Furnace troubles during the heart of winter can leave you shivering. It can be even worse when the furnace dies on a weekend or in the evening, and you don't want to pay for after-hours service. In most conditions, you can keep your family warm enough and prevent damage to your home while you wait for your repair technician to arrive the next day.
Tip #1: Protect Your Pipes
Whether you opt to stay in the house or leave, you still need to watch over your pipes. Pipes can freeze and burst if the temperatures approach or drop below freezing outdoors. Pipes in interior walls are of the greatest concern, but even interior pipes can freeze if the temperature drops low enough.
First, close of the doors to the room with pipes in them – usually the kitchen and bathrooms. Open the cabinet doors so the air can circulate around the pipes. If you have any insulating material on hand, wrap it around the exposed pipes under the sink. Then, turn on the faucets to a slow trickle. Moving water takes longer to freeze.
Remember to move any cleaning chemicals to an out-of-reach shelf before opening cabinets if you have any young children in the house.
Tip #2: Close Off the House
Your main goal is to create a warm room for your family to hang out in. A room with a working fireplace is preferable; otherwise pick the room that seems to stay warmest. Often, this is a south-facing room that receives maximum sunlight during the day.
Shut the doors throughout the house to seal off as much space as possible. Hang blankets over any windows in your warm room to stave off heat loss through the windows. If this room is open to the rest of the home, you may also want to hang blankets over any entryways to create a temporary door.
Tip #3: Use Alternative Heat Sources
Fireplaces and space heaters can quickly warm up a single room, creating a livable area. Only use your fireplace if you know the chimney is clean and it is in good working order, though.
Space heaters are best placed on hard, level surfaces. Make sure there is nothing flammable near them, such as curtains or blankets, before turning them on. Never leave a space heater running unsupervised in a room or while you are sleeping – it needs to be turned off before bed time. You can use the space heater or fireplace to warm up the room right before bed.
Tip #4: Bundle Up
Dressing in layers is a major part of staying warm in a cold house. Don't be afraid to wear a coat and hat indoors during a furnace outage. While waiting for a repair, everyone in the family can sleep together in the warm room. Body heat goes a long way toward creating a warm oasis. You can even use hot water bottles to help stay warm beneath the blankets.
A cold house is easier to deal with during the day. Simply dressing warm and moving around will help keep you comfortable.
These are only temporary measures to help you stay comfortable until your repair technician arrives the next day. Most furnace repair, including replacement, can be handled in a single-day service call so you will only need to battle the cold for a short period.