Tis the season of lots and lots of snow! Up here in New England we’ve been seeing snow accumulate for weeks now and that has led to the circulation of more and more myths about when snow is a threat to your home, how often you need to shovel your deck, and everything in between. Let’s go through some of the common misconceptions or warnings and be real about what you need to do to protect your home this winter.
The Dangers of Icicles
Of all the winter weather, icicles are certainly some of the more threatening-looking things to accumulative this season. Long spikes of ice hanging from your home can certainly pose a danger, but we don’t want you to live in fear for your windows or pets. Icicles are bound to form and they are not always a threat. Like everything in winter, there are far too many variables for hard and fast rules. There are, however, a few things to monitor.
Heavy wind or snow slowly sliding down your roof can both cause icicles to begin pointing in toward your house. If your icicles begin curving toward your windows and are getting increasingly heavier and stronger, this might be something to monitor. If snow is to suddenly slide off your roof, there is the potential for these larger icicles to damage your windows or siding. However, windows make it through winter all the time. If there is a concern that icicles are getting too heavy or pointing too close to windows, let us know and we can give you a specific recommendation on when or how they need to be removed.
While icicles hanging from your home are a regular part of winter, the actual act of removing them can also be a concern. Our primary recommendation, no matter what is happening with your icicles, is to never stand below them and try to hit them down with a shovel. Let’s think about gravity and the fact that you are causing these chunk and spikes off ice to rain down in your direction. When it comes to shoveling rooves or removing icicles, always account for what could happen when gravity takes control. As with everything, give us a call and we can take care of any icicles that may pose a threat to your home or anyone traveling in and out.
Snow is heavy and when layers of snow and ice continue to compile, there is always a concern that a roof, garage, or shed could collapse. Let’s be blunt. It is not likely that your roof will collapse under the weight of snow. If your home is up to code and properly built, it will be able to withstand normal amounts of snow. However, older roofs that may have leaks or piles of snow 6ft deep are another story. As with anything, it truly is a case by case basis. You can always do research about your specific situation to see if your home or structure is in any danger or how often it may need to be cleared. Feel free to give us a call and describe what you are seeing or hearing if you have any concerns about leaks or the structural integrity of your home.
Clearing Your Deck
Just like the snow building up on your roof, your deck is not likely to collapse or retain damage due to winter storms. The real benefit to clearing your deck is taking care of any paint or finish and making sure it is accessible to you. If you are away from your home for long periods of time, regularly clearing the deck is certainly beneficial to avoid layers of compacted ice and snow from becoming more difficult to remove down the line. However, it is certainly not necessary to keep your deck clear of snow and ice all season long. Just like the weight of snow on your roof, if your deck is built properly, it will be fully able to withstand the weight of snow and ice.
Heating Your Home
So Let’s talk heating your home in the cold. As mentioned above, each house is a bit different.
In extreme cold, everyone buttons things up differently. If the house is vacant, most people will shut off the main and drain the pipes at the lowest point in the house. Something to consider however is the location of your main’s lever. Is it exposed in a cold basement? You could risk having the lever freeze. If you leave it on, don’t drop the heat below 55F. Especially if pipes run through attics, exterior walls, under cabinets and basements.
Some solutions: Slowly run water through the pipes at a constant drip or flow and heat the basement or crawl space in some fashion. If you plumbing runs up and down external walls then it’s important to either drain them or have them constantly moving or heated.
Hydronic heat. Now this is a common topic that alarms people into doing the unnecessary and can cost you money! Depending on your HVAC system. It’s common around Hydronic heating systems. The cold makes the R value of you insulation systems less effective so therefore the cold wants to get in.
So let’s say it’s -20 F outside. House one is set to stay at 55 F house two is set to stay at 75 F.
When house 1 hit’s 55 F the heat will activate and circulate warm water through the pipes, well above the industry standard warning point of 20F for pipes to freeze. House Two is staying all the way up at 75 F, using extra heat and energy that really isn’t necessary.
When it comes to keeping an unused property warm, the pipes unfrozen, and things moving properly, we want to keep things working without wasting energy. Remember always consult with your professional regarding heating, electrical and plumbing issues or concerns.
Avoid One-Size-Fits-All Warnings
The most vital warning we can offer about winter is to remember that every storm and every home is different. There is no one-size-fits-all rule or plan to care for your home throughout the winter. If you have guests coming and going from an AirBnb, if you’re a 24/7 business, if you visit one weekend a month, or if you live there year-round, it’s all going to change how much maintenance you need. We also know that storms are unpredictable. A massive ice storm, a steady stream of flurries, a mix of sleet and hail, or a blizzard all require different management and different removal practices. My best advice is to trust your home, trust the professionals, and do your research. As always, give us a call and we can talk about what might be best for your home or property this season.