Winter has come and it’s only getting colder. The polar vortex that swept up the northeastern part of the United States in 2014 is back and bringing gusts of snow with it. Temperatures are supposed to drop between 5 – 20 degrees below average. Now more than ever, it’s important to make sure your building is ready for a harsh winter.

What is the Polar Vortex?

The polar vortex as we know it is an extreme weather event. And while it may have become synonymous with “giant winter storm” back in 2014, the polar vortex is actually the barrier that normally keeps cold winds in the arctic circle. If the vortex is weakened, it brings cold air further south than normal, making places like Chicago colder than the surface of Mars.

Before you begin to cross-country ski to warmer grounds, be sure to follow these steps to ensure your building’s safety in the arctic freeze.

Protect Your Pipes

Pipes can freeze and burst during your average winter temperatures, which can be disastrous. During a cooling trend like the polar vortex, it is even more important to make sure your building’s pipes have been properly protected. Wrap pipes in heat tape or use foam pipe insulation to keep the cold at bay.

Ice Dam(age) Control

Ice dams are build-ups of ice that trap water on the roof. The resulting icicles may be picturesque, but ultimately ice dams can do a lot of damage to your building. Warm roofs cause ice and snow on top of buildings to melt and refreeze, eventually causing a dangerous buildup that can damage a roof or even leak through to lower levels. To stop the ice from melting in the first place, insulate between the top floor and the roof.

Caulk It Up

Keep the heat indoors and be more energy efficient by caulking your windows. It’s an easy way to keep out cold air which could have sapped 5-30% of your energy expenditures. Be sure to inspect windows for any air leaks that may have not been an issue in the warmer months.

Switch the Fans

We tend to forget about our fans in the winter, thinking of them as summer amenities. However, if you reverse the direction of your fans, you can create the opposite effect and push warm air toward the ground. Don’t let these fixtures go to waste during the colder months and use them to keep residents warm in the winter.

Filter the Furnace

An important item on the winter checklist is the furnace. Have it inspected early in the season if possible, but there is no time like the present if it hasn’t been checked yet. Be sure to replace any filters in the furnace at least once a month—or switch to a permanent filter—to ensure healthy airflow. Also, installing carbon monoxide detectors is a must to keep everyone safe while waiting out the inclement weather.