Cold weather tips for keeping your home safe

With temperatures dropping into ranges we aren’t accustomed to around here it’s time to review what should be done when it gets below freezing:

If you can, turn the main water supply to the house off and drain the  system from the lowest point and flush the toilets. Leave the cabinet doors open on any sink that is on an exterior wall. Remove any attached hose pipes from exterior bibs, etc.  Also, to put insulation around an exterior faucet you can improvise using a towel wrapped around and secured with a plastic bag and either tape or a heavy duty rubber band.

Also, here for our wood burning fireplace property owner readers, posted with permission from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, are tips and issues to know about burn bans:

New law prompts significant change to residential burn bans Where there’s chimney smoke, there’s fire — and fines

November 24, 2008 — A new burn ban season is upon us and this one will be different from those in past falls and winters.

  • The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency will be calling both Stage 1 and Stage 2 burn bans, often in sequence.
  • Stage 2 burn bans are more restrictive than the more familiar Stage 1 burn bans and ban ALL wood burning, even from certified wood stoves and pellet stoves.
  • Our Puget Sound region will likely have longer burn bans, and perhaps more of them.
  • And more fines may be issued for people violating the bans.

What is prompting this change?

First, in late 2006, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tightened the 24-hour health standard for fine particle pollution, also known as PM2.5. And earlier this year, our Washington State Legislature lowered the air-quality trigger for calling a burn ban to align with this new EPA standard.

The reason for these actions is to better protect public health because the soot and smoke that makes up these fine particles are associated with serious health effects. The tiny size of these pollutants allows them to be easily inhaled, bypassing the immune system and proceeding deep into the lungs, where they can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems, including premature death.

So what’s this mean if you heat your home with wood or pellet fuel?

During a burn ban, we’re basically asking people to rely on their home’s other, cleaner source of heat (such as their furnace or electric baseboard heaters) for a few days until air quality improves, the risk to public health is diminished and a ban is cancelled.

If agency inspectors observe a burn ban violation, they will issue a Notice of Violation to the property owner and recommend a $1,000 penalty.

The rules for a Stage 1 burn ban are the same as in the past:

  • No burning is allowed in wood-burning fireplaces, uncertified wood stoves or fireplace inserts, unless this is your only adequate source of heat.
  • No visible smoke is allowed from any wood stove or fireplace, certified or not, beyond a 20-minute start-up period.
  • All outdoor burning is prohibited, even in areas where outdoor burning is not permanently banned.

When a burn ban goes to Stage 2:

  • NO burning is allowed in ANY wood-burning fireplaces, wood stoves or fireplace inserts (certified or uncertified) or pellet stoves, unless this is your only adequate source of heat. Natural gas and propane stoves or inserts ARE allowed.
  • All outdoor burning is prohibited, even in areas where outdoor burning is not permanently banned.
  • If our agency inspectors see any smoke being emitted from a chimney during a Stage 2 burn ban, they can assume a fireplace, wood or pellet stove is in use and a penalty is warranted.

Maybe you’re wondering what “adequate source of heat means.