Wintertime should be reserved for building snowmen, baking cookies, and enjoying all the season has to offer — not worrying about electric emergencies and heating hazards. Luckily, our professional electricians created this list of the five most important things you should do to safety-proof your home electric for winter months.
1. Prevent Fire Hazards
According to the Electric Safety Foundation, more home fires occur during the winter months than during any other part of the year. Heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the United States. More than 65,000 home fires are attributed to heating equipment each year. These fire result in hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries and millions of dollars in property damage.
Portable electric space heaters can be a convenient source of supplemental heat for your home in cold weather, but they also increase the risk of fire and electric shock if not used properly. If you plan to use a space heater, purchase a model that shuts off to avoid overheating. Never run your space heater when you aren’t at home, and don’t run it overnight.
2. Have a Backup Power Plan
Portable generators are commonly used in the winter as a result of storm-induced power outages. But this safety fact might startle you: The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 50% of all portable generator-related carbon monoxide deaths occur during the winter months (November – February).
A standby generator can safely deliver backup power to your entire home. A portable generator can overload, damaging your expensive electrical equipment. In general, a standby generator can provide enough electricity to resume all normal home functions (note that propane-powered standby generators are limited by tank size). It’s important to note that any propane generator runs the risk of engine exhaust and carbon monoxide poisoning. That’s why you should always keep generators outside in a dry, safe, and well-ventilated area.
Another investment consideration is a whole house surge protector to prevent your sensitive devices from downed power line or other electric surge-inducing events. The power surge protector attaches to your home’s main electric panel. This heavy duty surge protector redirects excess electricity to the ground, sparing your appliances and electronics from damage.
3. Be Winter Storm Savvy
Winter storms can also lead to serious hazards such as downed power lines and flooding. Learn how to spot hazards and educate your family on safety during storms. High winds, lightning, fallen trees and car accidents during a storm could cause a power line to fall down. Downed power lines are considered live and dangerous. If you see one, locate local authorities immediately.
If your property or a portion of it is hit by a hard storm, the electric aftermath can be downright dangerous. Contact a professional if you spot any of the following signs after a storm:
- Burning odor or smoke (contact local fire authority)
- Light switches or outlets not working
- Humming or buzzing lights
- Flickering lights
- Hot ceiling fixtures
- Visible sparks (contact local fire authority)
4. Keep the Heat On
While it seems wise to turn your heat all the way down to save on electric, your HVAC system might end up using significantly more energy when you decide to crank up the thermostat. Never turn off the heat when you leave home during the winter. Instead, set the temperature to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit (or higher if you’ve had problems in the past or live in an area of extreme cold). If you have multiple heat zones, be sure to adjust all thermostats appropriately.
That being said, it can be awful costly to crank up your heat all winter long. By lowering your temperature 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit for at least eight hours daily during cold weather, you can save up to 15% a year on your heating bill. Energy.gov recommends the following settings:
- 68 degrees Fahrenheit when you’re home
- 55 degrees Fahrenheit or lower when you’re not home or sleeping
Many thermostats allow you to pre-set temperatures to suit your schedule: at work, when sleeping, or when traveling. This allows you to keep the heat at a consistent temperature, which not only protects your pipes from freezing, but optimizes HVAC efficiency, too!
Contact a Professional Electrician
The best way to prevent a winter electric emergency is to have your system professionally inspected. A certified electric technician will inspect potential circuit board issues, fire hazards, smoke alarm batteries and carbon monoxide detectors. Luckily, Mister Sparky services all of the above — and more. It’s never too late to schedule an electric safety inspection so you can focus on fun instead of fear this winter!