Winter is rapidly approaching and temperatures are dropping. Here are some things you can do now, before the cold sets in, to help protect your homes and business property from Northeastern PA’s harsh winters!
Plumbing is susceptible to freezing and bursting in cold weather. These Burst Pipes can cause some of the most expensive repairs in the home.
Inspect your home or business for any exposed water or drain piping that may exist in uninsulated spaces such as in a crawlspace, attic, outside walls, etc. and insulate them with foam insulation at a minimum. For an added level of prevention you could wrap them with electrical heating tape first, then insulate them.
Check for any exterior faucets and make sure that the water supply to these faucets is turned off inside the house. You should also drain water from it by opening up the exterior faucet. You may also want to consider an insulated cover for these faucets. Disconnect your garden hoses from the sill cocks or outside faucets and drain them if you store them outside.
If you are shutting down a property for any period of time without heat you should always shut off the water supply and drain the plumbing system. Place antifreeze in toilet bowls and all drains to prevent freezing in these areas.
As the weather begins to change, this is a great time to inspect your home for possible drafts and opportunities to better insulate. This additional insulation will help keep the home warmer and more comfortable while also protecting the plumbing from freezing and reducing heating costs. In that regard, we make the following suggestions:
Insulate your hot water tank with an insulating blanket you can buy at most hardware stores. The cost savings in oil, gas, or electric consumption will more than pay for the cost of this blanket.
Check and insulate exterior outlets and switch plates with inexpensive foam sealing gasket material.
Check windows and doors for infiltration of cold air around them. For windows, on a windy day, close your windows and feel for air leaks. You can also use an incense stick for this too. Just watch the smoke trail and if it becomes anything other than vertical, you will have identified an air leak. These air leaks are usually at the edges where the window is hinged, slides, or meets another unit, such as between the two panels of a double hung window. Although you can tape plastic over the windows to seal them, this can be expensive and many homeowners don’t like the way this looks. A better and easier solution is to use inexpensive rope caulk. Just press the rope caulk into all the joints where you have detected air is leaking.
With doors, you will want to check for weatherstripping on the side and bottoms of all exterior doors. If none exists or it is worn, install weatherstripping on any leaking doors.
We recommend that your heating system be checked and serviced annually by a service technician. If you have air ducts, this is also a good time to inspect them to make sure they do not need to be cleaned. A new clean air filter should also be installed at this time. This will not only improve the efficiency of the unit, but will reduce the likelihood of Furnace Puffbacks and other damage.
Clear any obstacles away from interior heating vents or away from heating base units or radiators so that air can freely flow to circulate heat throughout the building.
This is also an excellent time to check for Carbon Monoxide Leaks. This deadly gas is odorless and invisible so too often goes unnoticed until too late. Carbon Monoxide can however be easily detected with either an inexpensive test badge or battery operated alarm. There are also combination Smoke / Carbon Monoxide Detectors on the market and the cost difference is nominal.
Often neglected is one of the most important components of a cooling system. That is the condensing unit outside churning away in the heat of summer. This unit should be cleaned of debris by taking a hose with the spray head set to “jet” or the highest pressure you have and clean the fan blades and condensing coils clear of debris and dirt. As well covering the condensing unit with a breathable waterproof cover made for that purpose goes a long way to extending the life and efficient performance of the unit. Unprotected condensing units can be damaged by wet leaves and debris that contribute to rusting and freezing of internal components.
Wood Burning Fireplace / Chimney
Wood burning fireplaces and chimneys can be a major source of cold air leaks and other issues in winter. So the chimney and fireplace need a little going over before winter sets in.
The chimney should be inspected to make sure it is clear of any nests from birds, squirrels or other animals. As well, flue damper operation should be checked to make sure it opens and closes fully, and that it is able to be locked in the open or closed position.
You should also check the chimney draft to make sure the chimney will draw up the fire and smoke properly. You can test this by taking several sheets of newspaper and rolling them up. Then with the fireplace damper in the open position, light the newspaper in the fireplace. The smoke should rise up the chimney. If it doesn’t, you have an obstruction and need to call a professional in to clean the chimney of creosote, ash, and possible debris. If it has been several years since you had your fireplace chimney cleaned, we recommend that you have it done by a professional chimney sweep.
Also you should inspect the fire brick inside the fireplace. If you see any open mortar joints have them repaired immediately! A fire can spread into the stud wall behind the masonry fire brick through these open mortar joints.
Roof / Gutters
This is also an excellent time to check the roof for any problems. Check or have someone check the roof for any missing or damaged shingles and have them replaced. As well, check flashing around chimneys and other roof projections which are often the source of leaks.
Make sure gutters and downspouts are clean and not obstructed. Wet leaves remaining in the gutters over winter add significant weight and volume to the gutter when frozen and increase the risk of damage to these gutters and the roof system. Additionally, gutters unable to properly direct water way from the roof and structure can contribute to damages such as Ice Dams.
Inspect your deck and, if it needs it, consider giving it a fresh coat of sealer before winter. This can greatly extend the life of decking materials.
Make sure to drain any water fountains or automatic watering equipment; unplug the pumps and prepare for winter.
Cover or store outdoor furniture.
At Disaster Blaster, you are important to us. We hope these recommendations lead to a safe and enjoyable winter for you and your family. Should you ever suffer a Water Damage at your home however, please do not hesitate to contact your local Disaster Blaster!
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