Have you gotten ready for winter? If not, what are you waiting for?!
The winter season is one you should always prepare for. As daylight gets shorter and the days turn colder, your home takes a beating with this harsh season. Preparing your home for the drastic changes in climate should definitely be on your to-do list.
Ask yourself this. How often do you have an emergency during the winter season? You probably answered almost every winter. This season can be brutal for both you and your home. Apart from the escalated chance that you contract cold-related illnesses, your home can suffer from power outages or even fires. YES, you read that right. FIRES. I’ll explain later in the article.
According to Munich Re, winter storms caused about $3 billion in losses (compared to only $1 billion in 2017) in the United States alone.
Winterizing your home for the coming cold season is essential for you to have a smooth and enjoyable experience. It can also prevent damage during these colder months. Here are some tips you should consider to get your electrical system winter-ready and to stay safe!
Cut down any tree branches close to power lines
Never thought trees would be one of the factors, did you? Important note, NEVER try to cut down tree branches that are in contact or in close proximity of power lines. This can severely injure you and can be lethal if you accidentally come into contact with the power lines. A man in Southfield, Michigan (near Detroit) recently suffered a lethal accident when he came into contact with the power lines while trying to trim the tree in his backyard. https://www.wxyz.com/news/man-believed-to-be-killed-in-electrocution-accident-while-cutting-down-trees-in-southfield
Now back to the tip. As mentioned above, as trees grow, they may start to get too close to your power lines. It is a good idea to cut down the tree branches that you notice are started to creep a little too close to the power lines. This way you don’t have to worry about your tree growing too high and causing more problems later. This is especially crucial during the winter as storms commonly knock down trees. If they’re too big, they can fall onto your home or even power lines which will cause a huge mess for you and your neighbors. So it may be a good idea to safely cut down tree branches.
Inspect and test carbon monoxide (CO) detectors
Inspecting your carbon monoxide detectors are always a good idea. Testing them before winter gives you the certainty that no harmful gas hurts you and your family. The colder weather forces us to use more gas-fueled appliances and heating units to warm ourselves up.
Since carbon monoxide is odorless, invisible, and tasteless, you may not notice there is a gas leak in your home. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause these symptoms: tiredness, nausea, chest tightness, confusion, shortness of breath, dizziness or headaches. With the increase in the use of natural gas as fuel, we should ensure that all CO detectors are functioning properly.
Not sure exactly how to check if your carbon monoxide detector is working? Firstly, if you hear an intermittent beep coming from your carbon monoxide detector, it means that the batteries should be changed. While there are many CO and smoke detectors that are connected to your home’s wiring system, they still have backup batteries that should be switched out at least once a year. To test the device, hold down the “test” button until you hear two beeps. After you hear them, remove your finger off the test button. If for any reason you do not hear any beeps, you should immediately change out your unit.
Have a backup generator
There’s only so much we can do to protect our electrical system but sometimes it can not withstand the climate changes of winter. The colder season usually entails power outages due to storms, winds, and other environmental forces. When your electricity goes out, it is a good idea to have a backup generator.
Backup generators come in many sizes and prices so choosing a unit can be difficult. For some, it may be a better investment to have a smaller and more affordable portable generator while others prefer to opt-in for a more expensive standby unit. It all depends on your individual electrical needs.
Although backup generators can be costly, they are very useful during an emergency. This doesn’t mean that you should use all your electronics with a backup generator but instead use it to keep the necessities running. An example of this would be to keep life support equipment up and running.
Having the power go out is always a nuisance. If you need electricity in these emergencies then having a backup generator is the best way to go.
Be careful of space heaters
Now this one is unexpected. Using space heaters is really convenient to warm you up. Depending on your usage, it can cost you between $60-$150 extra a month on your electrical bill. Aside from a higher utility cost, these devices can be dangerous. You must be thinking about how they can be harmful. Actually, they can be more dangerous than you think.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), space heaters cause about a thirst of all winter house fires. Not to mention that they are the third-leading cause of home fire deaths in the United States. These home fires usually are caused when there are flammable materials in close proximity to the heating element. For example, a curtain can be ignited in a matter of seconds if it is exposed too closely.
