Courtesy of iii.org
Winters here in Florida are rather mild, but don’t be prepared for sub-zero temperatures. Ice, snow and wind can have devastating consequences for your home and household budget. Fortunately, there are precautions you can take to avoid the cost and inconvenience of winter damage and save money on heating costs. Start when the leaves start to sprout so you can better prepare your home for the cold, harsh weather.
Prepare for winter weather outside the home
You will be delighted to see these measures taken to protect your home when temperatures drop sharply and it snows.
- Clean the drain. Remove leaves, sticks and other debris from gutters to allow the melting snow and ice to flow freely. This will help prevent ice dams that occur when water does not drain through the gutter and seeps into the house and drips from the ceiling and walls.
- Install gutter guards. Gutter guards prevent debris from entering the gutter and obstructing the flow of water from the house to the ground.
- Cut the tree and remove the dead branches. Ice, snow and wind can break weak trees or branches, damaging homes or cars, or injuring people walking next to property.
- Repair stairs and railings. Broken stairs and railings can be fatal if covered with snow and ice.
- Use caulking to seal cracks and wall openings to prevent cold air and moisture from entering your home. Caulk and install weather strips around windows and doors to prevent warm air from escaping and cold air from entering.
Winter weather preparation for the interior of the house
Cold temperatures, snow, and ice can damage water pipes and heating systems. For winter safety and efficiency, make sure all internal systems in your home are “up”.
- Add insulation to your attic, basement and crawling space. If too much heat escapes through the attic, snow or ice can melt on the roof. This can cause the water to refreeze, causing more ice to build up and possibly creating an ice dam that can damage the roof. Well-insulated basements and crawl spaces will also help protect your pipes. Consider insulating garages and other unfinished areas to prevent pipes from freezing.
- Provides reliable backup power. In the event of a power outage, continuous power helps maintain body temperature and prevent freezing of pipes or freezing of battery-operated sump pumps. For your own safety, consider purchasing a portable generator and follow all instructions for safe operation.
- Have your heating system serviced. Furnaces, boilers and chimneys should be serviced at least once a year to prevent fire and smoke damage.
- Check the pipes closely for cracks and leaks. Repair damaged pipes immediately.
- Protect pipes in attics and crawling spaces with insulation or plug-in heating cables. Buy UL®-certified heating cable models with built-in thermostat. This will turn on the heat when needed. Always strictly follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using cables.
- Install an emergency pressure relief valve in the piping system. This protects the system from pressure build-up due to pipe freezing and prevents the pipe from rupturing.
- Move flammable items away from heat sources where they will be used. These include fireplaces, wood stoves and space heaters.
- Install or check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Not only do home fires increase in winter, but carbon monoxide poisoning also increases, so make sure your detectors are working regularly.
- Know where the pipes are and learn how to shut off the water. When the pipe freezes, speed matters. The sooner you turn off the water or direct the problem to a plumber, the more likely you are to prevent serious damage.
- Hire a licensor to look for structural damage. If damage is found, perform all necessary repairs as soon as possible.
- Take steps to prevent flooding. Licensed contractors can also advise on measures to prevent flooding from melted snow and ice spills. Plastic coatings for interior basement walls, sump pumps and other improvements can prevent water damage to your home and belongings.
- Consider getting insurance for your sewer backup. Flooding associated with melting snow can overload the sewer system. Untreated sewage that flows back into a home’s drains can cost thousands of dollars in damage to floors, walls, furniture and electrical systems. Sewer backups are not covered by standard homeowner’s or renters’ insurance policies, nor are they covered by flood insurance, but can be purchased as a separate product or warranty.