NJ Snow Storm Prep: A Survival Guide for 2016

A few days before a “major winter storm” was expected to dump up to a foot snow on NJ (that is, if the storm system doesn’t veer eastward at the last minute), the state released its annual guide to surviving the weather.
“We’ve had bitterly cold weather this week and snow is in the forecast, so we want people to make sure they’re fully prepared for all that winter may bring,”
Make a Plan

  • Make sure your Household Disaster Plan is ready and all members of your household are familiar with how to contact one another in an emergency.
  • Winterize your Go Bag by adding a blanket, warm socks and gloves.
  • Your Emergency Supply Kit should be fully-stocked to allow you to sustain yourself for up to three days without power, or in the event you are unable to travel far from home. You may wish to include additional items such as extra blankets, additional warm clothing, and a battery-operated NOAA Weather Radio to monitor weather conditions during a storm.

Winterize Your Home

  • Install storm shutters, doors and windows; clean out gutters; repair any roof leaks; and have a contractor check the stability of your roof in the event of a large accumulation of snow.
  • Insulate walls and attic. Caulk and weather-strip doors and windows. Install storm windows, or cover windows with plastic from the inside.
  • Have safe emergency heating equipment available. For residences with functioning fireplaces, keep an ample supply of wood. Utilize portable electric space heaters. Keep a fire extinguisher on hand.
  • Install and check batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Make sure you have sufficient heating fuel; you may have difficulty obtaining fuel in the immediate aftermath of a bad storm.
  • Service snow removal equipment, and have rock salt on hand to melt ice on walkways. Kitty litter can be used to generate temporary traction.

Winterize Your Car

  • Make sure to have a mechanic check the following items on your vehicle:
  1. Battery
  2. Antifreeze
  3. Windshield wipers and washer fluid
  4. Ignition system
  5. Thermostat
  6. Lights (headlamps and hazard lights)
  7. Exhaust system, heater, brakes, defroster
  • Oil level (if necessary, replace oil with a winter oil or SAE 10w/30 variety)
  • Install good winter tires that have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require vehicles to be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
  • Regardless of the season, it’s a good idea to prepare for an in-car emergency. Assemble an Emergency Supply Kit for your vehicle, and consider adding the following items for winter conditions:
  1. Blankets, sleeping bags, extra newspapers for insulation
  2. Plastic bags (for sanitation)
  3. Extra mittens, socks, scarves and hat, raingear and extra clothes
  4. Sack of sand or kitty litter for gaining traction under wheels, small shovel
  5. Set of tire chains or traction mats
  6. Working jack and lug wrench, spare tire
  7. Windshield scraper, broom
  8. Small tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver)
  9. Booster cables
  10. Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag, flares or reflective triangles

Tips for Staying Warm
Exposure to cold can cause life-threatening health conditions. Avoid serious conditions such as frostbite and hypothermia, by keeping warm.

  • When outdoors, wear warm clothing and cover exposed skin. Use multiple layers to maintain warmth.
  • Wear a hat, hood, or scarf, as most heat is lost through the head.
  • Wear layers, as they provide better insulation and warmth.
  • Keep fingertips, earlobes, and noses covered if you go outside.
  • Keep clothing dry; if a layer becomes wet, remove it.
  • Wear sturdy boots that provide traction to reduce slipping. Use handrails when using stairs.

What to Do Before a Storm Strikes

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio and your local radio and TV stations for updated storm information. Know what winter storm watches and warnings mean.
  • Check on relatives, friends, and neighbors who may need assistance preparing for a storm.
  • Be alert to changing weather conditions and avoid unnecessary travel.
  • Let faucets drip a little to help prevent freezing.
  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

