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It's been incredibly cold for the past few days. We learned two lessons about keeping our home warm, and the water draining, that we wanted to share with you in case it helps you.

When the temperature dropped on the first night, we woke up and realized that our house was noticeably cooler than it should have been. We looked at our thermostat and, sure enough, it was 6 degrees colder than it was set to be. We were concerned that if the temperature continued to drop that we might not be able to stay in our home.

We could hear the furnace turning on and off, but the air that came out wasn't very warm. Also, it didn't run for long at all before turning off again. Our furnace is only eight years old, so we assumed it should be working properly. First we changed the filter, which I'm ashamed to say we hadn't done in six months. That was good to do, but didn't help.

Why did the furnace keep shutting off after such short cycles? We wondered if perhaps the furnace wasn't getting enough air into it, to keep going. Then we looked outside at our furnace's intake and exhaust pipes. Sure enough, that part of the house was covered in a few feet of drifted snow. When we shoveled it away, we could feel ice inside.

Then we went to the basement to examine the intake pipe there. It was freezing cold, with some condensation on the outside. So we put a space heater near it and wrapped an electric blanket around the pipe - right where it entered from outside. We heard some cracking inside the pipe. Then, within about an hour, the temperature in our house rose back to its normal level.

It seems that our intake pipe had gotten blocked, by the snow and then froze inside. The lack of air into the furnace caused it to shut down. Melting the ice did the trick. We've left the heated blanket on the pipe, and we also run the space heater overnight. We were so relieved!

Then tonight we had another problem. After our kids took a bath, the tub wouldn't drain. Our bathroom is above the garage, which is bitterly cold. Even though the builder put additional insulation around the pipes above the garage, the drain seemed to have frozen. A frozen drain is pretty rare because the water runs too fast to have time to freeze.

So we started by bailing the water out of the tub and into the toilet. (It had cooled off too much to help with draining.) Then we ran a snake down the drain to see if we could find a clog. We hit a place that we couldn't push through. And we didn't pull any hair out. So we suspected ice.

Next we ran the water from the nearby sink to make it as hot as we could. We filled a large kitchen bowl with this hot water and poured a large amount of table salt into it. We poured two large bowls of this mixture into the tub and crossed our fingers. We left for about 10 minutes and when we returned we found that all of the water had drained out. To be safe, we poured another two bowls of hot water into the drain. They went right down, with no sign of a clog anymore.

Once again we were relieved! We avoided a burst pipe, along with the inconvenience of losing the use of a bathroom.

Sometimes, in spite of your best efforts, you get a frozen pipe or a collapsed roof, or some kind of winter-weather home insurance claim. If you do, we're her to help you with that, too. But mom always teaches us about the old "ounce of prevention." So we pass our experiences along to you in case it help you through this cold spell, or a future one.

Posted 10:03 PM  View Comments

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