Lighting a fire on a cold night or turning on the furnace is a great way to stay warm. And, although these appliances can provide ambiance and relaxation, you may not be thinking about how your home’s chimney can expose you to the risks of carbon monoxide buildup and fire.
Usually, only fireplaces are associated with chimneys. However, other common appliances—such as furnaces and water heaters—also require outdoor chimneys, which are commonly called vents. All of these chimneys function similarly, and they require regular maintenance so that smoke and flue gases are ventilated properly.
Without regular maintenance, your chimneys can become damaged or obstructed by a buildup of creosote—an oily, black residue that is highly combustible and can block ventilation. Your chimneys should be inspected every year, preferably before winter sets in:
- Make sure that your appliances are connected to separate flues or ducts to prevent a buildup of carbon monoxide.
- Ensure that the interior metal liners of chimneys are in good condition and don’t have any cracks that could release carbon monoxide into your living areas.
- Inspect the upper openings of your chimneys, if possible. Make sure that the openings are clear of debris, such as leaves and nests.
- Have your chimneys cleaned to reduce the buildup of creosote.
- Contact a certified specialist to repair, replace and clean your chimneys. If chimneys aren’t maintained properly, they could become an even larger threat to your home.
Chimneys might seem like a low-tech aspect of your home, but ignoring chimney maintenance can cause catastrophic damage.
Every day, about 90 drivers are killed in motor vehicle accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And, with inclement winter weather making driving conditions more hazardous, that number could worsen. For that reason, be sure to follow these six tips whenever you drive this winter:
- Have your vehicle serviced: The cold can have an adverse effect on your vehicle. Before the temperature drops, take your vehicle to an auto repair shop to have the battery, tire treads, coolant hoses and wiper blades inspected.
- Assemble a winter emergency kit: In case you get stranded on the side of the road, you will want to have an emergency kit on hand. Your kit should include the following:
- An electric flashlight, spare batteries and flares
- Hand warmers and a thick, heavy blanket (ideally wool)
- A shovel and ice scraper
- Jumper cables
- Plan ahead: Before you get behind the wheel, check the weather forecast. If possible, prepare an alternate route in case of inclement weather or poor road conditions.
- Know your vehicle: Each vehicle handles winter weather conditions differently. Consequently, you should be aware of your vehicle’s capabilities—such as its ability to stop as well as how it handles driving on snow, ice or wet roadways.
- Tidy up: Before you get behind the wheel, be sure to clean off any snow or ice that may have accumulated on your vehicle—especially on the headlights and taillights as well as the side mirrors.
- Drive smart: Driving in winter weather requires you to adjust certain rules of the road. Some tips to keep in mind:
- Speed limits are for dry, clear driving conditions. So, it is okay to drive slower than the posted limit.
- With suspect road conditions, it is advisable to at least double the standard following distance.
- To help ensure that other motorists are able to see your vehicle, keep your headlights turned on—even during the day.
By following these tips, you should be prepared for driving in any winter weather conditions.