Know the Terms

  • Freezing Rain: rain that freezes when it hits the ground, creating a coating of ice on roads, walkways, trees and power lines.
  • Frost/Freeze Warning: issued when temperatures are expected to drop below freezing over a large area for an extended period of time.
  • Sleet: rain that turns to ice pellets before reaching the ground. Sleet also causes moisture on roads to freeze and become slippery.
  • Ice Storm: when ice accumulations are expected during freezing rain situations. Significant ice accumulations are usually 1/4 of an inch or greater.
  • Wind Chill: the temperature it “feels like” when you are outside.
  • Heavy Snow: snowfall accumulating to 4 inches or more in depth in 12 hours or less; or snowfall accumulating to 6 inches or more in depth in 24 hours or less.
  • Winter Weather Advisory: issued by the National Weather Service when a combination of winter weather (snow, freezing rain, sleet, etc.) may present a hazard, but does not meet warning criteria.
  • Winter Storm Watch: issued by the National Weather Service when there is a potential for heavy snow or significant ice, usually at least 24 to 36 hours in advance. The criteria for this watch can vary from place to place.
  • Winter Storm Warning: issued by the National Weather Service when a winter storm is producing or is forecast to produce heavy snow or significant ice. The criteria for this warning can vary from place to place.
  • Blizzard Warning: issued by the National Weather Service for winter storms with sustained or frequent winds of 35 mph or higher with considerable falling and/or blowing snow that frequently reduces visibility to 1/4 of a mile or less. These conditions are expected to last for a minimum of 3 hours.

 
What to Do if You Lose Heat or Hot Water at Home
Call GREEN APPLE MECHANICAL right away at (888) 611-7191
Take measures to trap existing warm air and safely stay warm until we come to you, including:

  • Insulate your home as much as possible. Hang blankets over windows and doorways and stay in a well-insulated room while the heat is out.
  • Dress warmly. Wear hats, scarves, gloves, and layered clothing.
  • If you have a well-maintained working fireplace and use it for heat and light, be sure to keep the damper open for ventilation. Never use a fireplace without a screen.
  • If the cold persists and your heat is not restored call family, neighbors, or friends to see if you can stay with them.
  • Do not use your oven or fuel-burning space heaters to heat your home. These can release carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that you cannot see or smell.
  • Open your faucets to a steady drip so pipes do not freeze.

Safe Home Heating Tips
Improper use of portable heating equipment can lead to fire or dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Take precautions to ensure you are heating your home safely.
Fire safety tips:

  • Make sure you have a working smoke alarm in every room. Test them at least once a month and change the batteries twice a year.
  • Use only portable heating equipment that is approved for indoor use. Space heaters are temporary heating devices and should only be used for a limited time each day.
  • Keep combustible materials, including furniture, drapes, and carpeting at least three feet away from the heat source. Never drape clothes over a space heater to dry them.
  • Never leave children alone in the room where a space heater is running. Always keep an eye on heating equipment. Turn it off when you are unable to closely monitor it.
  • Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord or power strip. Do not plug anything else into the same outlet when the space heater is in use. Do not use space heaters with frayed or damaged cords.
  • If you are going to use an electric blanket, only use one that is less than 10 years old from the date of purchase. Also avoid tucking the electric blanket in at the sides of the bed. Only purchase blankets with an automatic safety shut-off.

Carbon monoxide safety tips:

  • Carbon monoxide comes from the burning of fuel. Therefore, make sure all fuel-burning devices such as furnaces, boilers, hot water heaters, and clothes dryers are properly vented to the outdoors and operating properly. If you are not sure, contact a professional to inspect and make necessary repairs.
  • Make sure you have a working carbon monoxide detector. Most homes and residential buildings in New York City are required by law to have carbon monoxide detectors installed near all sleeping areas. Owners are responsible for installing approved carbon monoxide detectors. Occupants are responsible for keeping and maintaining the carbon monoxide detectors in good repair.
  • If you have a working fireplace keep chimneys clean and clear of debris.
  • Never heat your home with a gas stove or oven, charcoal barbecue grill, or kerosene, propane, or oil-burning heaters.
  • The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are non-specific and include headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sleepiness, trouble breathing, and loss of consciousness. Severe poisonings may result in permanent injury or death.
  • If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911, get the victim to fresh air immediately, and open windows.
  • If a carbon monoxide detector goes off in your home, call 911, quickly open a nearby window, and go outside for fresh air immediately.

