Experts recommend preparing home for record low temperatures

Experts recommend preparing home for record low temperatures

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – With our area expected to

, and a freeze warning for South Carolina, there are several ways homeowners can protect themselves from winter weather hazards.

“Freezing temperatures can expose homeowners to a number of different risks,” said Russ Dubisky, executive director of the S.C. Insurance News Service. “Frozen pipes can burst causing thousands of dollars in damage, and the use of supplementary heat sources can increase the risk of fire or injuries.”

Statistics show an increase in residential fires around the start of winter as more families use fireplaces, wood stoves, furnaces and space heaters.

To protect your home against fire, the S.C. Insurance News Service recommends the following:

• Fireplaces/Space heaters: Make sure you have at least 36-inches of clearance between the heat source and combustible materials such as bedding, furniture, books, and curtains. Also, make sure heaters are turned off when unattended and fires are completely out before you close the damper.

• Fire protection equipment: Make sure that smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are in good, working order.

In case of fire, your basic homeowner's, renter's or condo insurance policy will cover resulting damage, both from the flames and water used to put out the fire. Check with your insurance agent to make sure you have the proper amount of coverage to repair or replace your structure and personal belongings.

The average homeowners insurance claim for water damage and freezing is nearly $6,000, according to the Insurance News Service, and the price tag for unchecked flooding can go even higher. They recommend the following precautions to prevent frozen pipes:

• Keep the house warm. Set the thermostat for at least 65 degrees, as the temperature inside the walls, where pipes are located, is substantially colder. A lowered thermostat will not keep the pipes from freezing.

• Keep a slow trickle of water flowing through faucets connected to pipes that run through an unheated or unprotected space. Or, if your house will be unattended for long periods, drain the water system.

• Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Ideally, the attic should be five to 10 degrees warmer than the outside air. Well-insulated basements and crawl spaces will also help protect pipes. You might also consider insulating unfinished rooms such as garages to keep pipes from freezing.

Standard homeowners' policies cover winter-related disasters such as burst pipes, ice damage and damage caused by weight of ice or snow.

If you do decide to use a portable heater to provide warmth, the Florence Fire Marshal has some important safety tips to avoid tragedy:

1) Use only appliances that cut off automatically if tipped over.

2) Use only models that have been approved by a nationally recognized testing agency (UL or Factory Mutual).

3) Keep combustible materials at least three feet away from space heaters.

4) If using an electric model, make sure the cord is not frayed or worn. Never use an extension cord with a portable heater.

5) Keep children and pets away from portable heaters. It only takes a second for curiosity to lead to a serious burn.

6) Turn heaters off when you leave home or go to bed. It doesn't make sense to lose your possessions or your life while trying to save energy.

7) If you are using a kerosene heater, use only IK kerosene as a fuel. Never use gasoline or any other flammable liquid in a kerosene heater. Follow all the manufacturer's instructions.

Good judgment, common sense and following the manufacturer's recommendations will allow you to safely enjoy your portable heater.

If you have any questions about the safe use of portable heaters, contact the Florence Fire Department.

Use the player above to watch a YouTube video from FEMA demonstrating portable heater safety. Mobile users, tap here to view the video:

Copyright 2014 WMBF News. All rights reserved.