Nearly 156,000 fires occur in the United States during winter, and, according to Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, nearly two-thirds are caused by fireplaces and chimneys not being properly maintained. On the other side of the winter hazard coin, we have water. When outside temperatures fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, water can freeze in pipes, which creates extra pressure in the pipes and can cause them to burst. Whether due to a fire or water, avoid having to file a claim this winter season by taking a few simple precautions:
- Have a professional chimney sweep clean your fireplace and chimney once a year. If you have a wood stove, gas log system, or oil-fired heating equipment, have a plumber inspect these systems annually.
- Install a spark arrestor on the top of your chimney to keep hot embers from escaping. Place a protective screen in front of your wood burning fireplace to catch any stray embers. Dispose of cold fireplace ash in metal containers with tight-fitting lids.
- Be sure to burn only seasoned hardwood in your wood burning fireplace.
- Keep your fire burning at a reasonable, not excessive level, and do not leave your home or go to sleep with the fire still burning. Also, do not leave space heaters, stoves, and ovens on or candles burning when you leave your home or go to sleep.
- Do not overload extension cords with holiday lights (or other electrical devices).
- Keep your home’s thermostat at 65 degrees Fahrenheit or above and keep your interior doors open so that warm air can circulate freely around your home. On particularly cold (below freezing) nights, turn on faucets to a low drip and open the cabinet doors under sinks (make sure any hazardous materials that might be under sinks are out of reach of children and pets).
- Add insulation to outside walls containing pipes and install snap-on insulation to pipes in unheated areas and on out door water spigots.
- If you think your pipes are frozen, open the hot and cold water taps and turn up your thermostat. You might also place a call to your plumber.
- Consider using technology. Smoke detectors are a must, and consider installing carbon monoxide detectors on every floor of your home and water sensors in wet areas. You can also install a whole-house water leak detection system.
Enjoy the coziness of your fireplace, holiday lights and candles, and the convenience of running water safely this winter!