October 27 2014

How To Winter-proof Your Home From Power Outages

Ahhh, yes… the joys of “All-Electric Living”! They are truly wonderful… as long as you’ve got power. But let something happen to the electrical power that brings these wonders of convenience and utility and suddenly you and your whole family are severely inconveniences or possibly even in real dancer. Recent bad weather in much of North America are terrible proof that this is true.

But what, if anything, can be done to protect you and your family from power outages beyond your control? Is there really any way to winter-proof your home against the dangers of power outages?

The good news is that there are things you can do to be prepared… up to a point. Obviously the magnitude of the effect of winter power outages is dependant upon how long the power outages last. Let’s look as some practical steps you can take… assuming that civic authorities will take care of anything of greater magnitude.

The primary cause of winter power outages is ice-storms although wind storms, rain, and/or snow can also cause problems. Problems can come because of high loads placed on power supplies but that’s rare. Most problems are due to downed power lines. When this happens, your basic practical challenge is keeping warm and providing food for you and/or your family. Getting to work could be a problem too but you might not worry about that as much (unless you own your own business).

The solution is really pretty simple. You’ve just got to keep a store of emergency food. Keeping warm is less likely to be a problem because you can get by with just wearing more of the clothes you’ve already got.

Cooking and/or heating fuel could be a problem too. Depending on what fuels your cooking and heating systems, you should try to keep several days extra supply of fuel. If your home (or business) relies on heating oil delivered by a truck, you might be in for some unavoidable problems because of course you don’t have any control over that system. Lots of older homes still use heating oil.

For your home anyway… you can make temporary use of other types of heating…e.g. gasoline generation, natural gas, liquid propane, or (if you live out in the country) perhaps even natural wood.

If your family ever does have to endure a winter power outage, it goes without saying that it makes sense for everybody sleep together. If you have any pets, they’ll probably like that idea.

Your most critical commodity will always be water. It’s always a good idea to fill your bathtub at the first sign that you might have a power outage. Also be sure you’ve got plenty of emergency, battery operated lighting. And keep a battery operated radio handy too… so you can get citizen’s advisories.

The bottom line is that for most people there’s not a lot you can do about a winter power outage other than just cope with it. You need to protect your attitude as much as your body… and you do that by being prepared and knowing you’re prepared.

October 07 2014

Shovel That Snow and Check Those Drains

to keep you home safe this March

It’s getting to be the time of year, in areas that get a lot of snow, when the snow melts. Whether that snow is on the ground or on the roof of your home, it can present a problem if it’s prevented from draining properly. One can easily rely on the heat provided by the sun to remove at least some of the snow but if your roof has improperly designed drainage, or clogged drainage… that’s a problem. You can also have serious problems down on the ground level due to clogged ground-level drainage.

Removing snow is W-O-R-K any way you spell it but there are some ways that make it as easy as possible. Did you know you can actually ‘wax’ the leading edge of a snow shovel? You would do that because it helps prevent the snow from sticking to the blade when you ‘heave’ it. Regardless… before anything else… make sure you’re physically fit for the task. After a long winter inside, where it’s warm and cozy, you might not be in your usual tip-top shape, right?

Once you get the to the part you actually start removing the snow on the ground, it’s really to your advantage to do it as early as possible before the snow turns icy and hard. The same thing applies when removing snow up on the roof except up there you’ve obviously got other safety issues involved.

When you do start removing snow from either of these areas it’s smart to remove the snow around your drainage points first because if those points are clogged, that’s a whole separate issue you’ve got to take care of.

Also, while there’s nothing wrong with doing the ground-level work yourself, don’t be reluctant to hire somebody to remove the snow on your roof. The people who do that are insured (for one thing) and for another thing they’re more experienced and probably in better shape than you to do the job.

Drainage inside the house is important and most homeowners tend to take pretty good care of inside-the-home drainage related problems because those problems are more obvious and they are hard to ignore. Drainage problems outside outside the home, on the other hand, tend to become more of a problem before they are detected. They creep up on a homeowner because many of the drains outside the home are not points that you see unless you’re specifically looking at them and they’re usually covered by snow anyway.

If, by chance, the angle of your property slopes away from your home you might not have quite as much to worry about because the overflowing water will drain away from the home. But that’s often not the case. Any water that flows around the foundation of your home, or even onto your yard where it might sit stagnant for awhile…. it’s a potential danger because (1) it could seep into your foundations, it could seep into vulnerable wooden parts of your home or it could cause fungus and/or mildew on your lawn.

Pre-planning always is wise in anything so it makes sense to make sure that your drains, inside and outside the home, are clean before winter snows come. Doing so will ensure that when the snow does eventually start to melt, it will have somewhere to go. Check out your downspouts, catchbasins and eavestroughs to be sure they’re clear, and move accumulated snow away from your home’s foundation. Insurance doesn’t always cover the damage.

Of course snow collects not just on the ground and sidewalks and driveways around your home but also on the roof. The roof presents particular dangers of excess snow accumulation because as the water melts, and if the drainage isn’t correct, it goes either underneath your shingles or simply drains over the edge of roof in any number of random places. At the least, you’ll have some drip-based erosion in the flowerbeds around your home that you weren’t expecting.

Snow removal is a job that comes every year. Having good drainage will help mitigate some of the job. So check your drainage before you need it. If it’s needs fixing, do it yourself if you can but even if you have to pay somebody else to do it,, it’s worth it because uncontrolled water can be mischievous at best and dangerous at worst.