Winter comes with a few hazards for homeowners, but there are plenty of things you can do to protect your home and family. Keep these tips in mind.
Request a Home Heating Inspection
The fact that your central heating unit, space heater or fireplace was working properly at the end of last season does not mean it's ready for this winter. Before frigid temperatures set in, hire a professional to conduct a safety inspection of your heating units, as well as your fireplace's flue and chimney.
If any potential risks are found, act immediately to remedy them. If you'll be using space heaters, make sure your rooms have proper ventilation and that the units are not placed near anything flammable. Using unsafe heating systems can result in fire, injuries or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Monitor Carbon Monoxide Levels
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 400 people die annually of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless vapor that is sometimes produced by gas furnaces and space heaters. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can include nausea, dizziness, severe headache, confusion and unconsciousness. If you notice these symptoms in yourself or a member of your household, call 9-1-1 right away.
You can prevent carbon monoxide poisoning by installing carbon monoxide detectors in your home. These inexpensive devices, which are available at home improvement stores, provide a warning if you have elevated carbon monoxide levels in your home. If you already have detectors, make sure they're in proper working order and change the batteries regularly to maintain their effectiveness.
Protect Your Plumbing
When temperatures dip below freezing, it's important to take steps to prevent ruptured plumbing. To prevent pipes from bursting, leave water dripping slightly so that water is constantly running through them to reduce the chances of freezing. Additionally, open the cabinets in which indoor pipes are housed so they are exposed to the warmest temperatures in your home. Outdoor pipes should be wrapped with sufficient insulation to reduce exposure to the elements. Remember to also detach your outdoor hoses during the winter months.
Clear Snow and Remove Ice
According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of injuries to adults. These falls have a greater chance of occurring when sidewalks, driveways and walkways are covered in ice and snow. Be sure to shovel these surfaces around your home regularly, and keep them free from debris. Your regular routine for keeping access to your home clear should include adding sand or rock salt to slippery spots - especially the stairs.
Prepare for Winter Storms
It's important to plan for winter storms early in the season, as there's no predicting when one may suddenly hit. Stock up on these supplies:
- Battery-powered radio
- Flashlights and lanterns, with spare batteries
- Drinking water
- Non-perishable food that does not require cooking
- Baby food and formula, if needed
- Pet food
- Prescription medications
- First aid kits