Courtesy of iii.org
Here in Florida, we are experiencing slightly milder winters, but be not unprepared when freezing temperatures strike. Ice, snow and wind can have devastating consequences for your home – and for your household budget. Fortunately, there are precautions you can take to avoid the expense and hassle of winter damage – and even help you save on heating costs. Get started when the leaves begin to turn so that your home is well prepared when the cold, harsh weather strikes.
Winter weather prepares for the outside of your home
When the temperature drops dramatically and the snow flies, you will be happy to have taken these steps to protect your house.
- Clean the gutters. Remove leaves, sticks and other debris from gutters, so melting snow and ice can flow freely. This can prevent ice dams, which is what happens when water cannot flow through the gutters and instead seeps into the house, causing water to drip from roofs and walls.
- Install gutter protection. Gutter protection prevents debris from entering the gutter and interferes with the flow of water away from the house and into the ground.
- Cut trees and remove dead branches. Ice, snow and wind can cause weak trees or branches to come loose and damage your home or car, or damage someone walking past your property.
- Repair steps and handrails. Broken stairs and railings can be fatal when covered by snow and ice.
- Use seals to seal cracks and wall openings to prevent cold air and moisture from entering your home. Seal and install sealing strips around windows and doors to prevent hot air from leaking and cold air from blowing in.
Winter Weather Preparations for the Inside of Your Home
Cooling temperatures, snow and ice can wreak havoc on water pipes and tax heating systems. Make sure all the home's internal systems are "go" for winter safety and efficiency.
- Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. If too much heat comes out through the wind, it can cause snow or ice to melt on the roof. Water can then freeze again, which leads to more ice formation ̵
- Provide a reliable backup power source. In the event of a power failure, continuous power will keep you warm and help prevent frozen pipes or a frozen battery-powered sump pump. Consider purchasing a portable power generator to ensure safety – and be sure to follow all guidelines for safe operation.
- Have your heating system serviced. Stoves, boilers and chimneys should be serviced at least once a year to prevent fire and smoke damage.
- Check the pipes carefully to see if there are any cracks or leaks. Have any damaged pipes repaired immediately.
- Protect pipes on attics and crawl spaces with insulation or plug-in heating cable. Be sure to buy UL®-listed models of heating cables with built-in thermostats; these turn on the heat when needed. When using the cables, always follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully.
- Install an emergency pressure relief valve in your plumbing system. This protects the system from increased pressure caused by freezing pipes and can help prevent your pipes from bursting.
- Move flammable objects away from near any heat source you are likely to use. This includes fireplaces, wood stoves and heaters.
- Install or check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Not only do home fires increase in the winter, but so does carbon monoxide poisoning – so check regularly that your detectors are in working order.
- Find out where your pipes are and learn how to turn off the water. If your pipes freeze, speed is crucial. The sooner you turn off the water or refer your plumber to the problem, the better chance you have of preventing major damage.
- Hire a licensed contractor to look for structural damage. If damage is detected, have all necessary repairs carried out as soon as possible.
- Wide measures to prevent flooding. Your licensed contractor can also advise you on measures to prevent flooding from melted snow and ice runoff. Plastic coatings for interior basement walls, sump pumps and other improvements can prevent water damage to your home and belongings.
- Consider insuring yourself for a sewer backup. Floods related to snowmelt can overload sewage systems. Raw sewage that backs up into the drains of your home can cause thousands of dollars in damage to floors, walls, furniture and electrical systems. Sewage backup is not covered by ordinary homeowners' insurance or tenant insurance, nor is it covered by flood insurance but can be purchased either as a separate product or as a recommendation.