Preparing for Extreme Cold

Preparing for Extreme Cold

A prolonged stretch of extreme cold and possible wintry precipitation is predicted for the Houston area over the next five days. Houston homes are not built to withstand freezing temperatures. Take steps now to protect your home from the freeze!

Remember the Four Ps – People, Pets, Plants, Pipes


Make sure you have groceries and other supplies on hand in case the roads become slick and driving is dangerous. Check on elderly neighbors to see if they need help preparing before the freeze.  If you will be leaving town, make sure to review your home preparation checklist before you go and pack extra blankets in your car in case of car trouble during freezing conditions.

Run your vehicle for 15 minutes with the heater on to circulate the antifreeze through the system.  If your wiper fluid is not rated for temperatures below 32 degrees, add 16 oz of rubbing alcohol to each gallon of wiper fluid to protect the tank and keep you car windows clear during inclement weather.

Read more cold weather car care tips here.

People with electric heat start to get the message that maybe one or two of their heat  elements are out when the temperature gets below 40 degrees. At 30 degrees they  KNOW something is wrong. This occurs commonly around 11pm. Get your electric heaters repaired and inspected as needed.

Reversing your ceiling fan helps force warm air back down into your living space. There is usually a small switch on the fan to change the direction of the blades. This is a great way to save energy during the winter months.

Inspect fireplaces before using them. Depending on how often your fireplace is used, it should be cleaned and inspected  every year or two. Ignoring your fireplace could lead to a chimney or house fire due  to creosote build up. Inspections can also reveal any dangerous structural or  operational issues with your fireplace. And don’t forget to close the flue when the fireplace is not in use. This will prevent cold air from entering your home from outside.


Your furry friends need to stay warm, too.  Bring pets inside when the temperatures plummet or make sure they have a safe, warm space outside. Dogs and cats can suffer from hypothermia when temperatures drop down to 20 degrees.  Remember, if you’re cold, they probably are too.

For further tips on caring for these smaller family members, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association’s page on Cold Weather Animal Safety here!


Many tropical plants will not survive a hard freeze.  Move potted plants indoors or inside your garage.  Not only can the cold kill your plants, but wet dirt can freeze and cause pots to crack. Cover delicate plants in your flowerbeds with a sheet or other light cloth.  When wrapping plants, make sure to cover the base and block the wind and cold air from the ground. Trim plants like hydrangeas that are especially susceptible to the cold.

Read more tips for plant care during cold weather here.


Houston homes are not built to withstand extreme cold. It is important to protect exterior pipes.  Freezing water will expand and cause pipes to crack or burst.  Take the following preventive measures before the cold weather arrives:

  • Drain all outside hoses and disconnect them from the hose bibs or spigots.
  • Cover hose bibs, but leave them dripping to prevent a freeze.
  • Drain and BLOW OUT outdoor plumbing (e.g. outdoor kitchens). Water that is left in the pipes might freeze.
  • Indoor plumbing that is on an outer wall may freeze if temperatures drop.  Leave your faucets dripping (both hot and cold taps), especially overnight.
  • Open your bathroom and kitchen sink cabinets to allow the warm air from your home to circulate around the pipes. And don’t forget to leave them dripping before you go to bed if they are on exterior walls.
  • Irrigation system backflow preventers are especially prone to the cold. Turn the system off and wrap the brass dome on the backflow preventer. Remember pipes up and down often will have water in them. Insulate them well or they will crack and split. A smart move is to turn off the water to the irrigation system and then run one zone for a minute to get the water out of the riser.  
  • If you keep a power washer in your garage make sure to drain the water from the lines.
  • Locate your water meter in case you need to shut off the water to your home following a burst pipe.

For more information on the winter weather, visit the Houston Office of Emergency Management.