As winter descends on Northeast Ohio, many people find themselves unprepared for its arrival. Our 10 essential winter home safety tips will help you fend off potential problems, while keeping you safe and healthy when the temperatures start to fall.
1. Check Your Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Make a habit of testing and changing the batteries in your household smoke and carbon monoxide detectors at least once per year. During testing, take note of the detector’s expiration date, which can be found on the bottom of the detector. If no expiration date is listed, keep in mind that the average CO detector has a life expectancy of 3-5 years, while smoke detectors need replaced every 8-10 years.
2. Warm Your Car Outside
Never warm up your vehicle in the garage, even if the garage door is open. Letting a car idle in a confined area can expose you to carbon monoxide and other harmful gasses.
3. Prevent Water Pipes from Freezing
Neglecting your plumbing during the winter can bring severe consequences. Protect yourself by taking a few preventative measures that will help you reduce the risk of frozen or burst pipes. Pipes located on exterior walls or in unheated interior spaces such as your garage, attic or basement have the greatest freezing potential. For long-term protection, invest in pipe insulation for plumbing that borders an exterior wall. If you don’t have frost-proof spigots, make sure you close the interior shut-off valves that lead to outdoor faucets. In extreme cold weather, you can let cold water drip from your indoor faucets. The constant flow of water, makes freezing pipes less likely to occur. It also helps to open cabinet and closet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around exterior wall plumbing.
4. Ensure Proper Ventilation
Year-round cleaning of your return and supply vents, dryer vent, as well as your bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans should always be a priority, but it’s especially important in winter. When families spend more time indoors it leads to more dust accumulation as well as more airborne particles & contaminants, all of which can cause indoor air quality issues in the absence of adequate ventilation.
5. Filter Replacements
Furnace filters should be replaced more often during the winter months. Routine replacements keep your heating system operating at its best, improves the quality of the air that you breathe and saves you on energy usage.
6. Schedule a Furnace Inspection
Getting a yearly furnace inspection and cleaning not only ensures that your heating system is functioning properly and efficiently, but it also prevents untimely system breakdowns and costly repair bills.
7. Monitor Outdoor Utility Equipment
It’s important to keep your outside meters and vents clear of ice and snow. You can use a broom or brush to gently clear the area around the meter. Never use a heat source to melt snow or ice and take caution when shoveling or plowing around utility equipment.
8. Routinely Check Outdoor Exhaust Vents
High efficiency natural gas appliances such as water heaters, furnaces and fireplaces require an outdoor exhaust vent. Most vents are plastic pipes exiting your home at the foundation. It’s critical that these vents be clear of snow, ice and other debris, at all times. A clear opening, allows gases from your appliances to vent to the outside, and prevent the buildup of carbon monoxide.
9. Ward Off Germs & Illness
It’s no secret that viruses run rampant during the winter months and being cooped up indoors makes everyone more susceptible to getting sick. Stock up on antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer. Encourage everyone in your household to use them regularly. If you really want to take extra precaution, invest in an electronic air cleaner that attaches to your home’s ventilation system. A whole-home air cleaner can capture and kill up to 99% of harmful airborne contaminants.
10. Avoid Icy Gutters
Make sure before the snow falls that your gutters are free of leaves and other debris. Clean gutters help to prevent water and ice build up that can cause damage to your roof or home. If at any point during winter you spot large icicles hanging from your gutters, it’s the first indication of potential problem.