Prevent Halloween Heat Loss

It’s time again for ghouls and goblins. Candy corn and caramel apples. Tricks and treats. As with any holiday, decorating for Halloween can be exciting, and leading up to the actual event itself means leaving up decorations for an extended period of time. Plus, a drop in the temperature is normal during this fall festivity, giving you a reason to break out lumpy sweaters. Wherever Halloween falls on your list of favorite holidays, there is no reason to be scared of energy usage or heat loss.
As this graphic from the Department of Energy shows, some heat ghouls and energy vampires can run amuck once the weather starts to dip into cool, cold, and colder temperatures. As a local heating and cooling company, our team isn’t just about finding the right products for your home; we also look for ways to help you save energy — even during holidays.
As the Department of Energy suggests above, there are numerous ways to keep an energy bill low and prevent heat loss. In addition to the tips above, the Crane team has rounded up additional ways to get rid of ghastly heat loss and zap away excess energy usage.

  • Is the whole family going out trick-or-treating this year? With a programmable thermostat, you can wave goodbye to heat loss. If no one is home to hand out treats, lowering the temperature in your home means you aren’t wasting energy. It’s easy to turn it back up to your preferred temperature when you return. The DOE recommends lowering the thermostat to 68 degrees (or roughly around 10 degrees than what you normally set it at) for optimal energy efficiency in cooler temperatures.
  • However, if you’re the one staying home this Halloween to hand out goodies, there is another way to keep energy use low. Keeping your home bright with candles isn’t the safest idea. Instead, for spooky Halloween decorations, LED lights are the most energy-efficient option. Banish energy and lighting vampires from your home by replacing other light bulbs in your home with LEDs.
  • Fall weather Weather during anytime of the year in New Jersey doesn’t necessarily adhere to climate and temperatures that are the norm during each season. So if this Halloween season is unreasonably chilly, don’t cozy up to a warm fireplace just yet. Without proper maintenance and an inspection, lighting a fire will have you suffering from heat loss and a high energy bill. Before settling in with pumpkin-spiced coffees, if you don’t plan on using your fireplace, close it with the chimney flue or an inflatable stopper. This way, you won’t be seeing any heat loss, and you will also prevent any air leaks.
  • It’s difficult to enjoy Halloween treats if your heating system isn’t functioning properly. It’s best to have regular checks on your heating system. But, if you feel something isn’t operating as it should, you can schedule a service request so a “Green Apple Mechanical NJ” representative can assess whatever the issue may be with your heating system. We’ll be keeping your utility bill low and prevent heat loss in no time!

Halloween may not be until the end of the month, but you can keep energy tricksters away all fall and winter long when you lower your heating usage.

9 Ingenious Ways to Save on Heating This Winter

Winter’s chill brings cozy decor and lazy afternoons spent sipping cocoa in front of the fire, but it can also bring major electrical bills. If heating your home is seriously expensive, then you’re going to want to read these nine cost-effective ways to stay warm this Winter.
Plastic Wrap Windows
If you’ve ever stood next to a drafty window, then you can attest that they’re major culprits of heat loss. Keep the cold air out affordably by covering windows with plastic. DIY window insulation kits are generally under $20 and allow you to secure plastic sheets with insulated tape and shrink wrap it with a hair dryer.
Add a Storm Door
Create an extra layer of padding between the elements and your house by adding a storm door. While it’s a little bit pricier up front, you can reduce energy loss up to 50 percent by purchasing a storm door made with low-emissivity glass or coating.
Install a Programmable Thermostat
Instead of keeping your heat on full blast all day, use a programable thermostat to set the temperature to turn it down while you’re out in the middle of the day and turn it back up right before you come home in the evening. Turning the temperature back at least 10 degrees for eight hours a day can save you up to 15 percent a year on your heating bill.
Fill in Insulation Gaps
Invisible cracks and gaps around the house allow valuable heat to seep out. Taking a little time in Summer or Fall to caulk or weatherstrip these leaks around the house will save you big money on your energy bill come Winter. Common areas in need of insulation include the space between the baseboard and the floorboard, behind electrical outlets, and around windows and attack hatches.
Hang Thermal Curtains
Invest in curtains with thermal lining. They’ll block heat and UV rays in the Summer and keep the cold air out in the Winter. When the mercury plummets, you can cut your energy bill down by up to 20 percent by keeping drapes closed during the day.
Reverse the Ceiling Fan
Ceiling fans usually have a switch you can flip to change the direction the fan blades are rotating in. By simply switching it to clockwise rotation in Winter, you’ll push hot air that has risen to the ceiling back down into the room. Doesn’t get easier than that.
Put Layers on Yourself
It’s a lot cheaper to throw on a sweater and some fuzzy slippers than to crank up the heat every time you get chilly, so keep warm layers close at hand and the temperature at a reasonable setting.
Improvise Wall Insulation
If tearing down the drywall to add insulation isn’t an option, then it’s time to get clever. You can line chilly external walls with cold-absorbing materials like a tall shelf filled with books, use decorative screens as cold air blockers, and even line baseboards with cardboard.
Position Furniture Around Heat Sources
For a free and temporary fix, give your living spaces a Winter makeover by rearranging furniture away from cold external walls and around heat sources, like the fireplace. It will make those frigid nights more enjoyable.

