Preparing for a Power Outage: What You Need to Know

December 17, 2014 11:21 am

Though the weather is unseasonably nice this week, we know worse will be on its way. After reading our last couple of blogs, you should have your heat running smoothly and odor free, and you should have taken steps to avoid frozen pipes. Now, start planning for a power outage. Not everyone will have a power outage this winter, but as a cold winter is predicted, you will want to make sure you’re prepared just in case a storm forces you to be without power for any extended period of time.

Experiencing a power outage in the winter differs from a power outage in the summer. In both cases, consequences can be severe if you are not prepared. In the summer, the excessive heat can cause health problems and spoiling food and medication is a danger. In the winter, colder temperatures and darker days are what you need to focus on.

Prepare before an outage by having plenty of blankets and warm clothes. Rev up your generator and make sure you have enough fuel to run it. If you have a wood or coal stove used for heating, make sure you have enough supplies to get through a storm. The Center for Disease Control also recommends that you have a working chemical fire extinguisher and a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector, both with new batteries.

They also recommend that you have the following items on hand, in case of an outage:

  • Drinking water
  • Canned/no-cook food (bread, crackers, dried fruits)
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Baby food and formula (if baby in the household)
  • Prescription drugs and other medicine
  • First-aid kit
  • Rock-salt to melt ice on walkways
  • Supply of cat litter or bag of sand to add traction on walkways

If the power does go out, keep your pets and family home and safe. Unplug appliances and electronic equipment – this will prevent problems when the power is restored. Never use a generator indoors. Monitor the temperature of your food and medication, and discard any questionable items. Avoid using candles as a source of light. Instead, use battery powered lanterns and flashlights. Have a battery-powered or hand-cranked emergency radio so that you can monitor the storm.

Going from fall to winter can seem like a leap at times. But by being prepared, you can avoid dangers like frozen pipes and broken furnaces, and enjoy the warm and fuzzy feelings of the season.

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10 Need-to-Know Tips to Avoid Frozen Pipes

December 9, 2014 10:44 am

Last week we talked about turning your heat on for the first time in winter and how to avoid problems, odors and high electric bills. Next, let’s talk about pipes. Frozen pipes are costly and messy but also avoidable.

The Property Management Insider website has a great diagram of the following 10 steps you can take to avoid frozen pipes:

  1. Caulk and weather-strip windows and doors.
  2. Caulk cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes.
  3. Shut off and cover outdoor water faucets.
  4. Allow indoor faucets to drip lukewarm water.
  5. Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets to allow heat to radiate around pipes.
  6. Wrap exposed outdoor pipes in insulated sleeves.
  7. Set thermostat in vacant units at a 55° minimum.
  8. Drain water systems in unused areas.
  9. Never use an oven to heat indoors.
  10. Turn off portable heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.

According to The American Red Cross website, pipes freeze due to a unique property of water – it expands as it freezes, causing a great deal of pressure to whatever container the water is in. The website explains that “no matter the ‘strength’ of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break.” Because pipes are often hidden in walls, cabinets, floors, you might not notice a break from a freeze at the source. But you will notice when you turn on your faucet and only a trickle of water flows out. If this is the case, The American Red Cross recommends trying to find the location of the burst – most likely the point where the water enters your house from the outside.

They recommend taking the following steps to unfreeze your pipes:

  • Leave the faucet on as you locate and try to thaw the frozen area. This will allow the water to flow and help melt the ice faster.
  • Wrap the frozen pipe with an electric heating pad, heat with a hair dryer and put a portable heater near the pipe.
  • Be careful and safe when doing this and monitor closely the pipe’s activity. Stay on this till the pipes are unfrozen and water runs freely through the faucet.
  • Make sure you check all faucets in the home and repeat any steps necessary.

If you are unable to find the source of the frozen pipe or the area is inaccessible, contact a licensed plumber immediately to avoid any further damage.

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Fall-ing into Winter

November 25, 2014 11:37 am

There’s no doubt that winter is on our doorstep. Much of the country has already seen snowfall and everyone is preparing for what is predicted to be a frigid winter. Now’s the time to take action to ensure that your apartment and condo communities are winterized. Over the next few blogs, we’ll discuss tips for avoiding frozen pipes and how to be ready for power outages. But first, let’s heat things up…

Furnace Safety – When Mother Nature turns down the temperature outside, we turn up our thermostats inside. When you turn on your heat for the first time after a nice long, hot summer, you may notice a slight odor. Typically, this smell is due to a buildup of small debris on your furnace, like lint and dust. However, in some instances this odor could serve as a warning that your furnace needs to be serviced. Take the smart and safe precaution to have it serviced and cleaned by a professional.

Vents, Filters, & Windows - It’s also a smart idea in the beginning of a season to inspect your vents and filters. Vacuum the vents if there is dust forming and change the filters on a regular basis. If you have propane heat, ensure the tanks are full and have them inspected for any wear and tear. Check that all your windows are closed and that the seals are strong.

Thermostats - If there are empty units in the complex, leave the thermostat around 55 degrees. A steady temperature is more energy efficient than turning the heat on and off throughout the day.

A Money Saving Secret – Another way to save a few dollars and maximize your heat is to reverse ceiling fans. Many of us just turn off the fans in the winter, but if you locate and turn the small switch on the fan’s middle unit, it will propel the blades clockwise, pushing the warm air down.

Read on next week when we go over a few tips on how to avoid frozen pipes.

For more information, be sure to visit the links below:

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