If you’re going to use a space heater to warm yourself up during the winter season, here are some helpful tips:
- Get a unit that has a seal of a recognized testing laboratory. Some examples of this may include ETL (Intertek), UL (Underwriters Laboratories), and CSA (Canadian Standards Association).
- Purchase a heater with a guard around the heating element to help avoid injury to kids and pets.
- Leave a good amount of space between the heater and any surrounding objects. This will help avoid fires and other negative effects.
With such a large portion of fires being caused by these small devices, we wanted to inform you to take precautions now before it is too late.
No equipment runs as good as it did when it was brand new. Automobiles are a perfect example as they always have a limited life to how long they last until you need a full engine rebuild or a new engine altogether.
It’s known how equipment degrades over time. Materials oxidize, wear down after so much use, and overall get weaker. Like batteries, our electronics start to get weaker and your home’s electrical system is no exception.
A good way to prepare for winter is to take into consideration the age of your equipment. If you can’t remember when the last time was that you checked your electrical system (ex. Breaker box, electrical panels, etc.) it might be the time that you get them inspected. Older equipment, especially electrical wires, has a tendency to pose a greater danger as they age. As the wires begin to wear down, they can no longer handle the massive amounts of electricity flowing through them and can result in burned outlets, fried breakers/fuses, and even house fires.
Water leak inspection
Before winter kicks off, it’s a good idea to check for any water leaks in your plumbing system. Now you may be thinking, what does my plumbing have anything to do with my electricity? Think about it. Has water ever mixed well with electricity? NOPE.
A small water leak starts out as a few drops here and there, nothing really to be worried about. What you might not know is that the little leak has the potential to cause lots of damage to your home’s electrical system.
Common water leaks that can affect your electrical systems are those that come from your appliances. As water continues to leak, pools of water can eventually affect your electrical system in a negative way. Appliances/ units to check are:
- Washing machines
- Water heaters
The fact of the matter is that water is a great conductor of electricity. If they ever come into contact with one another, you’ll want to get professional help immediately.
Stay away from downed power lines
Downed power lines are always dangerous. Due to the extreme climate conditions during winter, there is a higher chance of power poles being knocked down. This commonly happens when trees or branches fall on the lines causing them to snap. In any case, stay clear. If you ever come across fallen power lines, take precaution by doing the following:
- Keep a safe distance of at least 35 feet (roughly the size of a bus)
- Consider all wires to be live(energized) and dangerous
- Never try to touch or move the fallen wires
- Electricity can travel through fences, hoses, tree limbs, etc. Never try to move any objects near the downed wires
It’s a good idea to avoid downed power lines altogether. If you notice one, call 911 immediately to avoid any injury to yourself or any other person.
Get a power surge protector
The cold weather of winter forces us to stay indoors for longer periods of time. As we spend more time at home, we use our electricity much more. What we fail to realize is that our rise in electricity usage results in more power surges within our home.
So what are power surges?
Power surges are electrical spikes that last less than a thousand of a second. Although these short jumps in voltage seem like no problem at all, they can still damage your home and electronics.
All your electronics can cause a power surge due to their frequent cycling. For example, your appliances cycle frequently cause fluctuations in your power system. Since they draw so much electricity especially during wintertime, you may notice that your electronics may start to wear down. Not only that, but it can also be caused by environmental forces like lightning. Without a surge protector, your chances of home electrical damage raise significantly and you’ll be left with the cost of replacing or repairing your electronics.
A power surge protector fills in the gap of needing to safeguard your home at any time of the year. The small device attaches directly to your electrical breaker box making it easier for you to get the protection you need. It’s better to have these devices in place as we use much more electricity during wintertime. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your home’s electrical system