Along with the cold, unpredictable weather the winter season brings, it can also cause potentially costly damage to homes due to bursting pipes, frozen rain gutters and other weather related disasters.  Below are some tips to make you aware of these potential hazards so that you can take preventative measures and ensure a safe and comfortable season.

Plumbing Basics
Severe cold weather can cause a great deal of damage to a home’s plumbing.  To prevent pipes from cracking, wrap exposed pipes with heating tape or pipe insulation before the onset of freezing temperatures.  Also know where your main water turn-off is located in case of an emergency. 

Rain Gutter Maintenance
Rain gutters can be a surprising source of winter-related damage to your home.  When gutters become clogged, “ice damming” can occur.  This condition prevents water from draining properly through the gutter, causing it to seep into your home and eventually drip from the ceilings and walls.  To prevent this problem, remove leaves, dirt, branches and other debris from gutters to allow ice and snow to flow down and away from the house.  As an added precaution you can always add screens over your gutters.  This will prevent the build-up of debris from obstructing the flow of water.

Insulation
Insulation not only keeps your home warm but it also helps protect your home.  If too much heat escapes the interior of your home, the warm air can cause snow or ice to melt on the roof and then refreeze.  As this process is repeated the buildup of ice can result in excess weight and could potentially compromise your roof.  (Ideally your attic should be 5- 10 degrees warmer than the air outside).

Furnace/Space Heater Safety
During cold months, people often rely on furnaces and space heaters.  Precautions should be taken to avoid fires or other problems.  Most importantly, have your furnace tuned up and inspected at the beginning of the season by a qualified heating and air conditioning company.    By checking leaks or broken parts and making necessary repairs, a certified technician can prevent potential problems.  Space heaters should be approved by a certified testing organization.  They should be kept at least 3 feet away from flammable objects, such as furniture, curtains, rugs or clothing, to prevent fires.  Also, children should be carefully monitored when near space heaters.

Fire Escape Preparedness
The potential for fires in the home increases during the winter months.  Families need to be prepared in case a fire does begin in the home.  Every home should have smoke detectors.  Inspect them on a regular basis and change the batteries twice a year.  In addition, families should formulate a fire escape plan and practice with the entire family to guarantee that all members, especially small children, know how to safely leave the home and meet together at a designated area outside.

Fall/Accident Prevention
One of the most common injuries around the home involves accidental falls.  This is especially harmful to older individuals.  Check outdoor railings to make sure they are secure and steady.  Outdoor steps should be inspected to ensure they are not broken or susceptible to collapsing under the weight of heavy snow or ice.  Use salt or some type of de-icer to prevent ice from forming on stairs and walkways.  Also, using doormats at all entrances of your home will help capture moisture and other residue that can cause individuals to slip when entering your home.