With just an hour to spare (and a possible trip to the hardware store), here are five important things even confirmed procrastinators can do to safeguard their homes and cars from damage during extreme cold.
1. Protect your outdoor faucets. Start by disconnecting the hose and shut off the water at the valve in your garage or basement, if possible (if there's no valve, skip to the foam protectors). Turn on the faucet to drain the last of any water left in the pipe. That eliminates the chance that trapped water could freeze, expand and burst the pipe. Then, cover your faucets with foam protectors from the hardware store. Even wrapping your faucet with a dry rag or hand towel will help.
2. Open cabinet doors under sinks located near outside walls. Outside walls are the coldest part of your house, and leaving under-sink doors open will allow warm air from inside the house to circulate, keeping pipes from freezing. Set the heat no lower than 55 degrees, even if you won't be home. Leave a slow trickle of cold water running overnight, too.
3. Clear steps and porches of snow and ice. At the hardware store, pick up de-icing granules that won't discolor cement and sprinkle them according to package directions. You could save yourself or a neighbor from a nasty fall.
4. Test your car's coolant if you think it's mostly water. If you've been topping off your car's coolant reservoir with water instead of antifreeze, it may be too diluted to protect your engine when the mercury plummets. Pick up an easy-to-use antifreeze tester to learn the temperature at which your protection ends.
5. Pull your car into the garage, if that's an option. You'll save yourself from scraping windows in the morning. Plus, your warmer garage can help preserve your vehicle's battery, which could be sapped by frigid temperatures in your driveway.