Harsh winter weather takes a toll on every part of your home, including your electrical system. While electrical problems can happen any time of year, some problems are more persistent during cold winter months. As temperatures drop and days are shorter, increased demand can overload electrical circuits and trip circuit breakers.
Heavy rain, gusty winds, snow, sleet, and ice are common during Midwest winters. Winter power outages are often the result of damaging winter storms. You can’t control the weather, but you can take steps to prepare your home’s electrical system to withstand challenging winter conditions.
Prepare Your Home and Family for Winter
1. Have Your Furnace and Thermostat Inspected
No matter what type of heating system you have, it likely uses electricity to run. Whether you have a furnace, heat pump, or some other type of heating system, it’s important to have a professional inspection before winter weather arrives. A trained technician will check all electrical connections, the thermostat, and other key components to ensure that your heating system is operating safely and efficiently.
2. Update Your Lighting
Most people use more lighting for longer periods of time during the dark winter months. Increased usage means higher electricity bills. Consider switching to energy-efficient LED light bulbs that use less power and last longer. Inadequate outdoor lighting can become a safety hazard during the colder and darker winter months. Make sure your outdoor lights are working properly to ensure that your driveways, sidewalks, and steps are safe and well lit for both your family and visitors.
3. Check Your Electrical Panel
Every adult in a household should know where the electrical service panel is located. Service panels are located in garages, basements or utility rooms. Make sure the panel is kept free of obstructions for easy access. The cover should be kept closed to protect against moisture, pests, and accidental damage. Make sure that the switches are properly labeled in case a tripped switch needs to be reset. If your electric panel is outdated, consider having it upgraded in order to ensure your home’s electrical system is safe and efficient.
4. Use Space Heaters Wisely
Many people use an electric space heater to keep a room warm without spiking their gas bill. Unfortunately, portable heaters cause a significant number of residential fires each year. Old, outdated or damaged space heaters should be replaced with new models that have improved safety features. Space heaters should be plugged into a dedicated outlet and unplugged when not in use. When used correctly, modern space heaters can keep a room warm without overheating or consuming too much electricity.
5. Plan Ahead for Potential Power Outages
It’s easy to take electric power for granted. In the event of a power failure, it’s important to be prepared. Flashlights, fresh batteries, a battery-powered or crank radio, and plenty of nonperishable food can make riding out a winter power outage safer and easier. Charging up cell phones and other devices ahead of a predicted storm is also a good idea. The American Red Cross has a comprehensive list of winter storm safety tips that can help families prepare for all types of winter weather emergencies.
6. Protect Electronics During Power Outages
Power outages are a common occurrence during severe winter storms. Snow, ice, and heavy winds can all damage power lines and create power surges and outages. To protect your home’s electrical appliances and devices during a power outage, turn off and unplug all unnecessary electronics and appliances. This will keep expensive equipment from being damaged by surges or spikes when the power is restored.
7. Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
During prolonged power outages, people sometimes try to warm their homes with alternative heat sources. Don’t be tempted to use a gas range or oven to heat your home. Never use a portable generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas, or charcoal-burning device inside your home, garage, or basement. Install carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas to provide early warning of accumulating carbon monoxide.
8. Consider a Generator
Prolonged power outages are especially dangerous for certain groups of people including the elderly and medically vulnerable individuals. If you live in an area with frequent winter storms and power outages, you may want to install a whole-house generator or get a portable one. There are a wide variety of models available depending on functionality preferences and budget. If you have a generator, make sure you understand how to operate it safely and test it before you need to use it.
9. Get an Electrical Safety Inspection
Winter weather can put a significant strain on a home’s electrical system. Signs that your current electrical system is overburdened and may need to be upgraded include flickering lights and regularly tripped breakers. Wires, plugs, outlets, and sockets can all become worn over time and result in serious safety hazards. Have a licensed electrician check the wiring throughout your home to ensure everything is up to code and functioning properly.
Call a Local Trusted Electrician
When you need electrical work for your home or business, call on the experts at Pallardy Electric. We’ve been serving St. Charles and St. Louis counties since 2001. We’re licensed, bonded, and insured for your safety and protection. Call us at (636) 202-1794 to schedule a free estimate. We look forward to working with you.