The City of Ottawa’s guide to prepping your home for winter

A collage featuring photos of stacked firewood, a man clearing snow away from a yellow fire hydrant, and a close up of a catch basin being cleared with a shovel by someone wearing rubber boots.

As the colder weather is now upon us, your friends at the City have prepared some tips to help you survive the chilly Ottawa winter, help your community, and make a difference to the planet at the same time.

Be in the know about snow

While the City is working hard to make the transportation network safe for residents after snow falls, snow drifts might form at the end of your laneway or walkway. When clearing snow, be careful, take breaks, and don’t overexert yourself.

Be a Hydrant Hero this winter!

As winter approaches, help keep your community safe by becoming a Hydrant Hero! Clear snow to create a path to and 1.5 metres around your local fire hydrant. This ensures firefighters have access to the fire hydrant when responding to an emergency.

Visit ottawa.ca/HydrantHero to request an electronic Hydrant Hero certificate. Students can request confirmation of community involvement hours by emailing [email protected](link opens email application) and should be supervised by an adult.

Watch out for frozen pipes and covered vents

During winter in Ottawa, some properties may experience a frozen water service pipe that prevents water from reaching their internal plumbing. The City issues notice to properties that are known to be vulnerable to frozen water pipes. If a water service pipe freezes, crews will restore water to the affected property as quickly as possible. To help with this process, find the shut off valve outside your home and clear away the snow and ensure the shut off valve inside your home is free of obstructions. To report a frozen service pipe, call 3-1-1. For more information, visit ottawa.ca/FrozenServices.

It is also important to check the air vents around your home and keep them clear of snow. These vents allow gases to be exhausted from your home. If they are blocked, they could allow carbon monoxide to migrate into your home. As such, remember to test your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms monthly! For more fire safety tips and resources, visit the Fire Safety, Prevention and Education page on ottawa.ca.

Catch basins

Keeping your neighbourhood catch basins clear of snow and debris will help you and your community when temperatures warm up or when there is freezing rain. While the City does deploy staff to keep them clear, there are over 100,000 catch basins across town for them to attend to. You can visit the catch basin locator map to find ones in your area.

Be energy efficient and warm at the same time!

Making your home more energy efficient will help you save money, feel more comfortable and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Here are some tips to reduce draughts and save energy, ranging from easy fixes to major renovations:

  • Seal leaky windows, doors, and other openings. This will help to reduce your home energy use.
  • Seal electrical outlets and switches. You can easily and cheaply seal gaps by installing foam pads or gussets behind the cover plates.
  • Get a home energy audit. Before you complete any significant work, be sure to get a home energy audit(link is external) to ensure you are eligible for any rebates(link is external).
  • Upgrade your insulation.
  • Consider switching to a heat pump(link is external) if your furnace is reaching the end of its life. Despite the name, a heat pump will keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
  • Did you know? You can borrow a thermal camera from the Ottawa Public Library! These cameras measure surface temperature using infrared imaging and will allow you to identify hot and cold spots in your home.

Learn more on ottawa.ca.

Keep your firewood local

Help protect our trees and support local at the same time by purchasing your firewood locally and burning it in the same area that it was purchased in.

Do not move firewood; doing so can greatly contribute to the spread of many different diseases and pests that negatively impact trees and forests.

Winter power outages

Sometimes, snowstorms make our homes a bit darker during the winter months. If the power goes out, opt for a battery-operated candle or other light, like a flashlight or camping lantern. Never leave a candle with a flame unattended.

Generators are also an option to maintain power to your home until hydro services are restored. Only operate a gas generator or a propane barbeque outside of your home.

We hope that these tips help you stay warm and safe this winter. Bundle up!

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