Groundhog Day 2017: Six More Weeks of Winter Energy Safety?
Time for the most famous weather prediction of the year! Michiganders and people across the nation celebrate Groundhog Day today!
You probably know the legend: If the groundhog emerges from its den on February 2 and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. No shadow, and spring is just around the corner. Punxsutawney Phil has predicted six more weeks of winter in 2017, but no matter what his prediction might have been, here in Michigan we can be sure to have winter weather well into April before our temperatures consistently rise to spring-like levels.
More winter weather ahead means home heating and safety will be a top concern for Michigan residents and families for the next few months. Below are a few tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe.
- Increase Efficiency: An overtaxed heating system can be a recipe for disaster. Replacing your filters, prepping your windows and doors, and installing a programmable thermostat are all ways to increase efficiency. You can also check out the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ free Weatherization Assistance Program.
- Protect Pipes: Pipes that get too cold in the winter can burst, often leading to significant property damage. Damaged pipes can cost you an average of $5,000 or more to repair, and pipe bursts present significant safety risks such as water coming in contact with electrical devices and outlets. Most pipes can be protected with basic insulation that’s not too expensive to install. Make sure exposed pipes are protected, let faucets drip throughout the night to keep water moving and relieve pressure, and make sure outdoor taps are drained and turned off.
- Space Heaters, Fireplaces, and Woodstoves: Any open heat source can be a hazard if not properly tended. A reported 57,100 U.S. home fires were caused by heating equipment in 2010. Don’t leave anything flammable near or on such a heat source, even if it doesn’t have an open flame. Many space heaters’ surfaces become hot enough to cause flammable materials to catch fire if they are left in contact with the surface too long. Have chimneys professionally inspected (and, if necessary, cleaned) regularly. And make sure you use the right kind of fuels for specific space heaters, as well as have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around fires, stoves, and heaters.
- Secure Oil and Gas System: If you get heat from oil or gas (natural, propane), be sure your system is installed by a certified professional, and make sure any natural gas or propane heating sources are properly ventilated.
A Different Kind of Safety
Direct injuries and fire risks are not the only hazards that come with Michigan winters. For Michiganders with low incomes, winter heating costs themselves also pose a significant threat to their well-being.
The federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is the most important home heating assistance program in the nation. LIHEAP allocates funding to states to subsidize home heating costs for low-income households.
Unfortunately, LIHEAP is chronically underfunded. Which is why, each year, the Alliance for Michigan Power takes part in LIHEAP Action Day, when advocates from around the country contact their federal legislators to remind them why LIHEAP is so important.
Get ready for LIHEAP Action Day! Working together, we can successfully advocate for full funding of this vital assistance program, so every Michigander can stay safe and warm.
Keep an eye out for more information on LIHEAP Action Day 2017 and how you can participate in the coming weeks!