It doesn’t matter if you’re a beach bum who never hangs up their flip-flops, or if you live for crisp air and chunky sweaters – in many parts of the U.S., cold weather is coming. Winter is somewhere right now doing push-ups and shadowboxing, getting ready to drop the hammer.
It’s time to start winterizing.
The term “winterize” may immediately conjure up images of swapping in snow tires and replacing your car battery, but this prep work should also extend to your house. As leaves change and temperatures drop, homeowners start up their furnaces and fireplaces for the first time of the season. This can mean an increased risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.
According to the United States Fire Administration, $2 billion in property loss occurs each year from winter home fires. In addition, hospital emergency departments see about 50,000 people each year due to accidental CO poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
If you’re going on tour for the holidays, your life is about to get hectic. If you’re keeping it low-key this year, the cold weather rolling in will make hibernating with a pile of blankets and Netflix irresistible. Either way, you’ll want to protect your home, sweet home with a winter safety check.
Take some time now to ensure your home’s heating system, smoke and CO detectors, and other heat sources are operating safely and efficiently, ready to keep you and your family warm this winter. We’ve got quick tips to help you prep for the cooler weather and start saying, “Chilly air, don’t care.”
Cold Weather Safety Tips for Homeowners
- Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Did you forget to test your smoke and CO detectors at daylight saving time? Be sure to jump on it now, before you fire up that chimney. Monitored smoke and CO detectors should be tested regularly, and if they take batteries, change them twice a year.
- Check your electrical outlets. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), about two of five electrical fires occur in the cold weather months from November through February. Take inventory of all the electrical appliances in your house and make sure the outlets they’re using aren’t overloaded. Symptoms your outlet may be in the danger zone include: Connected appliances feel tingly; Discolored or warm; Burning or rubbery smell; and flickering or dimming lights. If you see any of these signs or something else that feels off, call an electrician stat.
To help lower the risk of a fire, the NFPA suggests only keeping one heat-producing appliance (such as a coffee maker, toaster, or space heater) plugged into an outlet at a time. Electrical cords shouldn’t run across doorways, and hot light bulbs should remain clear of anything flammable, like cloth or paper.
- Change the filters in your furnace. Dirty, clogged filters cause a furnace to work overtime and less efficiently. Worse, they can present a fire hazard. Check and replace filters four times a year.
- Clean out your dryer vent and lint traps. Every year, U.S. firefighters respond to around 14,630 home fires caused by clothes dryers — and a third of these fires is caused by dryer lint build-up. An engineer from Consumer Reports recommends cleaning out your dryer’s lint screen after every load of laundry. Not only is it safer, but it can help dry your laundry faster!
- Clean any chimneys and fireplaces. It’s hard to resist the appeal of a crackling fireplace, and as long as you keep it clean and cautious, you don’t have to! Chimney and fireplace use can lead to a build-up of residue called soot or creosote, and it’s extremely flammable. The NFPA and the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) recommend a thorough chimney cleaning and inspection every year. If you’re using it regularly, aim to clean it three times per season.
- Be cautious with space heaters. When use safely, space heaters can be a great source of additional heat for a chilly room. Avoid placing them near curtains, tablecloths or other fabrics and check to make sure the heater has an automatic shutoff in case it reaches a dangerous temperature. As always, keep pets and children away from these heat sources.
- Test your security system. Have a home security system? Perform a test to make sure it’s communicating properly with the monitoring center. We recommend Guardian customers run a test monthly. It’s quick and easy, and you can do this yourself online, right on our Customer Care site.
- Create a cold weather survival kit. In case of a winter storm that may result in a power outage, check the batteries in your flashlights and other non-electric lighting, make sure you have a three-day supply of non-perishable food and restock your first aid kit. The CDC also recommends an emergency kit for your car in case you’re forced to travel. The full list is available here, but a few essentials include:
- Cell phone, portable charger, and extra batteries
- Items to stay warm like hats, coats, mittens, and blankets
- Windshield scraper
- Battery-powered radio with extra batteries
- Tow chains or rope
- Booster cables with fully charged battery or jumper cables
- Bright colored flag or help signs, emergency distress flag, and/or emergency flares
For a more personal assessment of your security needs, give us a call at 1.800.PROTECT (1.800.776.8328). We love hearing from you!