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Protect Your Home from Winter Weather: 5 Easy & Affordable Tips

SmartCam, Smart Leak Sensor Kit, Home Monitoring

Published: November 13, 2020

Heavy snow, raging winds, and slippery ice. For much of the country, winter is just on the horizon. And while frosty landscapes can be beautiful, relentless winter weather can certainly take a toll on your home... if you don't take the steps to protect it.

Fortunately, protecting your home from winter weather doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming. Below, we're sharing five easy and affordable tips. 

1. Install a Carbon Monoxide Detector 

If you don't already have a carbon monoxide detector, get one now. Like residential fires, cases of carbon monoxide poisoning escalate in the winter, caused by improper ventilation of heat sources.

Where to Install Your Carbon Monoxide Detectors

After you purchase your carbon monoxide detectors, install them on every floor in your home and outside each sleeping area. In addition to placing them near bedrooms, we recommend installing them close to fireplaces, furnaces, and generators.

Most carbon monoxide detectors get the best reading when they're placed three to five feet from the ground; however, this might vary by type of detector. Make sure you double check the manufacturer's directions on your particular model. Interconnect your detectors for added security, so that when one alerts — all of the detectors in the house sound the alert.

Finally, test your carbon monoxide detectors every month to make sure they're working properly.

What to Do When Your Carbon Monoxide Detectors Go Off

Make sure you understand the difference between your carbon monoxide detectors' beeps and chirps. Typically, a carbon monoxide detector will chirp once every thirty seconds or so to indicate low battery or a problem with the detector, and it'll beep four times continuously to signal dangerous carbon monoxide levels. Some models also give verbal alerts to avoid confusion, like "carbon monoxide detected" or a similarly worded message. If you'd like this feature, make sure to search "carbon monoxide voice warning" when purchasing your device online.

In the event that your detectors alert you to dangerous carbon monoxide levels when you're home, vacate the house immediately — it's important that you breathe fresh air right away. Then, call emergency personnel.

2. Protect Your Pipes (It's Easier Than You Think) 

Plummeting temperatures can cause the water inside your pipes to freeze; as it does, it expands, putting undue pressure on the pipes. In some cases, this added pressure causes pipes to burst, which — worst case scenario — could result in thousands of dollars in flood damage.

Pipes in unheated interior spaces like basements, garages, and attics are at greatest risk. Fortunately, there are easy ways to prevent them from freezing and bursting. Here are just a few:

Once per winter (ideally prior to the first cold snap): 

  • Shut off the water lines leading to outside faucets, drain spigots, and disconnect hoses for storing. Open the outside faucet to drain the water and then close it again to remove any water from the pipe.

  • Yard irrigation systems also need to be winterized. This typically involves blowing out the water from the system. If you'd rather not take this on yourself, there are professionals that can do this for you.

Every day during the winter:

  • Keep your garage door closed as much as possible; this is especially important when the space above the garage is heated and may contain plumbing.

  • Keep your thermostat set to at least 55 degrees — even at night and/or when you go on vacation (also, consider your heat source: gas-fired furnaces can better handle temperature fluctuations, while steam heat operates best at a steady temperature).

Every day during the winter in extreme cold:

  • If you live in an older home that may lack adequate insulation or are staying in a less often-used space, like a cabin, open kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow warm air to circulate to pipes within.

  • Turn on your home's faucets so that a trickle of water flows out.

In addition to the above, you can also consider the longer-term solution of adding extra insulation to pipes in colder unfinished areas like attics, basements, and crawl spaces. You could also benefit from placing a Leak Sensor near those "at-risk" pipes. The Leak Sensor will then monitor the area and alert you in the event of water accumulation. 

3. Secure Your Roof 

Venturing outside might be the last thing you want to do, but we promise — securing your roof doesn't have to take long. 

