Sunday, January 23, 2022


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Winter improvement tips


Greetings, everyone, and thanks for your continued following. Lately the subjects of my writing have been things people, some outside of South Dakota, have asked me about. If there is a subject you would like covered, please leave a message with the folks at the West River Eagle office. I do speak with someone once a week or more.

Diesel Engine Tips

Diesel Engines and Cold

For those in South Dakota, this is a no-brainer. But if you are live in an area that only receives an occasional cold snap, you might not know the basics of diesel engines.

In order to start reliably, diesel engines either need to be plugged in or kept in a warm garage. For easy starts, it’s best to keep your battery on a built-in battery manager that keeps the charge up, as well as powers a block charger.

It’s best to keep your tank full at all times to limit moisture build-up, which can be just as bad as fuel gelling. This happens when the paraffin in diesel fuel starts to solidify at lower temperatures.

In order to prevent this, make sure you empty the tank or run the engine until the summer fuel is gone. Only use winter fuel blends during the winter. Fuels can gel at 15°F and lower. Additives can prevent gelling. Check your manual to see what is best for your engine.

Does a diesel engine need to warm up?

While technically a diesel engine can be started and run immediately, it’s not a good idea. Pay attention to your gauges. It’s best not to put a strain on a diesel engine until the oil pressure is up in the normal range; or after 5 to 7 minutes in harsh cold spells. For heavy equipment, allow time for the hydraulic fluids to warm up as well. Cold fluids will cause slow controls and unwanted wear and tear.

Winter Home Tips

Staying warm and life without power

“Staying warm” is relative in a short-term emergency. Staying warm is best defined as the maintenance of a temperature safe enough for survival. It does not mean being cozy. You will still need to layer up and be creative in order to stay warm.

The best way to keep warm is to plan ahead for an emergency heat source such as a wood stove.

It is never wise to use fossil fuel indoors unless the equipment is rated for indoor use. Even so, most manufacturers suggest using approved indoor equipment for only a short time unless they are vented to the outside.

DIY ideas may sound great, but they can also produce deadly gasses and cause other hazards. So, keep that in mind. Just think ahead and have a plan. I am not saying DIY ideas are bad. I am saying to think about your health and other factors.

Retain heat as much as possible

Think about reducing your living space in a heating emergency and troubleshoot slow drafts which bleed away heat.

If the power is out, consider placing towels under doors and as extra covers over windows. Some newer blinds offer slats with some insulation R-factor, such as R-5 or slightly higher. They also help to keep heat out in summer.

You can go camping indoors. Set your tent up inside. By doing this you create a more comfortable area inside the tent by trapping heat. Then you only need to consider how to keep the remaining indoor spaces warm enough to save the pipes and manageable for out-of-tent activities. Get creative. Turn a table into a tent and sleep under the table, all sealed up with sheets or blankets.

Layer up. Take a layer off as the temperature rises slightly in the daytime. Then put it back on as needed.

Protect your home. Keep water and sewer working.

It’s your home, whether you own it or not, so protect it and your possessions.

Insulate water pipes. Sometimes it gets so cold it doesn’t matter what you’ve done, the pipes will still freeze. But in the -5° to 20° range, a little work can go a long way. Insulate pipes under sinks and in laundry areas. Insulate hot water tanks and main water lines under the home.

If the power is out for several days, emergency water and sewer generators will run out of fuel. This means no more water and reduced sewer capacity.

Keep extra water long-term in 5-gallon cans for cleaning and toilet use. Purchase potable water and keep long-term in unopened containers for drinking.

Cooking water is safe to use once boiled, but limit use to cooking hard boiled eggs, noodles, and so on. Try to avoid direct consumption.

To keep the toilet and sewer lines flowing, warm water on a propane stove or natural gas stove if you can. Then flush the toilet with warm water. Limit flushing as much as you can to conserve water for a long-term situation. Do not use boiling water to flush the toilet. This can melt plastic pipes or pipe-fitting glue.

The addition of rubbing alcohol to water for flushing the toilet is not recommended, unless you use a container clearly marked “For Toilet Use Only.”

If you are building a new home, request propane or natural gas be piped in for your stove, hot water heater, and fireplace. This way you can keep cooking safely in a winter emergency. The stove and the fireplace will add heat to the house.

Regardless of where you live, ask for your pipes to be insulated. Make sure this is done at the time of your walk-through at the beginning and end of each stage of construction. You have a right to issue a written Stop Work Order on your own home until the work is completed to your standards.

Editor’s note: Lest you think Floyd’s advice isn’t needed because you live in a modern house or in the city, let this story be a lesson to you.

In October 1989 an ice storm paralyzed Cincinnati, Ohio. Our editor and her family lived for 10 days without heat or electricity in deepest suburbia. Their house was one of five on a single transformer and, consequently, among the last to come back online. They had natural gas hot water and a wood-burning fireplace.

Fortunately, they were a camping family! Meals were cooked on a grate on the fire and books read by candlelight. Everyone took a hot shower before bed and bundled up under antique down comforters. When the power finally came back on it took days for the walls of the 1957 brick house to warm up again.

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