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Be prepared: Warmer today but cold returns for rest of week

John Waybright, a fuel oil delivery driver for Emmart Oil Company in Woodstock, makes a delivery to a house on Church Street in Woodstock on Tuesday. Waybright came out earlier than usual for a weekday to keep up with the demand for fuel as cold weather continues to plague the region. Rich Cooley/Daily

The effects of the frigid temperatures that have settled over the region are making most everyone miserable, homeowners unhappy and certain businesses busy.

The cold snap is expected to last until Monday, at which time temperatures should increase, said Ray Martin of the National Weather Service in Sterling.

“This is not record-breaking cold (for our area) but this has been one of the longer cold spells,” Martin said. “We had a similar cold spell in February 2015.”

Temperatures will average around 15 degrees during the day this week. Today in the Shenandoah Valley should be one of the warmer days with a high of 30 degrees. Frigid nighttime temperatures will be around 6 degrees with wind chills below zero.

Relief, however, is coming. The National Weather Service is projecting the second half of January to be warmer than normal, Martin said.

William C. Henry Plumbing, in Strasburg, like most plumbers in the area, was busy Tuesday repairing broken pipes but offered some advice on how to prevent frozen pipes.

“First thing is to take the hoses off of outside faucets,” said owner William Henry, who has been a plumber for 54 years..

That water can freeze and back up into the house.

He suggested closing up any holes around the foundation and sealing gaps around doors.

“Leave doors open to the basement and cabinets so heat can get to the pipes,” Henry said.

If pipes should freeze they need to be thawed and opened as soon as possible.

It is best to contact a plumber right away but a homeowner can thaw a small blockage in a frozen pipe by using a hairdryer, he said.

The longer pipes remain frozen the more the ice will expand, causing more cracking of pipes.

People living in the home need to know where the home’s main water valve is located so they can get to it and shut it off if pipes start to leak. If a person does not know where the main shut off is they can contact the town,  which should be able to help, he said.

To keep a home heated in an efficient manner several things need to be done, according to Ray Bramble, owner of Aire Serv, in Front Royal.

Furnace filters need to be changed or checked monthly. A person in the home should make sure all exhaust lines of a heating source, whether a chimney flue or horizontal pipes of a furnace, are clear. If a line to a unit is blocked it will not exhaust and gases could back up into the home, possible leading to a tragedy – such as carbon monoxide poisoning.

Bramble suggested that someone whose home uses baseboard heating make sure all heaters are clear of things such as clothes and blankets, as well as placing furniture far enough away to allow for good air flow.  This will minimize overheating and prevent heaters from shutting off. Ceiling fans also help to circulate warm air rising from baseboard heaters.

Homes that use a heat pump may be a little colder these days.

“Heat pumps have a real hard time with any temperature 30 degrees or below,” Bramble said. “A heat pump has up to 50 percent diminished capacity if temperatures drop below 20 degrees. It diminishes even further the colder it gets.”

Anyone using a heat pump should start to use emergency, or auxiliary, heating means (such as oil or gas) at these temperatures, he said.

Those using a heat pump should check and ensure that the system is defrosting properly and that there is not any ice buildup more than a half an inch on the exterior surface. It is normal to see steam coming from a heat pump when it initiates the defrost cycle, Bramble said.

Bramble and Henry offered a few tips to make sure a home is sealed as well to keep heat in and cold air out.

* Make sure weather stripping used to seal doors is in good condition. Inspect the top and the sides of the doors – not just the bottom.

* Seal up windows with insulating plastic wrap.

* Set a home’s thermostat to 68 degrees.

* Put on more layers of clothing.

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