Winter Home Hazards
1. Chimney fires
The purpose of a chimney is to make sure dangerous flue gases exit your home. A closed flue means that smoke and gases won’t exit properly and will vent into your home. A buildup of creosote can cause a chimney fire putting you and your family in danger and can cause substantial damage to home.
Have your chimney cleaned once a year and when using your fireplace, pay attention for signs of a chimney fire like loud crackling or popping noise, a billow of dense smoke, and/or an intense hot smoke smell. According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, there are 25,000 chimney-related fires in the U.S.each year.
2. Carbon monoxide accumulation
Often in colder weather people cover windows and unused doors with plastic and place draft stops near thresholds in effort to keep out the frigid temperatures. Extensive use of gas appliances like a furnace, range, water heater or clothes dryer can be a toxic mix if you have a carbon monoxide leak. CO build-up happens silently and often includes symptoms that are hard to place, like headaches or nausea. Sometimes, there are no symptoms at all.
Have a professional check your furnace, vents, chimney systems, and appliances and consider installing a carbon monoxide alarm. Never use portable propane or kerosene heaters inside your home.
3. Space heater danger
Space heaters can add warmth to a chilly room, but they can be very dangerous if not used properly. According the the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 25,000 residential fires and 300 deaths are caused by space heaters each year.
Make sure that your auxiliary heater is the right size for your space and positioned on a level surface, away from foot traffic, curtains, and other flammable materials. Always turn it off when you leave the room. Never use an extension cord with your portable heater.
4. Frozen pipe damage
Water damage from frozen and burst pipes is the second most-filed insurance claim in the United States. When water in the pipes freeze it expands and can cause the pipe to burst. Millions of dollars of property damage is caused each year from frozen pipes.
To avoid this danger, insulate your pipes with pipe sleeves or heat tape especially those near exterior walls. If you’re out of town during the winter months, keep your heater at a minimum of 55 degrees. you may even consider turning off your water draining the pipes and pouring an environmentally friendly anti freeze solution into the toilet, sink and plumbing traps. If you experience sub zero temperatures consider turning your faucets on at a trickle to keep water moving through the pipes. — the limited amount of energy you’ll use is a small price to pay to avoid water damage.
5. Icy sidewalks and steps
The chance of someone slipping on ice or snow is increased with winter weather.
To avoid painful falls, make sure you keep your sidewalks, walkways, and driveways clear and use sand, salt, or kitty litter to help reduce slip hazards.
6. Ice dams on roof
Heavy snow on your roof can accumulate around your gutters and vents causing areas where water from melting ice and snow can back up and leak into your home. Ice dams cause a substantial amount of damage each year.
To reduce the risk of ice dams, from the ground only, use a roof rake, broom or plastic shovel to remove the loose snow from around your gutters. Never climb onto the roof or use a hammer or pick to try chip away at the ice. Some ice melters are safe to use on roofs and will not damage shingles or landscaping (check with your local hardware store for more information). You can stand on the ground and throw handfuls of roof safe ice melt on the gutters and overhangs.