Spring is a beautiful time of the year – the flowers start to bloom, the temperatures begin to rise and you can finally open your windows to let in the fresh air you’ve deprived your home of in the winter months. But spring is also known for rapidly changing weather, which brings along an influx of infamous spring storms.
According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), there are roughly 100,000 thunderstorms every year in the U.S., and they occur most frequently in the spring and summer months. Sure, the occasional storm is nothing more than an unfortunate annoyance. But if ignored, long-running or regularly recurring storms can be seriously harmful.
To help you protect your home (and your family) from spring storms in Virginia, we’re identifying how to prepare for electrical hazards, what you should do if your space is prone to flooding and how you can restore your home if it suffers from severe water damage.
Protect yourself from electrical hazards
In a storm, you'd likely experience electrical outage first – which is incredibly frustrating, since we depend on electricity to keep our family, appliances and our home safe. Here’s how you can protect yourself from electrical hazards.
- Purchase a generator. Sure, most power outages are minor and nothing more than a nuisance. But if a disaster or long-running storm hits your home, a generator can ensure your home and family’s safety. A generator converts mechanical energy obtained from an external source into electrical energy as the output, allowing it to power essential appliances during an electrical outage.
To determine what size generator is best, add up all the power requirements of the appliances and devices you want to use and the wattage of the light bulbs you want to use. Then, you can find the total amps you need by dividing watts by volts. Since machines draw more energy when they start and lose efficiency over time, the best bet is to go with a generator that produces more amps than you need.
- Check your carbon monoxide alarms. Each year, accidental carbon monoxide poisoning is responsible for at least 430 deaths and 50,000 emergency visits – many of which occur during power electrical power outage events such as storms. Your safest choice is to power these with a generator. If you don’t have a generator, most carbon monoxide detectors will include a battery-operated backup. That’s why it’s crucial that you check the life of your detector batteries regularly and always have a backup stash in case of emergency.
- Get lightning protection. Lightning is serious – a single bolt can carry up to 100 million volts of electricity and has the power to penetrate through roofs, wreak havoc on a home’s circuitry and ignite serious fires. That’s why many homeowners consult their professional electrician for a lightning protection system. Instead of preventing a strike, lightning protection provides a path for current to safely redirected to the ground. In general, these systems contain air terminals, main conductors, grounds, bonds, surge arrestors and suppressors and tree protectors.
Please note that lightning protection is not a do-it-yourself kind of job (not even the slightest!). Only a professional Virginia electrician can ensure you’re using the proper materials and following the necessary fire safety standards.
- Use surge protectors. When it comes to thunderstorms, another common side effect is a power surge – or that moment when the power cuts out for a moment and then returns. When it comes back, though, your appliances may not be working. That’s because during a power surge, the voltage exceeds your appliance’s peak voltage. This spike can be harmful to appliances, causing your devices temporary or permanent damage.
That’s where surge protectors come in. Wondering what is a surge protector and what does it do? Surge protectors divert the surge to the ground, protecting the appliance you plug into it. In general, there are two types: a point-of-use and special outlets. A point-of-use looks like a regular plug strip. Surge protection outlets work where there isn’t room for a plug-in surge protector, like a countertop microwave oven.
Plan for flooding with a sump pump
If your home is susceptible to flooding, spring can be a very stressful time. That’s where a sump pump comes in. So how does a sump pump work?
- Install a sump pump. A sump pump is a mechanism that’s installed underneath the floor in basements to collect groundwater before it floods your home, redirecting it elsewhere. Without one, the groundwater will rise through the foundation in your home when it rains and cause flooding.
Not sure if you need one? Chances are you do. According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, more than 60 percent of homes experience below-ground wetness and moisture, making them prime contenders for a sump pump.
- Have a backup plan. If you lose power and your sump pump stops working, you may not know until your basement is flooded (costing you thousands of dollars in damage). That’s why many homeowners prone to basement flooding prepare a backup plan.
The most common backup is a battery operated sump pump. These systems, which contain heavy batteries resembling large car batteries, will work during a power outage. Another option is a hydraulic pump, which doesn’t need a charged battery to work. Since water pressure powers them, they’re especially valuable in extended periods of power loss.
- Schedule a professional inspection. No matter how hard we try to maintain our sump pumps, there are only so many things an untrained eye can catch. These little issues can cause serious damage that's not typically covered by homeowners insurance (and if it is, it will probably raise your premium). A simple inspection can ensure you don’t have to second guess your equipment.
In general, you should inspect your sump pump at least once a year. You should also call in the Plumbing experts in Fairfax if you experience water in your basement, the sump pump is running when it shouldn’t be, it’s making a loud noise or it’s over 10 years old.
Water damage restoration
Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to prepare ourselves for and protect our homes from storms, the elements still win. If your home suffered from water damage, it’s important you restore it as soon as possible. Here’s how.
- Turn off power and remove personal items. Water and electronics don’t play well together. The first thing you should do if you have water damage is disconnect the power in the area so you aren’t in danger of electrocution. Then, you’ll want to remove all electronics, furniture and other personal items. If possible, your next step would be to remove any carpets and underpadding. While a professional may be able to clean and disinfect your carpet, there’s a chance it may shrink after this experience.
- Get rid of excess water. In order to prevent mold growth, it’s essential you remove water as soon as possible. While it’s a bit tedious, the safest way may be to go the old-fashioned route and use buckets and towels to soak up as much water as possible. If your sewers are working properly, you can pour this down the drain. If not, you can empty it on a permeable surface (like a lawn). If you try to use a wet/dry vacuum, please do not use an extension cord (again, water and electricity don’t mix well!).
- Clean the affected area. Once you’ve removed the bulk of the water, you’ll need to use a fan, open windows and a dehumidifier to properly dry the area. If your basement has drywall, you may have to cut away the areas soaked with water to avoid crumbling and feeding the mold. Once it’s dried, you have to disinfect the entire area (and any items that were within it) to remove any bacteria that might have come up through the sewers. Afterward, you can apply a trusted mold control product to further protect your basement.
- Call a professional. Total water damage restoration is not a simple DIY project – even the most thorough homeowners can miss an important step and leave themselves susceptible to mold, structural upsets and other serious damage. And since immediate action is critical to prevent future damage and restore your property, you don’t have time to deal with trial and error. If you want your home restored the right way, give the trained professionals a call.
Hit with a serious spring storm? We’re here to help.
Spring weather can bring severe storms in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. Make sure your home is prepared and work with Fairfax electricians and plumbers to make sure your home can weather the storm. Call John C. Flood at (703) 783-0247 or schedule plumbing and electrical service online.