Stay safe! How to keep your home secure and warm in winter

  • 20 July 2018 | Tumelo Buthelezi

Winter has arrived, unpacked and made itself comfortable for the next month or so. We have been collecting firewood, brought out the heaters and added electric blankets to our beds. But this time of the year is not without some danger to homes. Here are our tips to help you stay safe while you keep warm this season.

Inspect appliances for electrical faults

Electrical problems could occur at any time. Ensure that all the wires inside your house are in good condition and have the required capacity to safely distribute power to appliances.

Avoid overloading electrical outlets and ensure your cords are kept away from areas where people usually walk around. Be careful not to let them run beneath carpets or rugs that can catch fire in the event of sparks coming from wires.

Check your external electrical installations as well and make sure light fittings don’t have bird nests near them. The combination of twigs, leaves and feathers are highly flammable and could cause problems if they are too close to faulty electrical fixtures.

Prepare for power outages

In South Africa, winter has earned a reputation as load-shedding season. Protect your electronics from a power surge by switching them off while there’s no electricity and get a surge protector to prevent damage from occurring when the power is restored.

Have your children sleep in the room with you if they tend to get scared in the night during outages. Rolled-up towels next to doors and windows can stop frosty drafts from coming in.

Make sure you always have more than one torch with fully charged batteries, plus a few spares at hand. Put them in a space where they will be easy to locate if the power goes out.

You may want to consider installing a generator that would support some of your most important appliances in the event of an outage.

Inspect your heaters

We’re quick to reach for heaters when chilly weather sets in. But how often do you check that those gas and electric heaters are still good to use in the house for an entire season?

If in doubt, take your gas heater to a professional fitter who will ensure it is working properly. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions if you’re handling it yourself. Things to check for include lighting without difficulty, odd smells and malfunctioning fans. Consider having a carbon monoxide detector installed to alert you of the presence of any odourless gas.

Get an electrician to have a look at your electric heaters and check for signs of damage to the power cord, bars and reflector.

If you have an outdoor heater, make sure it is frequently checked for safety and serviced when you see signs of malfunction in the form of gas flames, or radiant panels that burn yellow or emit soot. Poorly maintained outdoor gas heaters can cause fires, especially if they are placed near flammable materials such as awnings and thatch roofs.

Discourage smoke residual particles from building up in your fireplace flue by keeping it clean. You can call in a professional to help you with a thorough chimney sweep. The cleaning expert can also take care of damage such as missing mortar or cracked tiles. Conducting such an inspection in the spring time is cheaper and can help you save money.

Check electric blankets and other heat sources

Store electric blankets carefully by rolling them up in a manner that does not damage the wires inside. Regularly examine them for fraying fabric, exposed or loose connections, scorch marks and signs of sparks that may cause a fire.

A tried and tested source of heat for your bed is the old-fashioned hot water bottle. Check it for leaks before using it. Keep it wrapped in a towel or fabric cover while you use it. Get a new hot water bottle as soon as it starts to wear out. 

If you keep these tips in mind, you should be able to keep yourself and your family warm and safe as temperatures plunge.