A Checklist for Winterizing and Weatherproofing Your Home

There’s no doubt about it – winter is coming. Freezing temperatures, cold air, ice and snow make the warmth inside your house cozy and inviting. At least, that is, when your house is up to the task.
Winterizing your house isn’t only about staying warm, however. Winter is notorious for busted pipes, invading pests or furnaces that suddenly fail to function, for instance, but winterizing your home helps prevent such unexpected surprises. Additionally, a house that isn’t winterized will consume more energy, and energy costs continue to rise dramatically every year. Failing to winterize your house will progressively cost you more money on top of repair headaches.
Save more, worry less and stay comfortable by systematically checking your home’s condition and performing simple tasks around the property to ensure it is winter-ready. You can easily perform an effective, efficient weatherproofing job yourself over a weekend or two. Best of all, the work requires little investment beyond your time and perhaps a few basic supplies. Even the cost of additional insulation, if needed, pays off every time you open your utility bills.

Servicing Furnaces and Ductwork

  • Check the house thermostat to ensure it works properly. Replace old thermostats with newer, programmable models that allow you to set a lower temperature while you are away or asleep and raise the temperature only when you need it. According to experts, lowering the temperature about 10 degrees for eight hours a day may save you up to 10 percent a year.
  • Change your furnace filter. Always follow the recommended filter change schedule according to the furnace and filter type. This may vary from monthly to perhaps every six months.
  • Check the furnace pilot light to see if it is lit. Turn on the furnace and blower to ensure the furnace ignites and completes a full cycle, from warming up to blowing heat and shutting off the blower again. Hire a professional to evaluate the furnace and determine if it operates safely and efficiently.
  • Shine a light into your ducts to look for evidence of mold, pests or accumulations of dirt and debris. The EPA states that there isn’t yet enough evidence to suggest regular cleanings are necessary. Instead, clean ducts when moldy or excessively dirty. Consult a professional for more information and cleaning assistance.
  • Inspect the heating ductwork. Look for holes and loose connections, tightening, taping or replacing pieces as necessary. Problem areas often occur where ducts meet the floor, ceiling or go through the wall.
  • Insulate ductwork that runs under your house or through unheated areas. Special blanket insulation makes insulating around the ducts easy, simple work. According to Energy Star, the typical house loses about 20 percent of the air flowing through the ducts due to holes, leaks and loose connections. Factoring in heat loss through uninsulated ducts, the amount is likely even higher.

Inspecting Fireplaces, Wood Stoves and Chimneys

  • Inspect the chimney if you have a fireplace or wood stove. Look for obstructions such as bird nests or leaves blocking the flue. Place screen and a chimney cap over the top of the chimney to prevent future problems.
  • Clean the chimney to remove any creosote buildup. Scrape the ashes and creosote out of the fireplace or wood stove when finished.
  • Check the fireplace or wood stove to ensure it operates properly. Hire a professional to assess the equipment if preferred.
  • Test the interior portion of the wood stove flue, between the stove and the wall where it exits. Make sure the connections are secure and the pipe is sound.

Cleaning Your Gutters and Roof

  • Clean the roof completely to remove the year’s accumulation of dirt, debris and leaves. Especially in areas with deep snow accumulations, the excess weight may stress the roof. Plus, accumulating organic matter encourages rot to invade your roof. Typically a shovel or broom – even a hose from the ground in some instances – makes short work of the job.
  • Inspect the roof during the cleaning to identify areas where shingles are missing, damaged or otherwise in need of repair. Look for other problems such as soft areas, chimney or vent damage and separating gutters. Hire a professional to perform the inspection and repair work.
  • Clean the gutters surrounding the roof. Move to the downspouts and ensure they are clear and in good repair.

