SMOKE AND FIRE ALARMS– since house fire frequency increases in the winter, ensure that all smoke and fire detectors/alarms are in good working condition. Consider installing a carbon monoxide detector in addition to smoke and fire alarms.
POWER FLUCTUATIONS – power outages can cause damage to appliances, the electrical system, ignition switches, timers and relays. There are some simple things you can do to protect the electrical equipment in your home from damage:
- In a power outage, pull plugs from wall sockets – this will avoid any power surge. Once power is restored, plug equipment back in one piece at a time.
- Install surge protection – surge protection devices should be placed both inside and outside a building. Power lines are not the only path for voltage surges to enter – surges can also come through data lines and telephone lines. Have a qualified electrician install any outside surge protection. Inside surge protectors can be purchased at any hardware store.
- When installing inside surge protectors, make sure you are protecting all of your equipment – computers, televisions, appliances, security systems, and any vulnerable items.
FROZEN PIPES– frozen water in pipes can cause pipes to burst due to the water pressure buildup behind the ice blockage. Pipes that are located in areas more susceptible to freezing temperatures, such as attics, basements, and outside walls, are more likely to freeze and burst. All pipes should be well insulated, and any damaged pipes should be replaced. Other things you can do to prevent frozen pipes are:
- Keep the house warm – interior temperatures should be set to at least 60 degrees.
- Seal cracks in outside walls and foundations to prevent cold air penetration.
- Wrap pipes that are more exposed to cold temperatures with heating tape or insulation.
- Keep cabinet doors open during very cold weather to allow warm air to circulate around pipes.
- Open water faucets to allow a slow trickle of water, which keeps the water flowing through the lines and prevents freezing. Make sure the sink drains are open.
- Know where the main water shut off valve is located, and maintain clear access to it so that the water can be shut off if freezing to pipes does occur. Water should be shut off at once if pipes have frozen, and a plumber should be called immediately. The more quickly you take action, the better chance you have to prevent your pipes from bursting and causing damage to your home. Never try to thaw a pipe with a blowtorch or other open flame device yourself.
- If you plan to leave your home for several days or longer, shut off the water and drain the pipes. Alternatively, you can also install an emergency pressure release valve in your plumbing system.
PUFF BACKS –a malfunction in a furnace or boiler can create an oil film that can be circulated throughout the home via the heating system. All interior surfaces as well as personal property are affected by a puff back. Extensive and time-consuming cleaning will be required. To prevent puff backs, have the furnace or boiler serviced regularly – at least yearly, and preferably just before the start of the heating season.
CHIMNEYS– chimney fires are a major hazard in the winter. Have the chimney cleaned before the start of heating season to remove harmful and flammable creosote buildup. Chimney fires can move from the chimney to interior walls, to rafters in attics, and to the roof itself, which can lead to catastrophic damage to a home. Older homes can be even more susceptible to this as long term settlement issues can cause a chimney to pull away from the building structure over time, and mortar will deteriorate causing small openings in the chimney that hot gases and sparks can get through and into surrounding structures.