Winter in Southern Wisconsin seems to have arrived with a bang this year, and our homes are working overtime to shield us from the elements. Make sure you’re taking precautions to keep you and your home safe while we weather winters worst (and dream of Spring).
Space Heaters – Make sure you have a newer model with an auto-shut off button on the bottom to prevent fires if it is tipped over by a pet or child. Keep space heaters a safe distance from furniture, drapes, or other flammable materials, and do not run them near water (like the bath tub). Never leave a running space heater unattended.
Generators – Never run generators inside your home or garage. Keep them away from windows and doors – preferably at least 20 feet from your home.
Fuel Based Heat Sources – Never operate a gas or propane fueled heater or grill inside your home or closed garage. Any heat source that burns fuel will produce carbon monoxide and they are also a significant fire risk.
Carbon Monoxide/Smoke Detectors – Make sure all detectors are compliant and in good working order. Have extra batteries on hand for them as well.
Make sure your furnace is in good working order with a clean filter – change the filter regularly. Make sure that your vents and returns are clear and unobstructed to aid in air movement. Don’t forget about the plastic vents on the outside of your home – if you have them, make sure they are kept clear of snow and ice build up. Keep the numbers for emergency HVAC services in a handy location – know who you can call after hours in an emergency!
Pipes and Plumbing
Keep your home heated to at least 65 degrees, and if you will be out of town during a cold snap, have someone check on your home periodically to ensure that your furnace is maintaining a safe temperature for your pipes. During periods of extreme cold, consider opening cabinet doors in your kitchen and bathrooms to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing – especially if your sinks are on an exterior wall. You can also let water run, at a small trickle, from faucets to keep pipes from freezing. Remember to keep your garage door closed – especially if there are water supply lines in your garage – and consider adding insulation to areas like attics and crawlspaces if you have pipes running through them.
Know where your water shut off valve is located in case of emergency, and have the number (including after hours emergency numbers) for your local water utility in a handy place.
Even with the best cold weather preparations, emergencies can arise. Make sure you are prepared in case your heat goes out temporarily, or you need to leave your home unexpectedly in bad weather.
Stock a home emergency kit and keep it someplace accessible in your home. Include non-perishable food items and bottled water, extra phone chargers or charged “back-up” batteries and power sources, a radio, flashlight, extra batteries, a few day’s worth of any necessary medications, and a first aid kit.
Similarly, keep a car emergency kit in each vehicle you own. Include blankets, snacks and bottled water, an extra phone charger, flashlight, shovel, jumper cables, and sand or cat litter (for traction on snow and ice).
Hopefully these tips help you out during our long winter months – remember that warmer weather is just around the corner (even if it doesn’t seem like it right now) and then I’ll have a bunch of hot weather tips for you!