First, if you heat with gas or wood appliances of any sort you will need to ensure they are operating properly to protect you and your family. Poor efficiency means higher heating bills and less comfort in the home as well. Your main concern is carbon-monoxide leakage into the home. Heating oil, natural gas, propane and wood burning devices all produce this deadly gas when in operation.
If you burn wood, it is critical that you have your chimney/stove piping inspected every heating season and cleaned as needed by a professional. Creosote buildup in the chimney and inside of stovepipes is a fire hazard.
Heating appliances that use fossil fuels require proper venting and the vents need to be checked for any deadly gas leakage by a professional every season before using. Carbon-monoxide detectors should be on every floor and depending on the size of your home; you may need more than one detector per floor. The detectors can be battery operated and/or AC powered. They are available at most retail department stores or home and garden centers.
Many ceiling fans today have reversing switches, with one direction for summer and one for winter. When the heat is running, the fan blades should turn clockwise. This produces an updraft that helps to push the warm air that rises to the ceiling down into the room by reflecting it off the ceiling and walls, and you will not get a wind-chill effect as you would if it were set for summer use.
Cold air settles of course and that is why the floor is always colder than the ceiling. Having the fans blades’ moving in the correct direction when the heat is on helps distribute the warm air throughout the room.
Stop Warm Air from Leaking Outside
Warm air always conducts to cold so in the winter the heated air inside the home is always trying to conduct to the cooler air outside the home. Windows and doors not sealed properly will of course allow the heated air to escape thus cooling the home and increasing the run time of your heating appliances. Poor insulation in the attic will also allow heat to escape through the roof.
Caulking around windows and some doors can stop air leak problems quickly and cheaply. Ensure the caulking is designated for outdoor use and specifically for windows and doors.
Most utilities companies will do a free energy audit, and they can tell you in most cases, where the warm air is escaping and provide you with tips on how to correct the problem. They can also tell you if you have the properly rated insulation in your attic for your climate zone. Insulation has an “R” rating and each zone has specific recommendations as to the R-rating needed for peek insulating efficiency.
Visit the link below to determine your climate zone and the recommend R-rating for your insulation.
Heavy snows can damage roofs, barns and sheds and as your roof gets older the less, it may be able to handle especially if there is a sag in the roof caused by weak or damaged joists and/or roof decking. Inspect your roof to make sure it can withstand the weight.
Additionally a poorly insulated attic will allow warm air to escape and melt the snow on the roof. The water then re-freezes creating ice sheets and this can cause heavy icicles to hang off the eaves creating a safety hazard.
Most roofs in areas that receive heavy snows will be pitched so the snow will slide off. However, heavy snows and sheets of ice sliding off the roof can be a hazard to those on the ground. Roofs can have snow guards installed (avalanche control essentially), to prevent the sudden release of snow or ice. The falling snow or ice can injure people or cause damage to vehicles and landscaping.
Keeping your gutters clean can prevent water from backing up under the shingles and freezing which can damage the roof.
Uncouple any outdoor water hoses, drain and then store away. Unless you have freeze-protected (freeze-proof) spigots, they should be covered with faucet caps designed to prevent the faucet from freezing and rupturing the water lines. If you do have freeze protected spigots installed it is especially important that you uncouple garden hoses during cold weather.
The water must drain out of the freeze-proof faucets so there is no water in the line that can freeze. Having a garden hose connected would prevent the water from draining. Make sure you drain any irrigation systems as well.
Danger from Falling Limbs and Power Lines
Heavy snows and ice can bring limbs and power lines down. Inspect the outside of the home before snowfall to make sure any limbs that could fall on the house or on power lines are trimmed back. Falling limbs or damaged power lines anywhere on your property will be a hazard to anyone in the area, so be alert to overhead dangers when working outside.
Last Minute Preps May Mean You Go Without
Power outages are common during snow and ice storms so do not wait until the forecasters tell you one is on the way. Trying to get to the store in the hours before a storm can be dangerous and it may also mean you come home empty handed because everyone else was there before you. Prep before you need it, it will cost you less in the end, and it also means you will get what you need, or otherwise you will be forced to pick over what others have left on the shelves.
Some Things Should Be Expected
Be ready to survive without electricity and this may mean you have to survive without your home’s heating system. Once you do lose heat shut off as much of the house as practical. Have everyone gather in one or two rooms and do what you can to contain the heat in those rooms. Seal off the rooms by hanging blankets over doorways or simply by shutting doors. The ideal room (s) to gather in would be ones without outside walls, windows or doorways leading to the outside.
To make life easier make sure you have roof rakes to remove heavy snow from the roof, snow shovels and de-icing compound to prevent ice buildup on walkways and driveways. Sand, kitty liters or the ash (cinders) left over from coal fires can be used for traction on icy sidewalks and driveways.