Last Chance To Get Ready For Winter Storms

Keep ahead of winter storms. Simple precautions save thousands of dollars in home damage.

Okay, we may or may not be getting used to the new tone of our weather here in CT, but one thing is for sure, ready or not winter is here.

As many of you know my day job is in property insurance, claims manager at BTS Insurance no less.

This put me in the middle of every one of the five, yes five bona fide natural disasters we have suffered in the last three years, and I've got a pretty good idea where the problems are coming from.

Jan. 6, 2009: Ice storm knocks out power and leaves homes vulnerable to frozen pipes.

Mar. 13, 2010: blows over trees from rare southeast winds….power out again for a week.

Dec. 26, 2010 - Feb.15, 2011: on roof surfaces and trigger leaks, collapses, and plenty of landscape damage.

Aug. 28, 2011: kisses us during harvest season and we have a powerless week leading into Labor Day.

Oct. 29, 2011: collects on foliage and collapses a record number of trees and branches. The rare combination of the leaves and snow provides a perfect conductor when branches fall across power lines, spiking voltages and blowing through transformers all over the area. This results in another record….this time from power surges easily overpowering protectors, frying electronics, appliances, and in some cases entire electrical systems in homes………. powerless days hit double digits this time

As good as it sounds, we will never have underground power out here in the burbs.

The cost of the high copper transmission lines (to cut heat loss when buried) and the actual burial itself is unlikely to be justified in the land of 4 acre zoning.

You know where I’m going with this don’t you?

I don’t care if you believe in global warming or not, the weather of late is just plain more energetic than usual for our historical climate, and ironically it is robbing us of our energy in every respect.

I have decided to take the first step in recovery and surrender to the reality that we are going to lose power more frequently and for longer periods than we care to admit.

If you are not versed in working with electricity, a portable generator is not going to save you from a winter freeze up since some hardwiring would be required to keep heating systems operating, but an electrician could help you work out a manual hook up if you want to go that route.

Just be extra careful when using temporary generators that you kill the main connection to the road so you are not jeopardizing the safety of line crews.

So what else can we do short of $30,000 generator systems?

Actually, a lot.


In most houses that is no more than a single circuit breaker if you are on a well, or a single valve if you are on city water .

If you kill the water kill the hot water heater.

Don’t drain the pipes if you have hot water heat, they will maintain a moderate pressure to keep your boiler full and it’s not enough water to hurt anything if you have a freeze up.  If you want to go high tech, put a flow stop valve on your supply line .  This is programmable and will shut off the water if it flows for a predetermined amount of time when you are not present. These usually come with a homeowners insurance credit, ask your agent.

2. Don’t turn that heat down too far, 55 degrees minimum especially in fringe areas of the home, and be sure to open all bathroom doors so they do not become isolated on the outside of the heating area.  Add a temperature sensor to your alarm system.  Most homeowner policies offer a credit for including these in your monitored security system. 

3. If you have an attic heat exchanger, you had better have a pan under it, and please check the drain now and then.

4. Check that your outside faucets are self-draining.  If you are not sure shut them off inside the basement and drain them.Be sure you remove any hoses from the hose bib or it will not be able to drain.


We have just prevented almost 80% of winter home claims.


5. If you don’t have a generator, it’s cold out, and the power goes out, turn off the water, open all your spigots and drain your pipes before they freeze.  Flush the toilets and bail out the bowl or pour anti-freeze in there (the non toxic kind) along with all your drains so the traps don’t burst.

At that point I recommend flipping off the main breaker ( in case the power comes back on you don't want to have the water heater working on a dry tank) and buying a ticket to the Islands, or at least taking the train to the city (if it’s running) and shacking up at the Hilton.

6. If we get a big snow and the temps are forecast to stay below freezing or another snow is on the 10-day outlook, rake your roof of as far as you can reach.  This will help prevent ice damming, and together with #10 you should have no issues.  And for goodness sakes go get a roof rake now, because there surely will be none after the snow.

7. If after all this you still experience water damage inside the home, DO NOT ASSUME THAT IT WILL DRY ON IT’S OWN. Consult with a licensed mitigation service such as Crystal Restoration, ServPro, or Servicemaster.  They can take moisture readings right through your walls to see if there is wet insulation that could be a breeding ground for mold, and mold is not something you want in your home.

8. Get a couple of plastic tubs that seal tight and fill them with CALCIUM CHLORIDE.  Not sodium chloride , and not a mix of the two. The pure stuff costs more but it goes further, works better, leaves less residue and is less harmful to plants.  Position these near outside walks and stairs so you can easily keep them ice free and avoid broken bones or lawsuits from unsuspecting victims.

9. If you know an elderly person who may not have the cash flow to have a crew cleaning them up constantly, please lend a hand.  I can’t tell you how often I stop in the winter and spend ten minutes with a shovel that has been gently wrestled from the determined grip of a beautiful woman who is risking her bones and her life doing work no one over the age of……….well, let’s just leave that one up to common sense………should be doing. No one is so busy they can’t spare 10 minutes to honor a senior.

10. And last but not least is my favorite winter trick ,the proactive application of calcium chloride. Make panty hose and calcium chloride sausages.  Pour a couple of cupful’s into one leg and tie two knots an inch apart, then repeat until you have a string of them.  Cut them apart and toss one into each of your gutters before a storm to keep the downspouts from freezing.   Here’s another, it won’t be 100% effective if the snow is really heavy, but it still helps,  Get an inexpensive , all plastic, garden sprayer and fill it with calcium chloride ice-melter, then add water to half way, add more melter and more water and dissolve (hot works better). You can spray a liberal coating of it all over your problem areas BEFORE THE STORM. Sometimes you wake up to a clean walk, and that’s such a nice surprise on a dark, cold, winter morning.


MPM December 12, 2011 at 12:26 PM
Thank you for this great article!
heavens sake December 12, 2011 at 09:51 PM
Non toxic anti-freeze ,propylene glycol,. in hot water heating systems also a good idea. A small inexpensive 1200 watt generator is enough to run a refrigerator and can be plugged into generator with an extension cord, but be sure to run generator outdoors and lead extension cord through window or door to refrigerator.
heavens sake December 12, 2011 at 10:00 PM
A small 1800 watt generator sells for under $200 on ebay and will pay for itself in avoiding spoiled food during the first power outage.
Mary O'Sullivan December 15, 2011 at 04:01 PM
Wow....Great Article. Thanks So Much ! Really Ingenious !


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