expect that in the coming days, your local plumbing and heating technicians' phones will be ringing non-stop responding to broken heating systems and frozen pipes.

"During these cold snaps, our customers receive many calls from homeowners due to frozen pipes and inoperable heating systems," said Chris Tomeno, a heating sales consultant at EDOS Manufacturers whose plumbing and HVAC professionals serve U.S. contractors in New England. "One of the most misunderstood aspects of a polar vortex is the impact that wind and cold air can have on the home. When wind travels through the smallest of cracks in a home, it can cause razor-thin sheets of subzero air that can penetrate deep into the home. Any water-filled pipe, such as a hydronic baseboard, a water supply line connecting a fixture or water well pumps, can be frozen when thin sheets of subzero air blasts across them – sometimes feet away from a crack or opening in the home. It's critical for homeowners to monitor these areas and fixtures in order to save them from polar vortex damage."

To help protect your home in the event of a winter-weather emergency, professionals suggest performing preventive home maintenance – such as getting your heating system tuned up annually, conducting a home energy audit or checking the batteries in your carbon monoxide detectors.

Together with a network of professional contractors, Resideo helps keep homes safe, efficient and comfortable. The company looks at homes as consisting of four different, critical networks:

  • The Energy Network: The home’s wiring and energy use
  • The Air Network: Ducts that push air throughout the home
  • The Water Network: The pipes and plumbing that move water throughout the home
  • The Security Network: Locks, doors and alarms that help detect and protect against potential dangers
Winter Storm Uri caught Texans by surprise in 2021.

Winter Storm Uri caught Texans by surprise in 2021.

Ways to Protect your Home During a Polar Vortex

Following are four ways to help protect your home's four critical networks during a polar vortex:

  • 1. Energy: When extremely cold weather threatens your area, homes' HVAC systems are constantly calling for heat, which puts tremendous strain on the electric grid. Winter Storm Uri, the 2021 polar vortex, caused a grid emergency in Texas, which could have been a lot worse if it wasn't for Demand Response programs like the ones Resideo manages across the state.

    "My team works directly with local utilities to help keep the electricity grid functioning by controlling the demand from enrolled smart thermostats and other distributed energy resources," said Michael Siemann, Engineering Manager in Resideo's Energy Management team. "During extreme cold or hot weather, we shift Megawatts of load from the grid, which helps stabilize the electric grid for all. If your home's heating source is electricity, like a heat pump or electric furnace, you can help keep everyone's heat and lights on by not raising your thermostat's setpoint temperature and also by participating in utility Demand Response events. It takes contribution of tens of thousands of homes pitching in to help curtail the demand and ensure communities aren't left in the dark – or the cold!"

    Also ensure that you keep the natural gas meter clear of snow and ice. Icy build-up and accumulated snow can prevent the meter from operating properly by stopping the flow of natural gas. Be mindful to only open exterior doors, such as a garage door, when necessary to conserve energy.

  • 2. Air: Keep your home at one constant temperature during a polar vortex. If you typically follow a heating schedule, consider over-riding the thermostat schedule for the duration of the polar vortex – or participate in emergency energy-saving events called by your local utility. Also ensure the system's air filters are clean so it can continue to run optimally.

    Did you know that cold air holds less moisture than warm air? That means there is less moisture in the air outside your home. Frost can form on windows if there is air leakage and moist air on the inside is exposed to cold, dry air on the outside. When the air outside your home is cold and dry, consider lowering your whole-home humidification system during the cold snap to help balance the difference.
Excess moisture on windows.

Excess moisture on windows, caused by an imbalance of humidity, could cause issues – like rotten windows and mold.

    3. Water: Check areas in your home that are susceptible to frozen pipes, such as those that are on exterior walls. Consider adding a water leak and freeze detector to those areas.
  • 4. Security: Be sure your carbon monoxide (CO) detector is checked and working properly. When you run your home heating systems consistently for hours, the chances of CO poisoning also increase. Each year in the U.S., more than 20,000 Americas visit the emergency room from unintentional CO poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While you can’t prevent cold weather from hitting, you can take preventative, home-maintenance steps ahead of cold snaps to help thwart off Jack Frost. A professional can help you find a solution that's right for you and your home. Visit Resideo.com/FindAPro and ask about ways you can outsmart winter with smart home solutions.