Baby, it's cold outside! The frigid temperatures impacting eastern North Carolina can be as damaging to your home as they are to you and your pets.

 Here are some tips for protecting your home in cold weather from Walt Pollard of Sam Pollard & Son, a Greenville company that provides heating, cooling and plumbing installation and repair:

 * Close the vents in your foundation walls, or board them up. If you can keep the air from blowing under the home, usually you can keep your pipes from freezing.

 * If you have outdoor spigots, you should let them drip; even protective wraps and coverings may not provide enough protection.

 * Make sure you know where your main water shutoff is located. If your pipes burst, you want to make sure you can turn them off to prevent property damage and a high water bill. Your only water shutoff to your home may be at the meter located in the yard; some need a special wrench or key to operate. Find out now before you have a burst pipe.

 * If you have a tank-less water heater, you should make sure the pipes leading from it to your home are insulated well and even have heat tape on them. You can find heat tape at Lowe's. Install it using the manufactures instructions. As long as you have power, the heater itself should not freeze.

 * Often, the kitchen sink is on an outside wall of the house, making it more susceptible to freezing. Open the cabinets under the sink during the night.  Allow the hot and cold faucets in the kitchen and bath to drip. If you are worried about wasting water, just consider that if the pipes burst more water will escape in 30 seconds than in 10 days of it dripping continually. If you'd like, you can place a bowl in the sink to catch the water and use it for your pets or houseplants.

 * If you heat your home with a heat pump, keep a check on it outside. Make sure ice is not accumulating on the coils or around the fan of the unit. It is normal to see frost on the unit, but not ice. If you see this happening switch your thermostat over to the AUX, or emergency setting. Ice can cause damage to the unit and significantly diminishes its ability to heat. Doing this will provide you with some heat and protect the outdoor unit from damage. Pouring hot water over the unit is not recommended, and almost always makes the problem worse. Yes, it is true that the Auxiliary or emergency heat costs much more to run but not as much as a repair or replacement of a system.

 * It would be a wise idea to have a alternative method of heat, like a working fireplace or a kerosene heater. Plug-in heaters are great, but what if the power is out?

 * If you have a programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts your temperature in the house, I would temporarily suspend any programs that are running and let it try to maintain a constant temperature. Let me recommend 65 to 68 degrees or less if you can. Go back to the program when the temps return to normal.

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