This week should be a particularly tough one weather-wise for anyone living in the Northeastern U.S. It’s important to prepare your home before the worst of the winter weather hits to protect your family, your property and your budget by taking action ahead of time.
Protect pipes from freezing or bursting
Before the worst of the frigid temperatures take hold, find your home’s water shut-off valve and practice turning it off quickly, a skill that will come in handy if a pipe breaks. As soon as temperatures are predicted to dip below 20 degrees, allow any faucets fed by a pipe that has frozen in the past to drip, as well as faucets attached to pipes that run near an outside wall. If s sink or tub has separate hot and cold faucets, let both of them drip. If there’s just one faucet, set it so the hot and cold lines are both open.
If you have pipes in cabinets (for example, under a sink) it’s a good idea to keep cabinet doors open during cold spells to allow warm air to circulate around the pipes–especially important where water pipes touch an exterior wall.
If you turn on a faucet and no water comes out, you pipe is most likely frozen. Keep the faucet open to relieve pressure buildup within the pipe. If the frozen pipe is visible, you may see frost accumulating on it. Use an electric hair dryer to thaw the pipe. Never use an open flame to thaw a pipe, or you risk damaging the pipe (not to mention the fire hazard).
Check out the roof:
Hopefully you did a thorough roof inspection last fall, before the harsh weather conditions hit. Now it’s time to do a second inspection. Check for signs of leaks indoors before you head up to the roof. Once you’re up there, check for snow buildup on the roof, and look for any sagging areas–the most obvious indicator that there is too much weight on your roof.
Inspect the furnace
You want to make sure you have heat if you’re trapped inside during the Blizzard of 2015! You also want to make sure you’re not at risk from dangerous carbon monoxide fumes if you’re trapped inside. Hopefully, you had your HVAC system inspected last September to make sure it was prepared for freezing temperatures, and will keep you home warm safely throughout the winter. Make sure that no flammable chemicals, cleaners, paint or additives are stored anywhere near your furnace, and if your furnace uses one, make sure the filter is clean.
Keep gutters cleared of debris
Once winter hits, routinely inspect your gutters and clear out any ensure debris or ice blocking the flow water through the gutter. Ice dams can damage the roof, walls, ceilings and insulation of your home. If you discover an ice dam in a gutter, remove it manually if you can. If it’s stuck, try filling a pantyhose leg (or similar item) with ice melt (available at hardware stores) and knot it. Lay the ice melt sack on your roof so that it crosses the ice dam, and eventually it will melt through the ice and create a channel for water to escape (this may take several days). Important: This is only a temporary fix. To permanently repair any roof damage, contact a professional.
Prepare for a long power outages
Winter storms often contribute to extended power outages. Before the power goes out, take the time to find and inspect your electrical panel so it’s easy to find if power goes out. Make sure you keep fresh batteries on hand for flashlights, and make sure the flashlights are easily accessible. Place a few candles in heavily trafficked rooms with matches or a lighter readily available when it comes time to light them. Keep an empty cooler on hand as well.
If the power goes out, the first thing to do is remove food that may spoil from the refrigerator and freezer. Take advantage of the cold outdoors to keep your perishable fools frozen just outside the door. Fill the empty cooler with food and place it outside. Keep your fridge door closed to retain as much of the cold environment as possible.
Prepare a list of contractors, just in case
If a winter storm damages your home, you’ll be very glad that you took the time to put together a list of contractor names, phone numbers, and specialties. Keep the list somewhere it will be easily accessible, or use a note app on your iPhone or Android if you are prone to losing lists.
If the winter storms hit particularly hard this week or down the road, preparation is your best defense.