Energy costs, burst pipes, power outages, and fires, all potential winter hazards that makes winter not sound so merry, but you can protect yourself and your home. With a little preventative maintenance and preparation you can minimize the inconveniences that ensue during this cold time of the year in Minnesota.
While home fires seem to always make headlines, water damage is actually more common and often just as severe. The most frequent cause for this problem in the winter is faulty or broken pipes. Be sure to insulate along rim joists and around pipes that are more exposed to cold temperatures. If you leave your home during the winter for vacation or are just hitting the slopes leave your thermostat to at least 50-55 degrees. Don't let high fuel prices tempt you to drop it lower, pipes that come in through foundations or exterior walls can drop far below your temperature setting.
If you are going to be away from your home long term consider having someone check on your home or have an automatic water shutoff installed. Automatic water shutoffs are attached to your home's water main and sense if a large increase in water flow is created such as from a burst pipe and will shut the system off preventing extending water exposure and limiting damage. Also, people who have an automatic shutoff installed can usually receive a discount from the insurance company, so if you install one give your agent a call.
Chimney and Furnace Fires
While fire hazards are really a year-round concern and should always be respected, fires actually occur more frequently during the winter. Chimney, boilers and furnaces are at particular risk. Approximately 25,000 residential fires begin in a fireplace or chimney every year according to the United States Consumer and Product Safety Commission.
So what is a homeowner to do? Have your furnace and any fireplace including the chimney inspected and cleaned every year. Having inspections and cleanings performed can prevent the accumulation of carbon based residues more commonly known as creosote and can identify potential problems before they occur, making sure you stay safe and warm this winter.
Ice Dams and Old Trees
While icicles and ice hanging from your eaves or an old tree may seem beautiful, usually this can indicate an underlying issue and a potential safety hazard. An ice dam is formulated when snow above melts on the roof and freezes near the edge or eave of the roof and can block proper drainage and allow water to find an entry point below or around the dam. The most common causes of ice dams are clogged gutters and insufficient insulation and ventilation allowing heat to escape from the home through the attic space and to the roof sheathing above. When the roof sheathing or material directly below your shingles begins to absorb heat it conducts this heat to the shingles and in return allows snow to be melted.
Mature trees present a different potential hazard and usually become an issue in severe winter weather and sleet like conditions. When an old tree experiences strong winds coupled with heavy coats of ice or snow it creates an environment perfect for branch failures and collapses which can affect nearby structures. So if you have concerns with an old tree on your property have a professional tree or horticultural expert take a look at your property for unstable trees and branches and create a course of action which typically involves pruning or cutting branches.
Hopefully this article has provided you with a few ideas so that your Holiday and winter season is less stressful and more merry.