How to Deal with Ice Dams

Along with frozen pipes, ice dams are another main perpetrator of winter weather damage. Ice dams occur when snow on your roof melts and freezes again along the roofline, forming icicles that prevent water drainage. The melting snow (water) trapped behind the ice dams can leak into your home, causing significant interior water damage.

You can certainly call an expert to break up your ice dams and implement long-term solutions. However, if you'd like to try to handle the situation yourself, you can purchase gel ice dam channel-makers from your local home improvement or hardware store. When placed on the roof, these gels will melt the snow around them, creating a channel for the water to run off into the gutter. (For a DIY solution, swap the store-bought ice dam channel makers for an old pair of pantyhose filled with calcium chloride or salt.)

How to Prevent Ice Dams in the First Place

One way to protect your home from ice dams? Prevent them in the first place. Although it might seem counterintuitive, one of the most effective things you can do is to keep your attic as cool as possible, because a warm attic will prompt the snow on your roof to melt and refreeze along the roofline. The best way to keep your attic cool is by ensuring there is adequate attic ventilation and insulation — and sealing cracks and light fixtures that cause warm air leakage from the rest of your home into your attic. (Although not necessarily an "easy" fix for a non-DIYer, ensuring proper attic ventilation and insulation to prevent ice dams can be as simple as calling a trusted home expert in your area to visit your home and do it for you.)

How to Deal with Heavy Snow Accumulation 

While you're clearing ice dams, you can also address overall snow accumulation on your roof. While a light dusting probably won't cause issues, heavy accumulation can put undue stress on your roof, potentially weakening it to the point of collapse.

However, climbing on the roof to shovel snow can be dangerous — especially if you have ice dams along with heavy snow accumulation. That's why we recommend purchasing a long-handled roof rake. There are varieties built specifically to remove snow build-up and they're not very expensive. And if you absolutely must go on your roof, make sure you use a roof de-icer first; these often come in tablet form and can be found at home improvement or hardware stores. 

4. Add Caulk Around Your Windows 

Preventing warm air from leaking out of your home and cold air from seeping in is easy: all it takes is a little bit of caulk (plus some elbow grease).

Read on for a few key caulking-related tips: 

Tip #1: Choose the Right Kind of Caulk (Here's How)

Bathroom caulk won't stand up to winter's raging winds; make sure you choose exterior caulk. Once you've cleared that hurdle, here's another consideration: while some caulk can only be applied in warm weather, certain rubber or silicone caulk can be applied in colder temperatures. If you're conducting your caulking project in the midst of a cold snap, choose cold weather-friendly caulk.

If you're hesitant about your caulking abilities and are looking for a more short-term option, there are now types of seasonal, temporary caulks that you can easily peel off come spring. Just search "seasonal temporary caulk" if you're purchasing caulk online, or ask an expert at your local home improvement or hardware store.

Tip #2: Thoroughly Prep the Window

Next, make sure to prep the window's surface; it needs to be clean and dry in order for the caulk to stick. Carefully remove existing caulk or paint and scrub the surface with warm soapy water. Then, apply the caulk between the window frame and siding.

Not only will caulking your windows seal warm air inside your home, creating a toasty winter-weather haven — it can also help you save money by reducing your energy bill. Win-win. 

5. Prepare Emergency Kits

Our fifth tip? Prep an emergency kit, which is a stash of supplies to keep you healthy and safe in the event of a winter power outage.

Here's a preliminary list to help you get started:

  • Non-perishable food (for you and your pets)

  • Flashlights

  • Battery-powered radio

  • Batteries

  • Blankets

  • First-aid supplies

  • Medications

  • Extra cash

You should also prepare an emergency kit for your car in the event that you get stuck in the cold. Include the above items (swap non-perishable food for energy bars and water), and add these as well:

  • Shovel

  • Windshield scraper

  • Boots

  • Hats

  • Mittens

  • Road salt

  • Emergency flares

As with many things in life: preparation is key. Follow these key tips to proactively protect your home for the remainder of the winter.

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