Tips to help keep your home warm as bitter cold moves in

WEST HARRISON, New York (WABC) -- With extreme cold gripping the Tri-State area over the next few days, there are some things you can to make sure your home keeps warm.

A bucket and a half of cold water trapped in a pipe by an air pocket was the reason Eric Edwards had no heat in his basement, and why the West Harrison homeowner called for help.

"The kids come down here to play in the playroom, and when they came down they said it was quite cold so when I came down and took a look, I couldn't get the heat to turn on," said Edwards.

Edwards' home is heated by a hydro-air system which relies on water pipes.

Experts say it's important to make sure there are no drafty spots near pipes during extreme cold weather.

"There could be a spot on the pipe that's got enough cold air on it where it freezes, and once it does you can't get circulation through that pipe, and now that pipe gets worse and maybe the pipe bursts," said HVAC contractor Mario Bruni.

Bruni says any heating system should be regularly inspected to make sure it's working properly.

For some homeowners, this relatively mild winter may have masked intermittent problems.

"You can sweep it under the rug when it's 70 degrees every other day as it's been apparently this winter. But you can't do it when you get into a really cold spell, it's going to be cold for three, four, five days," Bruni said.

There are other time-tested tips to stay warm and save money.

--Seal drafts around windows and under doors.

--Use a programmable thermostat to lower heat when you're not home or sleeping.

--Run ceiling fans clockwise. That forces warm air downward.

--Change air filters each month. A dirty filter makes air handlers work harder.

Speaking of taxing the system, that's what severe cold does, and why things go wrong.

"That's when these systems operate to their maximum capacity. Just like a car, if you run it at the Indy 500, that's when it's going to break down. Well, we're going into the Indy 500 of heating," said Bruni.

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