Personal Finance

9 Ways To Protect Your Home And Car From The Bitter Cold

Even if there's not much snow, there are some inexpensive things you should do to protect your home as temperatures drop below freezing.

A man shovels snow.
AP
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Are you ready for the snow and cold?

The issue is not a couple of inches of snow: That's easy to deal with. It's the dangerous cold, and your home and car need to be prepared.

Hardware and home improvement stores have been some of the busiest retailers the past 24 hours, as shoppers like Morgan Evans stock up on snow and ice scrapers.

"I have been using a yard stick to clean off my snow on my car," she said. "I have one now, but I am still not ready at all."

At Ace Hardware in Oakley, Ohio, store manager Sean Moore showed us nine ways to keep your family safe in the bitter cold.

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1. Find the ice scraper. The simplest and most important thing, he says, is to have is an ice scraper for your car. If you can't remember where your scraper is, grab one at the grocery or hardware store for less than $10 in most cases. But Moore told us to resist the urge to buy the cheapest scraper (or snow shovel) you can find: They can break easily if you push up against too much ice. "We have everything from just the basic scraper if you want it, to one with a snow brush on it, to an extended wand model for big SUV's," he said.

2. Buy a bag of ice melter. Moore says to avoid plain rock salt, as it is not effective under 15 degrees. Be sure to get a blend for low temperatures. Luckily, this early in the season, most stores still have good supplies of salt and shovels, which won't be the case in a few weeks.

3. Purchase a snow shovel. Every home should have one, even if you get only an inch of snow. Moore says if you will be out driving in dangerously cold weather, bring a shovel along. And if space is tight in your car or SUV, he says to check out the new folding shovels that fit neatly in the back.

4. Consider a space heater, which can give your furnace a break to help ward off the cold. Moore says paying a bit more for a larger model, or an oil-filled heater, can be worth it, as they can heat bigger spaces than an inexpensive small heater. Skip the extension cord, Moore says. And never plug that space heater into a narrow extension cord — the cord can overheat and start a fire. Plug heaters directly into the wall, and never under drapes or curtains.

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5. Seal those windows. Moore says consider sticky insulating foam for windows, or a spray can of foam, to keep out ice-cold drafts. "It is a great idea for around your windows, like older style windows that don't seal well at the bottom anymore," he said. You can also buy insulating strips for under your front door or garage door, again for under $10. Packing tape can be an alternative if you can't find window insulation or don't have time to go to a hardware store. Check if you have any clear package sealing tape in your kitchen drawer — that can seal up door and window drafts too.

6. Leave faucets dripping overnight if the temperature is expected to hit zero outside. Most vulnerable are pipes against outside walls.

7. Check your smoke and CO detectors. As you seal up your house against drafts, Moore says don't forget to make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, especially if you plan to use a fireplace.

8. Don't heat your home with a gas stove or oven. There is a high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning or a fire. Grab a space heater instead.

9. Close the fireplace flue if you are not using it. Heat goes right up the chimney if the flue is open. 

Those are some inexpensive ways to keep your family warm and safe, and you don't waste your money.