Tired of the cold weather?

Declare a snow day, get some stuff done indoors!

The bad news is that nothing but more below-zero temperatures and snow are predicted for the next few days. The good news is that Frentz and Sons Hardware, like many of their counterparts, is momentarily sold out of ice melting chemicals and snow shovels – at least until the middle of next week, when a new shipment arrives. And on top of that, Frentz and Sons is closing for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

So under the circumstances there’s only one thing to do: Take your boots off, close the door, and declare a snow day. John Frentz says since this cold and snow snap started a mere three weeks ago, they’ve gone through more than 1500 bags of ice melter. Jeez...and winters only just begun! “Nobody’s got ‘em right now,” John says of the ice melters, noting that most of the chemical suppliers are out the melters themselves.

“Our next shipment will be in by the middle of next week, but it looks as though it could go just as fast,” John says. As supporting evidence, John pointed to last Wednesday, when a shipment arrived bearing, among other things, 72 snow roof rakes. “We had 72 in, and 72 out. They were gone the same day,” John says. John keeps track of the weather, more in the style of a journal than as an almanac to predict storms. But two years ago, when Oakland County got buried by a snow storm the day after New Year’s Day, John figured we wouldn’t see another winter like that one for at least a decade. That’s why John isn’t a TV weather guy. Then again, wouldn’t you like a well-paying job where everyone expects you to be wrong at least 80 percent of the time?

Keep busy indoors
If your work ethic just won’t let you sit still, John says there are some things you can consider doing around the house:

• “Bring your screens in to be repaired. They’re all out of the windows right now,” John says. If you’re of a mind to do that, best be quick about it. Russ, the guy who does screens so artfully for Frentz and Sons, is going in for heart surgery in a couple weeks.

• Think hard about putting up gutter tapes once spring breaks. It’s not something you can do now, and while it’s not rocket science, putting up gutter tapes probably isn’t the easiest thing you’ll do. “But they really work,” John says. “I’ve had mine up for 18 years. Once you put them up, you’re done.” Frentz and Sons carries Roof and Gutter Cables in varying lengths – John will help you figure out how much you need and explain the installation process.

• Put a lock de-icer on your key chain (but wait until the middle of next week – Frentz and Sons is sold out of those, too). “Those are only good, though, if it’s really water in the lock, and it has frozen,” John says. “Often, it’s really salt that’s just messing up the lock. You can get rid of that with a quick hit from a can of WD-40.”

Here’s a tip to keep your locks from freezing. “Before you go through the car wash, put a piece of masking tape over each lock. You know that big blast of air you get at the end? It blows the water right into the lock, but the tape will keep it out,” John says.

• Replace your furnace filter, even though you probably just put it in a few weeks ago. “With the weather being as cold as it has been, your furnace has been running a lot more than usual,” John says. “Most of the time a good filter lasts for a season. If it were me, I’d replace it at the end of December, or at the latest by the middle of January.” Dirty filters make a furnace work harder than necessary because air doesn’t circulate as easily. The harder your furnace works, the higher your already high gas bill is going to be.

• There are other things you can do to lower your heating bill, such as installing interior plastic storm windows; insulating pipes (which not only keeps them from freezing and cracking, but keeps the water warmer. That means your water heater doesn’t fire up as often as it usually does, and you save fuel expenses); and checking around the basement for holes drilled through to the outside – like those drilled for cable access. You can get a can of insulating foam to seal the hole and cut the draft.