Winter Home Safety Tips

The City of Batavia Community Development staff shares some tips to keep your home humming during the winter.

For those with a smoke alarm that is hardwired into your home's electrical system:

  • Test the alarm monthly.
  • Replace the backup battery at least once every year.
  • Replace the entire smoke alarm every 10 years or at the manufactures recommended interval.

Inspect your heating system

After spending the better part of the year sitting idle, it’s time to kick your heating system into high gear. Before temperatures get too low, take time to test all the components. That way you can identify any potential issues before the freezing weather sets in. It’s also recommended to have your furnace or heating system inspected by a professional annually. They’ll help keep things running efficiently and can perform a check for dangerous gas leaks. Check availability with your gas provider for rebates on programmable thermostats and new, high-efficiency appliance purchases. 

Shut down sprinklers

Whether you water by hand or you have a complete irrigation system, sprinklers should be shut down before the first hard freeze. Detach and drain all hoses from the outdoor faucets. This prevents any water left in the line from freezing and potentially bursting pipes. Underground irrigation should also be blown out to remove excess water and avoid the same issues. If you’re unable to do this before winter weather arrives, it’s worth having a sprinkler system inspection in the spring to assess any unseen damage that occurred.

Tidy up landscaping

If you’re taking care of the sprinkler system, take the time to tidy up the yard. Leaves should be raked or mulched to prevent fungus and mold from developing and to help the lawn get much-needed oxygen. Additionally, do an inspection of the trees and large shrubs around the yard. Remove any broken branches or damaged limbs, as these can be a serious safety hazard when they get loaded with heavy snow and come crashing down.

Inspect the roof

The last thing you want when your roof is blanketed with snow is a slow drip coming from the ceiling. The heat radiating from your home is enough to melt the bottom layer and allow water to seep in, even under freezing conditions. At the very least, perform a visual inspection of the roof and look for missing or damaged shingles and flashing seals.  

Clean the gutters

When gutters are filled with debris they can easily get backed up as snow melts and freezes throughout winter months. In addition to damaging gutters and drains, this backup can also damage your roofing, siding, and trim. By tackling this chore early, you’re much less likely to be surprised by costly repairs come spring

Insulate windows and doors

Have a professional check your attic for proper insulation and ventilation to refrain from ice damning and mildew/mold growth. Drafty windows and doors can make your heating costs skyrocket. If you see daylight coming through cracks in window frames, it’s a strong sign they could benefit from fresh caulk or sealing. Doors present a different set of challenges but can often be improved with an inexpensive draft stopper that seals the gap between the bottom of the door and the floor. 

Check the Fireplace

There’s nothing like a roaring fire on a cold, snowy day. Before you start using this trusted heat source, have it inspected by a professional. They’ll make sure the chimney and surrounding areas are free of debris and buildup that could lead to dangerous carbon monoxide levels or even house fires.

Test Your Sump Pump

Sump pumps act as the last line of defense against condensation buildup, floods, and water from drains. Test the pump before winter hits. You want to make sure it works; otherwise, you could end up with a flooded basement and foundation damage.

Once you locate the exit pipe, check it for any dirt and debris. If there are any clogs, remove them. Make sure that the water is being directed well away from your home’s foundation.

If you have a dual cord pump, both cords should be unplugged. If you can hear a humming sound when you plug in the pump cord, this means that it’s working as it should. Remember to plug everything back in though after testing.

If you have a single cord pump, pour 20 liters of water into the pump pit until the float rises. You should hear the pump turn on. While on, make sure the water is pumping out as it should, and the pump turns itself off when the water is removed.

It may be worth investing in a water detector to further protect your basement from moisture.

When to Use a Professional

Much of the work to be done during winter months can be handled on your own. However, there are certain circumstances that are better left to the professionals. Here are a few situations where you should reach out for assistance.

  • If you suspect your appliances have a carbon monoxide leak.
  • If there’s been damage to power lines or they’ve fallen on your property.
  • If pipes have broken or burst due to freezing temperatures.
  • If large trees have partially fallen and need to be removed.

Everyone has a different comfort level with these sorts of situations, but when in doubt, always exercise caution.