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Cold weather tips for PNW homes

Seasonal Updated: November 22, 2021

The more energy efficient your home is, the less money you’ll have to spend to keep it comfortable.

The more energy efficient your home is, the less money you’ll have to spend to keep it comfortable. This is especially true in winter. By taking a few simple steps now, you can enjoy a cozier home with lower energy bills and help prevent potential damage caused by winter weather.

Read on for cold weather tips that work statewide and some specific to your region of Oregon.


1. Program an energy-saving schedule for your thermostat. Set to 65–68°F during the day and lower to 58–60°F while you’re asleep or away. If you have a heat pump, turn the thermostat down no more than three degrees at night. Upgrade to a smart thermostat and let it do the programming for you!

2. Clean and replace filters regularly based on manufacturer’s recommendations to keep your furnace or heat pump at peak efficiency. Check out our DIY article on replacing your filter.

3. Seal drafty doors and windows with weatherstripping. For a helpful how-to guide, see our DIY winter weatherization article.

Eastern Oregon

1. Disconnect garden hoses. This protects pipes from bursting and freezing, and also prevents broken valves and joints.

  • First, find the shut-off valve within your home for your outdoor faucets and turn it clockwise to the off position. If it’s not completely off, some water can still get in the pipes.
  • Then, disconnect all your hoses, drain any water from them and store them inside in a dry location.
  • You’ll also want to turn on the outdoor faucet (even though you’ve already shut off the valve) to drain any remaining water in the hose bib itself.

2. Heat your home with help from the sun by leaving window shades or blinds open during the daytime. Close window coverings at night to help keep the heat in.

3. Open cupboard doors in your kitchen and bathrooms. Water lines that supply these rooms are often located in outside walls, and air leaks in your siding or insulation can cause the pipes to freeze. If the temperature falls below freezing, leaving the cupboard doors open allows the pipes to get more heat. Insulating your pipes can be a good long-term solution.

Northwest Oregon and Portland Metro

1.     Caulk holes and cracks to seal air leaks around windows

  • Ensure good adhesion, use a solvent to clean the area and make sure the areas to be caulked are dry.
  • Hold the caulk gun at a 45-degree angle and apply to all corners in a window frame, including the areas between the frame and the wall.
  • Caulk each crack in a continuous stream, avoiding stops and starts if possible.
  • Make sure the caulk covers both sides of the crack or seam.
  • If caulk seeps out of a crack, push it back in with a putty knife.
  • No need to skimp. If the caulk shrinks, apply more to form a smooth bead that completely seals the crack.

2. Vacuum vents and registers regularly and avoid blocking them with furniture. This keeps the air moving freely. Additionally, remove foam blocks from crawlspace vents to prevent moisture from gathering in your crawlspace during the wet months.

3.  Stow your outdoor furniture and yard equipment. Steady Portland winter rain can do plenty of damage to patio furniture and equipment like grills and lawn mowers. Store these items in an indoor space or use a protective covering.

4.  Keep your gutters clean throughout the winter to avoid buildup of water and potential damage.

Southwest Oregon

1. Cover bare floors with rugs to add comfort and retain heat on cold coastal days.

2.  Close fireplace and wood stove dampers when not in use, but wait until several hours after the fire is out and the ashes are cold.

3.  Use ceiling fans to push warm air down during the winter, but make sure they’re spinning in the right direction. Your fans should spin clockwise in winter and counterclockwise in summer. Most modern fans have a remote or wall controls that make it easy to adjust the direction. If you have an older fan, look for a toggle switch on the motor housing.

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