By: Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety
When winter weather becomes severe, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), a national research and communications organization, offers a severe winter weather maintenance checklist for property owners impacted by freezing weather. Find out how you can reduce damage to your property from freezing weather by visiting http://www.disastersafety.org/freezing_weather/.
“We urge everyone at risk of severe winter weather to stay tuned to the National Weather Service advisories, and use IBHS risk reduction recommendations to protect their homes and businesses today, and throughout this winter season,” said Julie Rochman, IBHS president and CEO.
IBHS FREEZING WEATHER MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST
STAY SAFE AND WARM
Alternative heating is a great way to stay warm during the cold weather, but its use comes with risks. Check IBHS’ advice before selecting or installing an alternative heating source: http://www.disastersafety.org/wp-content/uploads/alternative-heating.pdf.
BUILD A PLAN FOR A POWER OUTAGE
Heavy snow and high winds are a recipe for widespread power outages. It’s important to prepare a plan now before a possible outage. Learn how you can use alternative heat sources and generators safely during a power outage at http://www.disastersafety.org/disastersafety/build-a-plan-for-a-power-outage/.
PREVENT ROOF COLLAPSE
Significant snowfall can put a strain on a roof that could cause significant damage and even potential collapse. Unless your roof structure is damaged or decayed, most residential roofs, regardless of the location of the house, should be able to support 20 pounds (lbs.) of snow per square foot of roof space before they become stressed. Determine how much the snow/ice on your roof weighs by using the IBHS information below.
- Fresh snow: 10-12 in. of new snow is equal to 1 inch of water, or about 5 lbs. per square foot of roof space, so you could have up to 4 ft. of new snow before the roof will become stressed.
- Packed snow: 3-5 in. of old snow is equal to 1 inch of water, or about 5 lbs. per square foot of roof space, so anything more than 2 ft. of old snow could be too much for your roof to handle.
- Total accumulated weight: 2 ft. of old snow and 2 ft. of new snow could weigh as much as 60 lbs. per square foot of roof space, which is beyond the typical snow load capacity for most roofs.
- Ice: 1 inch of ice equals 1 ft. of fresh snow.
When there is too much snow on your roof, find out how to safely remove it by visiting http://www.disastersafety.org/freezing_weather/prevent-roof-collapse/.
PREVENT ICE DAMS
During freezing weather, heat from your home or business can escape through your roof and melt snow on your roof. The snowmelt can then trickle down to the roof’s edge and refreeze, creating an ice dam that leaves additional snowmelt with no place to go but possibly under your roof. The following IBHS guidance will reduce your risk of ice dams.
A two-step approach is the most effective way to reduce the size of ice dams. First, keep the attic floor well insulated to minimize the amount of heat from within the house that rises into the attic. Second, keep the attic well ventilated so that the cold air outside can circulate through it and reduce the temperature of the roof system. The colder the attic, the less thawing and refreezing on the roof. These two measures are the best ways to keep ice dams from increasing in size.
Step One: Insulating the attic
The attic floor should be airtight, have sufficient insulation, and keep the transfer of heat from the downstairs to the attic at a minimum. Even a well-insulated attic floor may have a number of openings that can permit warm air from below to seep up into the attic. For instance, these items may cut through the attic floor:
- exhaust pipes and plumbing vents
- fireplace and heating system chimneys
- light fixtures
Seal all openings around these penetrations, but be careful not to block attic vents with insulation. The attic vents, as explained below, must be kept clear so that they can do their job. Additionally, pull-down stairs or a set of regular stairs leading up to the attic from the lower level can be avenues for rising heat. Weather stripping around the edges of the attic access door and insulation on the attic side of the door should minimize the passage of heat to the attic. Any heat-generating equipment in the attic should be relocated.
Step Two: Ventilating the attic
There are several ways to ventilate your attic. You can do it with eave vents, soffit vents, a ridge vent, a gable vent, or some combination of these. Most modern residential roofs combine a ridge vent with soffit or eave vents. To the extent that household heat penetrates the attic, it should be able to rise and escape through, for instance, a ridge vent, while soffit or eave vents pull in cold air to replace it. Local building codes generally require a minimum level of ventilation.
Proper ventilation of the attic to let cold in, together with air sealing and insulation on the attic floor to help keep household heat out of the attic, work to minimize the likelihood of ice dams.
Discover additional ways you can prevent costly ice dams at http://www.disastersafety.org/freezing_weather/preventing-ice-dams-on-homes/.
PREVENT FROZEN PIPES
Frozen pipes are one of the biggest risks of property damage when the temperature drops. In fact, a burst pipe can result in more than $5,000 in water damage, according to IBHS research. Prevent costly water damage caused by frozen pipes by using the following guidance.
- Provide a reliable back-up power source to ensure continuous power to the building.
- Insulate all attic penetrations.
- Ensure proper seals on all doors and windows.
- Seal all wall cracks and penetrations, including domestic and fire protection lines, electrical conduit, other utility service line, etc.
- Install insulation and/or heat trace tape with a reliable power source on various wet sprinkler system piping. This includes main lines coming up from underground passing through a wall as well as sprinkler branch lines.
- Place a monitored automatic excess flow switch on the main incoming domestic water line to provide early detection of a broken pipe or valve when the space is unoccupied.
INSTALL WEATHER STRIPPING AND SEALS
Prevent freezing temperatures from entering your home or business by installing weather stripping and seals. This offers two major benefits – it will keep severe winter weather out of your home or business and sealing your property shut also greatly increases energy efficiency by limiting drafts and reducing the amount of cold air that enters. Inspect the following areas of your home or business for leaks to determine possible areas to seal.
- Windows and doors
- Vents and fans
- Air conditioners
- Electrical and gas lines
- Mail chutes
Learn how to install weather stripping and caulking at https://www.disastersafety.org/freezing_weather/installing-weather-stripping-seals/.