Winter Home Safety Audit

A blue house in a snowy neighborhood.
What You'll Need
Furnace filters
First aid kit
Carbon Monoxide detector
Smoke detector

We all know winter comes right after fall, bringing with it hazardous and potentially deadly weather conditions. To make sure your home and family get through this coming winter both safe and sound, you should take the time to do your own home safety audit. Follow these steps to perform your winter safety audit.

Step 1 - Inspect the Furnace

Start with the obvious and have a professional inspect and service your furnace. Everyone is going to be spending more time indoors during the winter; you want to be sure your furnace is working properly, the filter is clean, the pilot light and thermostat are functioning, and that there are no leaks or openings in your supply lines or furnaces ducts.

While you're thinking about your furnace, get a supply of filters that fit your unit. Experts recommend changing regular furnace filters once a month during the heating season and changing high-efficiency filters at least every three months.
Having clean furnace filters is extremely important. A blocked furnace filter can cause the “limit switch” on your furnace to activate, turning it off (and leaving you without heat) until the switch is replaced by a professional.

Remove any flammable items from the area around your furnace. Paints, paint thinners, and paper products should all be stored well away from your furnace. If you have a fireplace, have the chimney cleaned to get rid of any creosote buildup and eliminate the possibility of a chimney fire.

Step 2 - Seal the Foundation Against Rodents

Move any piles of wood or firewood away from your foundation. Seal any openings in your walls (even the tiny ones—a mouse can get through a ¼-inch opening) to keep out mice and voles. These animals are not dangerous; however, they carry disease. No one wants to share their home with dirty rodents.

Make sure your steps and handrails are sound. People need handrails and solid steps in icy conditions. Repair them now while the weather is still warm. Doing so can prevent a nasty accident from happening this winter.

Step 3 - Cut the Outdoor Water Supply

As it gets later in the fall, shut off the water supply to your outside taps and drain the supply lines . Doing so guarantees that so there will be no water left in the pipes to freeze and burst them.

Step 4 - Prepare the Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detectors

If you have carbon monoxide and smoke detectors installed, get fresh batteries for them. If your don't have these warning devices in your home, now is the time to install them. They are inexpensive and easy to install. Most importantly, they could save a life. Have your fire extinguisher checked. If the extinguisher is more than 10 years old, consider buying a new one.

Step 5 - Prepare for Emergencies

Prepare an emergency kit. You will need candles (along with a lighter or matches), a flashlight and batteries, a portable radio, blankets and warm clothes for everyone. Stock bottled water and nonperishable foods for your family and pets, a first aid kit, and a camp cooking stove so you can have a warm meal (even if it's only canned soup).