If you are from Chicago (or the Midwest), please comment below about how you fared during the polar vortex.
If you are not from the Midwest, I should let you know that the Arctic decided to take a vacation and ventured down south to visit us in Chicago. It delighted us with record cold temperatures for two days and with sub-0 Fahrenheit (-17 Celcius) temperatures for 49 straight hours.
Extreme conditions such as these wake up the geek in me, because there are a rare opportunity for interesting experiments.
But it is not all fun and games, because these conditions can also turn dangerous as they bring to light flaws in a building. Frozen water pipes are the most commonly encountered issues. I remember completely wrecked vestibules in big box stores from the 2014 polar vortex, because the fire sprinkler pipes in the ceiling froze and burst.
Another issue is that some heating systems in poorly insulated and/or leaky homes struggle to keep up. This can be truly dangerous, and sometimes tragic, as some residents turn on stoves to heat their homes, which can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, or use electrical space heaters, which are notorious fire starters if improperly used.
This is good reminder, and a big incentive, to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and to check periodically that they are working properly. It is usually recommended to check them when daylight savings time begins and ends.
The City of Chicago held regular press conferences with warnings and advice such as the above. They also urged homeowners and landlords to proactively check their mechanical systems.
Our work and investment in our deep energy retrofit paid off big time! We were extraordinarily comfortable. That said, there were two aspects of our mechanical systems that fell victim to the extreme cold. And I will address them in the next two blog posts.