No, there isn’t a typo in the title of this blog. Or is there…? Either way, this winter is wreaking havoc on all of us including our houses. As this winter continues to worsen, I decided to share a few tips on what to watch out for around your home and what to fix immediately before you find yourself with a financial burden.
Ice dams are devils in disguise. They appear beautiful with their icicle fringe hanging off the roof of your house. But underneath all that snow and ice is the potential for a much uglier scene: water leaks, wet attic insulation (eventually leading to mold), warped drywall and ceilings, detached shingles…the list goes on.
Drive around Omaha and you’ll see many houses with ice dams slowly but surely building up. They are caused by heavy snow accumulation melting and then refreezing in the gutters, while the roof temperature underneath maintains warmth, leaving water without a place to drain except for under the shingles and into your attic space.
- A snow rake: Not to be confused with a regular rake, this device carefully scrapes snow off your roof without damaging shingles. You can find them at your local hardware store. Pro tip: Snow rakes are only useful on one-story homes.
- Heated cables: While this method is best used before bad weather hits, heated cables help prevent ice dams before they start. Zig-zag the cable along the edge of your roof and the heat will protect your shingles and help avoid leaks.
- Pantyhose: If the ice dam has already formed, this method helps break through the ice. Fill a pantyhose leg with calcium chloride ice melt, tie off the ends and lay the hose perpendicular to the roof’s edge, hanging it slightly over the gutter. Eventually, the ice will melt and allow water to flow freely.
- Call a professional: When in doubt, call the pros. If your gutters are backed up with ice, have a professional come in with a steamer to create a pathway for water to escape.
*Never use a chisel or sharp object to break ice up on your roof. You can damage shingles leading to more leaks and issues.*
Air Intake Vents
If you have a furnace, then you have an air intake vent. In newer homes, this vent begins with PVC pipe that leads to the exterior of your home where snow can build up and block it. Older homes will find their air intake leads out the chimney through an aluminum pipe, which isn’t as easy to block with snow. When snow blocks off the PVC vent, carbon monoxide can’t escape, pushing it back into the house. As we all know, carbon monoxide is poisonous and not welcome in our homes.
- Clear the PVC vent area of snow ASAP
- Make sure you have a carbon monoxide alarm just in case. Winter is actually the most dangerous season for carbon-monoxide poisoning.
When the temperature drops, your furnace has to work harder. Because of this, your air filter becomes dirty much faster than usual. Clogged air filters can cause expensive damage to your furnace, including overheating the system and hiking your energy bill from lack of efficiency in the furnace’s air intake.
- Change out your filter monthly. Keep a few extra filters on hand and set a reminder on your phone for the first of each month.
- Buy washable, reusable filters. These filters allow you to wash away the dirt and dust without buying a new filter each month.
Believe it or not, home fires occur more in winter than in any other season according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
- Clean out your dryer duct annually and your lint trap after every load of laundry. Dryer lint fires cause $222 million in damage annually according to the NFPA.
- Don’t use gas ovens to heat a room when the temps drop.
- If a pilot light or burner flame goes out, allow gas to escape before relighting.
- Clear a three-foot radius around neighborhood fire hydrants after it snows and make sure they are accessible from the street.
Think of these tips as extra money in your pocket! The more prep work and safety measures you take, the less you’ll be saying dam the ice and snow. Oh, there’s that typo again…
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