1. Chimney fires

The problem:

A chimney may look picturesque, but its real purpose is to make sure dangerous flue gases exit (rather than enter) your home. A closed flue means that smoke and gases won’t exit properly and will instead vent into your home. And even if the flue is open, a dirty chimney can cause a chimney fire, which can damage your home — or worse, your family.

The fix:

Have your chimney cleaned each winter and watch for signs of a chimney fire, such as a loud crackling or popping nose, a billow of dense smoke, and/or an intense hot smell, says the Chimney Safety Institute of America, which estimates that there are 25,000 chimney-related fires in the U.S.each year.

2. Carbon monoxide accumulation

The problem:

A cozy, buttoned-up home and increased heating elements can be a toxic mix if you have a carbon monoxide leak. CO build-up happens silently and often includes symptoms that are hard to place, like headaches or nausea. Sometimes, there are no symptoms at all.

The fix:

Have a professional check your furnace, vents, chimney systems, and appliances and consider installing a carbon monoxide alarm.

3. Space heater danger

The problem:

Space heaters can keep the temperature up and your heating bill down, but they can be very dangerous if not used properly. In fact, more than 25,000 residential fires and 300 deaths are caused by space heaters each year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The fix:

Make sure that your auxiliary heater is the right size for your space and positioned on a level surface, away from foot traffic, curtains, and other flammable materials. Always turn it off when you leave the room.

Check out:  Tips for Before, During, and After a Power Outage

4. Frozen pipe damage

The problem:

Would you believe that water damage from burst pipes is the second most-filed insurance claim in the United States? When pipes get cold they expand, which can cause them to burst.

The fix:

To avoid this danger, make sure you drain your sprinkler and swimming pool, and insulate your pipes with pipe sleeves or heat tape. If you’re out of town during the winter months, keep your heater at a minimum of 55 degrees — the limited amount of energy you’ll use is a small price to pay to avoid epic water damage.

5. Icy sidewalks and steps

The problem:

The chances of someone slipping on your property increase with winter weather. (That’s also why you want to keep your umbrella policy updated, by the way).

The fix:

To avoid painful falls, make sure you tend to your sidewalks, walkways, and driveways. Then keep them clear with a de-icer such as sand, salt, or kitty litter.

6. Shoveling woes

The problem:

Did you know that shoveling snow sends thousands to the emergency room each winter? If you think about it, it makes sense you’re going from a cozy couch to freezing temperature and a high-exertion activity in just minutes.

The fix:

Start slowly, take frequent breaks, and stop altogether if you feel yourself getting short of breath. You could also buy a snowblower and be done with the pesky task once and for all.

Not sure if your homeowners insurance will protect you from home-related winter hazards like these? Check out exactly what’s covered or give us a call today at 1-866-439-5633.

And remember to brush up on your winter driving skills, too!

Safe and smart | Home safety

about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.