The use of electricity understandably increases during winter when sunlight is limited, the days are shorter, and the temperatures down to freezing. The need for warmth and the desire to stay indoors translates to an increase in electricity use, which increases the risks associated with electricity.
There are several electricity-related problems associated with winter that can affect homeowners during this season. People who own homes should be extra vigilant because, among other things, the severe weather can cause power outages, fluctuations and other electrical hazards following heavy snow, rain and strong winds. These power abnormalities are the ones that cause all manner of trouble in homes and other places where electricity is in use.
Preparedness is the key to ensuring you, as a homeowner, stay safe from electrical hazards during the winter months.
Electrical Winter Safety Tips
When winter comes around, it is essential to be prepared for the difficulties that can come with the cold, wet weather. Some tips to keep in mind to make sure that you and your home stay safe this winter include:
If you are using a space heater in your home, make sure you place it safely from furniture, walls, rugs, curtains, and other belongings. Space heaters are a great way to keep specific rooms warm without ramping up monthly heating bills. Because of the high heat output of electrical heaters, it is vital to keep them away from flammable material. If you feel objects around the heater becoming hot, move the heater. An unattended heater can quickly start fires. Always turn off the heater when it’s not in use.
Prepare for Power Outages
The increase in icy weather can cause downed tree branches and car accidents, damaging power lines and causing electrical outages. If there is a power outage, you should be as prepared as possible. Sometimes power can be out for hours; other times, it can be out for days. If an outage occurs at night, you cannot rely on space heaters to keep you warm. Be prepared for extended power outages with an emergency kit. The emergency kit should be readily accessible and contain batteries, flashlights, blankets/sleeping bags/warm clothes, non-perishable food, a first aid kit, and sufficient water for your family. This will help to keep your family warm, fed, and safe during an emergency.
If you have a backup generator, ensure that it is ready to go. The start of winter is an excellent time to have regular maintenance and check-ups done on your generator. Have a professional inspect it to ensure that oil and gas levels are correct and that the home or business connection is safe and secure. If a power outage occurs, you want to be confident that you can rely on your backup power supply.
Avoid using candles during power outages. Many people use candles to light their rooms during power outages and, while this can deliver a nice ambience, it is hazardous. If the candles are unattended or wax drips and causes build up around the candle, it can result in a fire. Instead, use flashlights or LED candles.
Preparing Your Home’s Electrical Setup
Power outages can do damage to your home, and harsh weather can be a hazard to many of your home’s electrical components. There a few ways you can defend your home’s electrical setup against winter:
- Be aware of water and exposed wires. With freezing and thawing occurring repeatedly, water can find its way into some of the nooks and crannies of your home. Walk around your home’s interior and exterior walls and look for any exposed wires that could come into contact with water. Make sure any problems are addressed quickly.
- Having a home surge protector will help suppress surges to prevent electrocutions and damage to appliances and electronics.
- You can also protect your appliances and electronic devices in your home with surge protectors. Review your home setup to check if surge protectors are active and still functional.
- During an extended power outage, unplug your major appliances (oven, fridge, freezer, television) and turn off light fixtures (although you can leave on some lights so that you know when the power returns). This can prevent power surges from occurring and damaging the appliances when power returns.
Keep Away from Downed Power Lines
If an icy tree branch knocks down a power line or if a car hits a power pole and the electrical wiring falls, keep at least three metres or 10 feet away at all times. Power lines are compelling and can cause severe electrocution if you are not careful. Keep your family and children educated, as they could come across a downed power line during their daily commute. Always call 911 when you see a power line down.
Electrical Safety Checklist for a Winter-Ready Home
# Checklist 1 Does your home have the right electrical panels, plugs, sockets and switches installed?
If yes, check that no covers are open, cracked or unscrewed. If unsure, let a certified electrical contractor check it out for you and install it as necessary.
# Checklist 2 Do you know where your home’s main electrical panel is located? Are there any obstructions to accessing it quickly and safely in case of a blackout? Are the switches and circuits inside it clearly marked and fully functioning?
If yes, then your home is winter-ready. In severe winters, power fluctuations can trip switches that you will have to turn back on manually.
# Checklist 3 Are you safe from water leaks that could affect your electrical wiring, panels, sockets, switches and installed electrical equipment?
If you see or suspect any leaks, get the right people to fix that promptly. Heavy rain and melting snow can have water leaking into your home if it is not correctly waterproofed. Water and electricity never mix well.
# Checklist 4 Do the overhead power lines outside your home have acceptable clearance from trees, poles and other structures?
If they don’t, contact your local utility company or contract a licensed arborist to take care of those overgrown branches before the winter comes.
# Checklist 5 Are your sockets, and other power outlets adequately loaded, or are they overloaded and lacking surge protection?
If you are uncertain about this, get an expert electrician to tell you whether you are using your outlets the right way. As a guide, don’t use those plugin multi-sockets that don’t have overload circuit breakers or surge protection; ask a licensed electrical contractor for the certified power bars with surge protectors.
# Checklist 6 Do you have or need a hard-wired surge suppressor that goes directly to the main electrical panel?
A certified hardwired surge suppressor at the main panel will provide much greater protection for your whole house in most cases.
# Checklist 7 Do you leave your non-essential electronic equipment plugged in when going for vacations or long trips?
This might not be necessary this year, given the current situation. But If you do, then that needs to change. Only leave the most vital electrical equipment like a refrigerator plugged in. The others are much safer unplugged if you will be out of the house for a long while.
If you are interested in finding more licensed electrician tips for home electrical safety for winter or learning more about the electrical services we provide, please contact 247 Emergency Electricians.
247 Emergency Electricians’ services are one of the most trusted services in North America. We are just one call away. Our name, 247 Emergency Electricians, is the justification for the 24/7 emergency services that we provide. Our electricians, along with their sturdy tools, presence of mind and professional expertise, will treat your home with utmost respect and care, thus preventing you from facing any more electrical emergencies in the future. Your happiness and safety is our ultimate goal which is why we give you a 24/7 assurance.