Are You Ready for Winter?

Winter’s coming and along with snowmen and sleigh rides, it brings its own set of hazards to your comfort and safety. But with a few precautions, you can look forward to keeping safe and snug when winter rolls in.

Here a few things to consider:

Keep Your Home Warm and Dry

Cold winds can blow through gaps around windows and doors raising heating bills and causing bone-chilling drafts. Caulking and sealing windows and doors keeps the cold air outside where it belongs.

Pick a warm dry day and seal around windows and doors with a good weatherproof caulk. Check door sweeps for a good seal and replace them if necessary. If you use storm windows, fall’s the time to put them up.

Check Your Roof and Gutters

Fall is also a good time to inspect your roof and gutters. Snow and ice buildup can wreak havoc on roofing and gutters causing leaks and weakening their structure. Even if the leaks don’t make it into your house, dampness encourages dangerous mold growth and reduces the effectiveness of insulation.

Keep your gutters clean so runoff can flow away and prevent ice dams from forming. If you have loose shingles or weak spots in your roof, have them repaired while the weather is good.  And don’t be tempted to address the problem with electric gutter or roof heaters. They may even encourage formation of ice dams.

Reevaluate Your Insulation

The best protection for your roof and gutters is to keep your attic cold in the winter with adequate ceiling insulation and ventilation. That not only keeps your living spaces warmer but lets snow and ice melt naturally, discouraging formation of ice dams and other problems. On Colorado’s Front Range that means insulating attics to an R-value of at least 49; R-60 in foothill and mountain areas. Don’t forget vulnerable pipes, either. Insulate them in attics, crawl spaces and basements.

Good insulation and seals will also help keep heat inside your home in the event of a power outage. For more information on insulating in Colorado, see these recommendations from Colorado State University Extension.

Have an Emergency Plan

When the power goes out, your life can change in a hurry. Keep flashlights and fresh batteries on hand. Use candles safely. Keep cell phone use to a minimum so as not to drain their power. They may be your lifeline. Some landline phones continue to work during outages, so keep important numbers written down in case you need to go low-tech.

Keep plenty of bottled water on hand and keep your refrigerator closed as much as possible. Most food will stay fresh for 4 hours or more in a refrigerator; 48 hours in a full freezer. See this article from Consumer Reports on safe food handling and cooking during a power outage.

Consider Adding Backup Power

Backup batteries and small generators may offer some emergency power, but prolonged outages call for more capacity. Gasoline-powered portable backup generators come in several sizes and configurations. Some may require professional installation to operate safely without damaging your electrical system. Be sure to shop carefully and have enough fuel on hand to run them.

Another option, especially in areas where outages are frequent or prolonged, is to install permanent backup generators. These should only be installed by a licensed electrician who can do so properly and up to codes.

For more information about backup generators, see this article about Why Coloradans Need Backup Power.

Choosing the right backup power supply and using it safely requires a knowledge of electrical circuitry and codes, so don’t risk injury, shock, fire hazards, or expensive repairs by getting in over your head. If you have any problems or concerns about your electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to solve them for you. We offer homeowners, builders, and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.