Winters in Farmington Hills, Michigan are tough. For residents, there’s no other time of the year when having access to a reliable supply of electricity is so important. When power outages or electrical malfunctions occur, many residents are at risk of temperature-related health issues such as frostbite, frostnip, and hypothermia. This is especially true now that more homes have switched to electric furnaces, boilers, and heat pumps as their primary sources of heat. Thus, it’s always a good idea to winterize your electrical panel before the outside temperatures plummet. To help you get started, following are seven easy ways to make sure that your home’s electrical system is winter-ready.
1. Start by Trimming Large and Weak Tree Branches
Heavy snow loads and icicle formations can be hard on old and ill-maintained trees. If you haven’t limbed your trees in a while, there’s a risk that large branches will break off and fall when wind speeds pick up or when accumulations of frozen precipitation start to mount.
Limbing nearby trees is a great way to protect your home’s electrical system, especially if your electrical panel is installed at the building exterior. Falling branches can down power lines and cause other impact-related structural harm. This measure can prove life-saving if you have people milling about near your property or kids playing in your yard in-between storms. It’s also an important part of fulfilling your duty of care as a property owner and minimizing your risk of costly liability issues.
The steps that you take now to prevent power outages caused by downed power lines or other electrical system damage will reduce the likelihood of your household being without heat.
2. Schedule a Whole-House Electrical Inspection
Having a whole-house electrical inspection performed just ahead of winter is a good idea. You want to make sure that you aren’t exceeding your panel’s maximum load. During winter, people tend to spend more time indoors than normal. Moreover, most building residents are using and plugging in numerous appliances and gadgets.
Your provider can tell you whether or not modifications should be made to your electrical system based upon increased usage. Adding new appliances and devices during the colder months can result in constantly flickering lights or frequent short circuits. For instance, in winter, you or your family members might use:
- Space heaters
- Ductless heat pumps that supplement central heating
- Heating blankets
- More lights than normal
- Multiple personal devices
Be sure to mention these things when your inspection is performed so that your provider can make sure that your electrical panel is up to date.
3. Pay Attention to Flickering Lights
When wind speeds pick up, the indoor lights often flicker. However, although it’s easy to attribute flickering lights to outside conditions, they can also be the result of an electrical overload indoors. Make sure that you aren’t plugging more than one major appliance into a single outlet. For instance, if you turn a space heater on in your home, your space heater should be the only appliance plugged into the outlet that you’re using.
When multiple, small-sized devices are using a single outlet, install a local surge protector. This is a great way to keep costly laptops, tablets, and mobile phones from sustaining electrical damage.
Flickering lights sometimes indicate short-term disruptions in the general power supply. However, these quick starts and stops of power flow take their toll on everything you plug in. They can also wear down electrical panels over time. If you haven’t done so already, contact a licensed electrician to find out why they’re occurring in your home. Finding and resolving the source of this issue is especially important if you see whitish smoke coming from your outlets, have a burnt or sweet smell coming from any outlets, or have black smudge marks on your walls near outlets from excess heat or smoke.
4. Consider Whole-House Surge Protection
The absolute best way to protect your major home appliances, your high-tech devices, and your electrical panel is by having whole-house surge protection installed. Power surges overload everything you have plugged in when the main power supply is disrupted and then restored. Whole-house surge protection can protect your electrical panel and other assets from lightning strikes, power outages, overloads, and more. This way, if someone plugs in a space heater and it’s more than your electrical panel can handle, you don’t have to worry about damaging or losing your items. Given the increased demands on electrical systems in winter, there is no better time to have whole-house surge protection put. This is especially true if you’ve just purchased a new electric furnace or boiler and are using it as your primary heating system.
5. Have Your Electrical Panel Insulated
If your electrical panel is drafty, it’s a good idea to have it insulated. This is another detail that your electrician can take care of for you. This is a good step to take if your electrical panel is located at the exterior of the building or situated such that it faces an unheated space. In these locations, electrical panels often have cold drafts coming through at the edges and corners of their cover plates. These installations can be prime sources of indoor heat loss.
There are three ways to insulate an electrical panel. These are:
- Sealing gaps at edges and corners
- Using rigid foam behind and around the panel
- Using spray foam behind and around the panel
Spraying insulating foam directly inside of the panel box, even if you do it accidentally —such as through over-spray — can cause the wires to overheat and catch fire. Having an electrician or a roofing professional handle this project will ensure that foam isn’t oversprayed, that insulation doesn’t cover the actual panel, and that the risk of fire doesn’t exist. Having your electrical panel or circuit breaker box properly insulated during winter will also eliminate a common hiding area for insects and small animals that might find their way into the area in search of shelter and warmth.
6. Let a Professional Install Your Standby Generator
If you intend to install a standby generator in your home, make sure that you have a professional do the work. Attempting to tackle this job as a do-it-yourself project is incredibly dangerous for both you and your utility company. More importantly, installing your own generator in Michigan is also illegal. DIY installations pose the serious risk of back-feeding electricity into the power supply lines.
It’s also best to have your electrician assist you in choosing the right generator for your home. Having a single professional both select and install your standby generator will keep your product warranty intact and ensure that the related labor is warranted, too.
7. Replace Old, Outdated Appliances
While getting your home’s electrical system and electrical panel winter-ready, take the time to assess the age and efficiency of your older appliances. Although they might still be working, older appliances may not be compatible with your home’s more modern electrical system. Dated appliances should often be replaced after they reach their 10-year mark. However, before you start tossing things out and investing in new models, consult with your electrician first. Your provider can tell you whether or not continuing to use these products, even during winter when electricity demand in your home is increased, is safe to do.
Since 1925, AJ Danboise Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical has been a trusted provider of electrical services throughout the greater Farmington Hills, Michigan area. We also offer plumbing, HVAC, whole-house surge protection, and indoor air quality services. If you need help winterizing your electrical panel before the winter season arrives, we’ve got you covered. Get in touch with us now to schedule an appointment.