Tips & AdviceHow Do I Prepare My Home for an Ice Storm?

How Do I Prepare My Home for an Ice Storm?

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Winter weather can take a toll on your home, but advanced preparation helps you get ahead of an incoming storm. The first glimpse of falling snow may prompt you to pull out your shovel or fuel up the snow blower. But freezing rain and sleet pose their own set of challenges, from slippery driveways to falling tree branches or possible power outages.

Preparing your home for winter

The winter trifecta of snow, ice, and cold temperatures can cause damage to your home and yard. Begin your snow and ice storm preparation before the first flakes or drops of freezing rain fall. You’ll want to start by checking for small issues that could lead to bigger problems when a heavy snowstorm or icy precipitation arrives. Look for areas where packed snow or melting ice could cause water infiltration or disrupt your home systems.

Seal your home against drafts

Close windows and lock them tightly to block cold air from sneaking through any gaps around the frames. Gaps or cracks around the sides can be caulked. Sunlight filtering through windowpanes in the daytime could add some amount of warmth to your home. At night, lower your blinds and pull curtains over the windows to preserve heat inside your home.

You may also want to examine the weatherstripping around your doors and decide if it needs replacement or repair. If you still detect cold air coming in, consider placing a draft stopper or draft guard at the bottom of your doorway.

Clean gutters

Allowing the autumn leaves to linger in your gutter could set your home up for wintertime issues. Over time, keeping up with repair and maintenance items such as regular gutter cleanings can also help you save money at home. When snow or ice begins to fall, you’ll want to provide a clear path to guide melting precipitation away from your home.

Schedule an HVAC check-up

Call your HVAC service to schedule any maintenance on your heater before the cold weather sets in. Change the filter, if needed, and test the heat in your house before the thermometer dips below freezing.

Have shovels on standby

Pull your shovels and other snow removal tools out of storage before the season starts. Check any snow and ice removal supplies on hand to ensure enough to get you through the upcoming winter season. You don’t want to run to the hardware store the day before the first storm only to find empty shelves or long lines for snow removal tools.

Assemble an emergency kit

Winter weather items to keep in the event of an extended storm or power outage include batteries, blankets, a flashlight, non-perishable food, and water. Make sure family members have any needed medication refilled before a predicted storm sets it. You might also want to pick up some low-tech entertainment, such as a board game, in case you’re snowed in together for a few days.

How to prepare for an ice storm

Freezing rain turns to ice when it makes contact with cold surfaces, creating a potential hazard on roadways, tree branches, and power lines. If the forecast calls for the possibility of ice accumulating anywhere from ¼ to ½ inch, your state may issue an ice storm warning. Take these warnings seriously—icy weather may not look as bad as ten inches of snow, but this type of precipitation carries its own set of dangers.

During an ice storm, you may want to add the following steps to your typical storm prep:

Prepare for a power outage

Loss of power is a major concern associated with ice storms. Falling ice weighs heavy on power lines which can cause widespread outages. Get ahead of the storm by taking steps to prepare for a loss of power.

  • Charge electronic devices ahead of time.
  • Have coolers on hand to preserve the shelf life of perishable food in case your refrigerator or freezer goes out for an extended time.
  • Plan for meals that you can easily prepare without electricity.
  • If the lights are flickering, signaling an unstable power supply, unplug tech equipment or use surge protectors to prevent damage as the electricity cycles on and off.

Keep Your House Warm

If you do lose power, you’ll need to find a safe way to keep your house warm.

Generators

A portable generator can help keep essential appliances and home systems up and running until the power returns. If you’re installing a new generator this season, learn how to operate it safely before a storm arrives. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) recommends that generators should always be kept outside of the house.

Portable heaters

When using portable electric heaters, read the safety manual. Many come with an automatic off switch for added protection. According to the NFPA, you should position space heaters at least three feet away from flammable items such as sheets or blankets and never leave an emergency heat source on in an unattended room.

Fireplace

Have your fireplace inspected and cleaned, if needed, before each season. Make sure the flue is open. Make sure you understand what type of wood to burn and how to safely tend to the flames.

Before the storm arrives, don’t forget to check the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

If your home heating system goes down, try to focus on keeping one room or area of your home warm. Close doors to preserve heat in that space. Cover the windows and gaps below doors to keep the cold air out.

Protect pipes

Icy weather could cause pipes to freeze and burst, leaving you with a mess to clean up and a large repair bill. Check any pipes in your house with exposure to the cold, such as those running against exterior walls. If needed, add insulation to prevent vulnerable pipes from freezing.

During an extreme cold snap, turn on faucets and allow a thin drip to flow through the pipes to keep water moving. It’s also a good idea to turn off outdoor faucets and disconnect hoses in the fall to prevent water from freezing inside.

Choose a method of ice melt

When the storm passes and leaves you with a slippery walkway, you have several options to consider. Road salt and other chemicals may work quickly but may not be the most environmentally friendly option. If you have pets, look for a pet-safe alternative.

If you need to melt ice but can’t get out to purchase a specially formulated product, you can always try a DIY ice melt using common household items like baking soda, or vinegar. Sprinkling sand or kitty litter won’t melt ice, but can provide necessary traction for walking.

Trim and cover landscaping

Heavy ice can cling to tree branches and damage plants. During your fall clean-up, take a look at the trees close to your home. Trim branches that dangle over your roof. If you have concerns about trees growing close to power lines, call your utility company and ask if they will come out to prune overgrown branches.

Cold weather can also take a toll on your landscaping. Consider covering small trees or plants in your yard with burlap or another protective material to ward off damage and prevent ice damage.

Safety after the storm

When the ice stops falling, consider when you can safely return to your regular routine. Don’t rush outside before checking for black ice on your driveway. Tread carefully and keep an eye out for occasional slick spots that can cause slipping and falling. Don’t forget to look up. Icicles hanging from your roof or eaves may look beautiful but can be harmful when they begin to melt and break away from your home.

At this time, you’ll also want to check for damage to your house. Falling branches may strike your home and cause damage to the roof. Call your insurance company if you need to start the claims process, or simply ask about your coverage.

If you lost power during the storm, follow the USDA guidelines to determine which items in your refrigerator or freezer can be kept and what you need to throw out. Check your emergency supply inventory and plan to replace any depleted items.

Both snow and ice storms bring their own set of challenges to homeowners. Understanding how to best handle each type of precipitation can help you get through the winter safely and protect your home from damage.

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