The holidays are a wonderful time of year for family, friends, and all things joyful centered around the home. Although it is an enjoyable time of year, it can also be a dangerous time of year for accidents and hazards to occur within the home.
With the colder weather setting in as the holiday season begins, there are frequently overlooked issues with the home that can range from nuisances to downright dangerous safety hazards. As home inspectors in the greater Boston area, we’ve seen many problems arise over the holiday season to affect homeowners’ quality of life - most of them electrical, but there are plenty of others!
We'll discuss some of the most common safety concerns and hazards that can occur in the home over the holiday season so that you can feel informed and safe over the holiday season with your family.
During the holiday season, people are usually decorating, setting up holiday lighting systems, and using more electrical outlets than they would normally. Who doesn’t love festive lights and decorations, right? It’s essential to be aware that electrical outlets and electrical circuits can be over-stressed during the holiday season.
As home inspection professionals in Boston, we make sure to check for signs of faulty electrical wiring and equipment. Most electrical fires are a result of faulty outlets and old, outdated wiring. According to the National Fire Protection Association, faulty electrical distribution or lighting equipment is involved in about half of home Christmas tree fires.
Many homes do not have an arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI), an advanced circuit breaker that detects dangerous arcs in the circuit and shuts down the supply before it can cause electrical fires. This is a very important upgrade you can easily add to your electric panel. Additionally, when you've got lighting on the exterior of the home, remember, this is a wet location, so you'll want to make sure you have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection on those circuits,
When you're stringing lights together, and especially running long distances, make sure to use heavy-duty grade extension cable. The thinner the wire, the more likely it is to overheat.
Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in the ground. Radon can enter your home through the foundation and other accessible openings. While radon levels are not going to increase dramatically in your home because it’s the holiday season, levels are typically higher in the winter because of the lack of ventilation throughout the house and the use of heat during the colder months. After long-term exposure, radon can be very dangerous.
We test for radon at all times of the year. For home inspection purposes, we are often asked to perform radon testing during the pre-offer inspection, new construction home inspection, buyers inspection, or pre-listing inspection. Call us today to test for radon in your home.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is the number one cause of poisoning deaths in the United States. It’s terribly sad and entirely preventable. If your heating system is not venting properly, or is not operating properly, it can increase the levels of CO in your home and can lead to a dangerous condition.
Don’t leave gas grills running in poorly-ventilated small spaces. Do not leave your car running in a closed garage or contained area. Make sure that all of your fuel-burning appliances are well-ventilated. For example, check to see if your exhaust vents from your furnace are ventilated well and are not blocked by snow or debris.
Ensure you have a working carbon monoxide detector in your home. It’s just important as having working smoke and fire detector. Click on the links here for suggested locations and types of CO detectors and Smoke detectors to install in your home.
It’s great to get warm and cozy by the fireplace or woodstove during the colder nights of the holiday season; however, you must make sure your chimney is clean and structurally stable for wood-burning fires.
Many homeowners do not rely on their fireplace or woodstoves for primary winter heating, and so they do not maintain them. This can result in a buildup of creosote or other dangerous substances that can cause fires up inside your chimney. If your chimney is only used sparingly, make sure it is safe to operate and have it cleaned once per year by a CSIA-certified chimney sweep.
Stairs are the most dangerous place in the home, because of the falling hazards associated with them. Make sure you have secure, solid handrails and guardrails for all your stairs, as well as exterior steps. People often have guests in their home who may be unfamiliar with the house, and who might be moving around in the home in the dark. Guests - or homeowners - might be a little tipsy from the holiday festivities, so even more important to make sure everything is secure. Invest in a motion-sensing or nighttime area light to help illuminate the stair and landing areas. If you live in a very old home (typical here in New England), then your stairs might be steep, and narrow. This means that there are extra hazards here. Be careful!
With proper precaution, you can enjoy a safe and happy holiday season this year and for years to come. Please reach out to us with any questions regarding home inspections and home safety tips.