COLUMBUS, GA – Yes it's only Nov. 4, but the northern half of Georgia is under a freeze watch on Friday night, according to the National Weather Service. Areas of Georgia as far south as Macon could see temperatures dipping to 32 degrees or below overnight into Saturday.
With these potential winter temperatures on the way, is your home winter-proofed? By preparing for the potential of winter storms and freezing temperatures ahead of time, you can avoid winter related disasters from wreaking havoc on the home front.
Damage caused by snow, ice, and powerful winds accounts for a high percentage of homeowners insurance claims.
In fact, the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) reports that:
- Winter storms accounted for 7.6%t of catastrophe losses from 1989-2008
- Typically, winter storms cause around $1 billion in insured losses on an annual basis.
- Between 1999 and 2008, over $7 billion in insured losses were recorded due to winter storms.
But before the thermometer drops again during cold snaps, you can take simple steps to safeguard your home and head off a cold weather catastrophe.
"It's hard to start thinking about safeguarding your home when early winter temperatures remain well above freezing," said Allstate spokesman John Heid. "But now is the time to plan ahead and take care of all the things in and around your home you wish you had done when the weather was still nice. Making the effort now to winter-proof your home may save a lot of time, money and aguish down the road when the colder weather hits in the first few months of the year."
To prepare for winter, Allstate and the I.I.I. offer the following tips:
OUTSIDE YOUR HOME
- Clean out gutters. Remove leaves, sticks and other debris from gutters, so melting snow and ice can flow freely. This can prevent ice damming—a condition where water is unable to drain through the gutters and instead seeps into the house causing water to drip from the ceiling and walls.
- Install gutter guards. Available in most hardware and home stores, "gutter guards" prevent debris from entering the gutter and interfering with the flow of water away from the house and into the ground.
- Trim trees and remove dead branches. Ice, snow and wind can cause weak trees or branches to break, causing damage to your home or car, as well as injury to people on your property.
- Repair steps and handrails. This may prevent someone from falling and being seriously injured. Broken stairs and banisters can become lethal when covered with snow and ice.
INSIDE YOUR HOME
- Keep the house warm. Set the thermostat for at least 65 degrees, since the temperature inside the walls, where the pipes are located, is substantially colder—a lower temperature will not keep the pipes from freezing.
- Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. If too much heat escapes through the attic, it can cause snow or ice to melt on the roof. Water can then re-freeze, causing more snow and ice to build up. This can result in a collapsed roof, and can contribute to ice damming. Ideally, the attic should be five to ten degrees warmer than the outside air. Well-insulated basements and crawl spaces will also help protect pipes from freezing. You may also consider insulating unfinished rooms such as garages to keep pipes from freezing.
- Have the heating system serviced. Furnaces, boilers and chimneys should be serviced at least once a year to prevent fire and smoke damage.
- Check pipes. Look closely for cracks and leaks and have the pipes repaired immediately. Wrap exposed pipes with pipe insulation or heating tape. Allow your faucets to drip lukewarm water to minimize the chances of a pipe freeze. If you plan to travel or be away from home for an extended period of time, have someone check pipes and the temperature in your home on a regular basis. Turn the water off and/or have the water system drained by a professional to keep pipes from freezing.
- Make sure that smoke and fire alarms are working properly. Residential fires increase in the winter, so it is important to protect your family with working alarm systems. Also, consider installing a carbon dioxide detector, since a well sealed home can trap this toxic gas.
- Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located. If your pipes freeze, time is of the essence. The quicker you can shut off the water or direct your plumber to the problem, the better chance you have to prevent pipes from bursting.
- Hire a licensed contractor to look for structural damage. If damage is discovered, you can have it repaired immediately rather than waiting for a more severe problem to occur. Also, ask about ways to prevent water damage resulting from snow-related flooding. Plastic coatings for internal basement walls, sump pumps and other methods can prevent flood damage to your home and belongings.
DON'T FORGET YOUR CAR
Winter is just as hard on your car as it is on your house. Have a mechanic look over your car whenever you spot something that seems not quite normal. An inspection now may prevent your being stranded on a cold winter day. FEMA offers these safety tips to protect you and your car:
Check or have a mechanic check the following items on your car:
- Antifreeze levels - ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
- Battery and ignition system - should be in top condition and battery terminals should be clean.
- Brakes - check for wear and fluid levels.
- Exhaust system - check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
- Fuel and air filters - replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas.
- Heater and defroster - ensure they work properly.
- Lights and flashing hazard lights - check for serviceability.
- Oil - check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
- Thermostat - ensure it works properly.
- Windshield wiper equipment - repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.
- Install good winter tires. Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
- Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season.
To learn more about tips about preparing for winter, or to review your insurance coverage to ensure you are properly prepared for a winter storm, please contact your local Allstate agent.