Weatherproofing Your House Exterior

  • Rake away leaves and rotting vegetation from your house foundation.
  • Squirt expanding foam insulation or caulk into gaps and holes in your exterior house wall, such as around pipes or wires.
  • Check window wells surrounding basement windows. Remove debris and ensure the window is safe from potential damage. Install special plastic window shields as necessary.
  • Ensure your wood supply, if applicable, is separated from the house by at least 20 or 30 feet and covered with a plastic tarp or other moisture barrier. Open trash or recycling containers, woodpiles and similar collections invite rodents and pests to invade your home and enjoy the heat.
  • Inspect outbuildings and areas such as sheds and cellars or crawlspaces. Note any damage or potential problems. Secure windows and doors in these areas.
  • Drain garden hoses and insulate exposed water pipes as applicable.
  • Blow out or drain sprinkler systems.
  • Cover central air units with heavy protective material to block snow and ice. Have a professional open the unit cover and turn off the disconnect switch first to prevent accidental use in winter. Clean the outside of the unit, removing dirt and leaves, and allow it to dry before covering.
  • Remove window air conditioner units or cover permanently installed units.
  • Trim tree branches hanging over your house, electrical wires or outbuildings. Remove dead and damaged trees and branches.

Preparing Your Windows and Doors

  • Inspect windows to ensure the glass is in good condition and secure in the window frame. Check doors for structural stability. Replace or repair windows and doors as necessary. Upgrading old windows with newer, energy-efficient models will boost your utility savings.
  • Look for air gaps around window and doorframes. This proves easiest when it’s light on one side of the wall and dark on the other. Fill voids with a little low-expansion spray foam insulation designed for windows and doors. Once the foam cures, it is simply trimmed flush with the wall surface. Doors, especially, tend to leak air from around the frame and trim.
  • Replace or install weather stripping under entry doors and around windows.
  • Take down summer window screens and screen doors. Replace with storm windows and storm doors.
  • Hang plastic over windows or use shrink-wrap. Large windows, in particular, lose a tremendous amount of heat, especially older windows. Plastic sheeting placed over the inside of the window, if performed with care, doesn’t look that bad and will significantly lower your heating bill.

Winterizing With Insulation

If your house is fairly new, the insulation level is likely sufficient for your climate. Older homes, however, often installed insulation somewhat haphazardly – if at all – and you may pay for it with your wallet.
The easiest, most reliable method to ensure your insulation is up to keeping you warm is to have an energy audit performed. Some utility companies offer courtesy energy audits, or you can hire a professional. It’s also possible, in some cases, to verify the level of insulation by measuring the material and determining the total R-value by multiplying the depth by the insulation’s R- value per inch. Add more insulation, of the type desired, to obtain the R-value recommended for your area. Checking the insulation level in the attic is likely the easiest place for the DIYer to start, and one of the most important places since heat rises.
While adding insulation, if necessary, may prove the most costly step of your home winterization, you won’t have to do it again anytime soon. Better yet, you will get the money back, month by month, and in some areas rebates may be available. For more information, consult a professional.
Don’t forget about your water heater. Turn down your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and cover it with blanket insulation or a cover, as specified by the manufacturer. If your water heater is in an uninsulated area, this is even more important.

Interior Weatherization and Safety

  • Open any register vents or air returns inside your house. Vents may be wall mounted, in the floor or in the ceiling. Repair or replace damaged or loose vents.
  • Feel the wall around electrical outlets, pipes or wires leading to the outside. Seal and insulate as appropriate. Expanding foam insulation for windows and doors provides the benefits of both.
  • Reverse your ceiling fans to help circulate warm air that gathers near the ceiling. When the fan blades rotate clockwise, they push the warm air down to “reheat” the lower areas.
  • Mount smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, if you don’t already have them, or change the batteries if you do. Test each one to ensure it operates properly. The winter season, when heating appliances may emit carbon monoxide and burning fires and other potential hazards are common, is a good time to schedule this annual task as part of your winterization process.