Each year, winter wreaks havoc across the US. This is especially true in areas prone to snow, ice, and storms. If electricity powers your heating, winter storms can lead to a whole host of problems including heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) failure, and icy indoor temperatures.
Whether you’re a homeowner or living in a rental, preparation is key. Here are our tips for preparing for powercuts and what to do if the heat goes out.
Before a Winter Storm Arrives
If you receive notice that bad weather is en route, use that time to get prepared. Here are the items you should have on hand before bad weather rolls in and potentially knocks your heat and power out.
Prepare Your Home
Whether or not a storm has been forecast, preparing your home for winter should be an annual task. Ensure your entire home (including the attic if you have one) is properly insulated. Weather-strip or caulk windows and doors too to avoid any drafts. Schedule a cleaning for your fireplace and chimney if you have one, and have secondary heaters such as gas stoves serviced to ensure they’re safe to use.
Find more information on how to winterize your home here.
Put Together an Emergency Kit
Every home should have a first aid kit on hand in case of accidents. Ensure you have a stash of non-prescription medications such as pain killers, as well as bandages, bandaids, and sterile wipes. If you live in an area prone to winter storms, expand on your kit with other emergency items including:
- Flashlight and spare batteries
- Matches and candles in a waterproof container
- Blankets and thermal clothing
- Battery pack and charger cables for cell phones
Plan Your Food and Drink
Stock up on non-perishable food that won’t spoil if the power goes out: tins and jars are ideal. Lower the temperature of your fridge and freezer all the way down and avoid opening the doors as much as possible to help preserve the food within. A great trick is to place a bag of ice cubes in the freezer. If they melt, it’s a sign that the food in your freezer is no longer safe to eat. Make sure you have bottled water on hand for drinking and fill your bathtub with water for washing.
Have Alternative Heating Available
If storms are a regular occurrence in your area, consider investing in a backup generator to use with a space heater. If you’re planning on using a space heater, check out our safety guide. In areas where storms are less severe and heat outages less likely, having fuel, oil, or propane heaters in your home is a more affordable option. And, if your home has a fireplace, ensure you’ve stocked up on plenty of wood to burn.
Protect Your Pipes
Even if your power stays on you may lose heating due to frozen pipes. Wrap any exposed, external piping with insulation to protect it from falling temperatures and let faucets drip to keep water moving and lessen the chance of it freezing in your pipes.
During An Outage
If the worst happens and you do lose heat and power, your preparations will ensure that you’re able to stay safe and warm. Here’s what to do if the heat goes out.
Keep your doors and windows closed as much as possible. Identify any drafts and block them with towels. Avoid losing warmth to unused rooms that aren’t needed by closing them off and focusing on heating a smaller area of your home.
Layer clothing and keep your head and mouth covered with a hat and scarf. Wear mittens (they work better than gloves) and make sure you have plenty of blankets to hand.
Monitor the Power
Check whether the power outage goes beyond your home by checking whether your neighbors’ lights are on, and report the outage to your power company. Unplug appliances and electronic devices to avoid a potentially damaging surge when the power does come back on. Do, however, leave one lamp on so you can easily see when the power comes back on.
Generate Heat Safely
When the heat is out and you’re feeling the cold it can be tempting to cut corners to stay warm. Always follow these procedures to keep your household safe:
- Don’t leave candles or space heaters unattended and ensure they’re kept away from children and pets
- Do not use an oven or gas stove to heat your home
- Only use camp stoves, grills, and generators outdoors and a minimum of 20 feet away from windows and doors
If you’re concerned that someone in your household is becoming unwell due to the cold, call 911.
What to Do if Sheltering Elsewhere
You may choose to wait out a storm elsewhere if a heating and power outage is localized to your area. If so, do the following things before you leave your home:
- Turn off the water supply, open all faucets, and drain the water tank
- Unhook your washing machine hose
- Turn off your power at the main breaker or power supply box
- Turn off the gas supply immediately to avoid leaks
When The Power Comes Back
There are some tasks to be completed to ensure everything is safe once heating and power have been restored.
Frozen pipes are a concern after winter storms, so check for any cracks or leaks. If any flooding has occurred near electrical wiring or equipment, turn off the mains power and call a qualified technician to check things over.
When switching your power back on, start by reconnecting your heating system. Turn the heat up higher than usual to dry out your home and return it to the normal temperature as quickly as possible.
What To Do if the Heat Goes Out?
It’s difficult to predict whether your power and heating will go out during winter, so it’s best to be prepared just in case it does. Following the steps listed in this article will help keep you safe and warm in the event of an outage. However, our number one tip is to have the number of a trusted HVAC professional on hand to prepare your heating system ahead of a winter storm and to repair any damage in the aftermath.
D&D Air Conditioning is a trusted air conditioning service in Sarasota, Fl. Our qualified technicians know that there’s never a good time to be without heat in the winter, which is why we are available 24 hours a day seven days a week for emergency heating and AC repair in Sarasota.