As summer starts to wind down, it’s only a matter of time before winter sets in – a winter that could be as frosty as the summer was is sweltering. For Americans in states like Michigan, the extreme weather swings both ways. In fact, the Great Lakes State has seen a high of 112F and a low of -51F. Talk about range.
Any kind of extreme weather could bring potential damage to your garage. Fortunately, a lot of the risks they present are preventable — although a recent Esurance survey found that only 25 percent of homeowners proactively prepare for damaging weather events. Don’t get caught unprepared. Whether it’s triple-digit heat, below freezing cold, hurricane seasons or drought-induced wildfires, it’s best to prep your garage ahead of time to minimize your safety risks.
From fire hazards to burst pipes, here’s how to prepare your garage for extreme weather.
Extreme Heat and Wildfires
Propane tanks should never be stored indoors in the first place, but they are a particularly big risk in extreme temperatures as they begin releasing gas through their pressure-relief valve — a built-in safety feature. In the garage, this becomes a toxic fire hazard.
Do this instead: Store propane tanks outdoors, about 10 feet away from the house and out of the sun. Make sure they’re painted in a color that reflects light. If they’ve been left in the sun and you worry that they’ve gotten too hot, hose them down.
It might seem obvious, but oil-stained rags have been known to cause house fires — even if they’ve been through the wash. When the temperature in your garage rises to extremes, they can spontaneously combust. If a wildfire breaks out, they pose a substantial risk for fueling the flames and even causing small explosions.
Do this instead: Dispose of heavily used oil-soaked rags and replace them. Wash gently used rags a few times before storing them in a covered metal can.
Eighty percent of aerosol cans — even ones filled with hairspray and the like — contain 3 to 5 ounces of butane or propane. When temperatures reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit, they can explode, sending bits of metal shrapnel through the air, or they can become propelled like rockets, capable of causing serious injury or damage.
Do this instead: Store aerosol cans in the garage only if the temperature is between 55 and 80 degrees.
Snow/Ice Storms and Extreme Cold
Carbonated beverages are temperamental, and they can be dangerous at freezing temps. Beverages like soda and beer freeze at around 15-20 degrees. Once frozen, the carbon dioxide separates from the water and pressurizes, becoming especially dangerous if handled or opened, potentially bursting and sending the top of the can flying.
Do this instead: Keep your canned, carbonated beverages in a refrigerator or cabinet in the house, where they won’t freeze.
Similar to aluminum cans, water-filled glass bottles can shatter in the cold, regardless of whether or not the liquid is carbonated. That’s because water expands as it begins to freeze. It can wreak similar havoc on your pipes.
Do this instead: Store your glass beverage containers in the house along with the aluminum cans.
As water gets colder and colder, it begins to expand, putting extra pressure on pipes. Regardless of the strength and material of the pipes, they will eventually burst under the pressure.
Do this instead: Let water drip from your faucets. Moving water helps prevent freezing. You can also insulate your exposed pipes to prevent them from freezing. Conventional foam insulation is easy to slip over existing pipes with a bit of tape. You can also go with the self-sealing variety, but you may want to leave the spray foam insulation to the pros.
Hurricanes and Windstorms
Anticipating the power going out? Make sure you’re not running your generator inside — even in your garage. Generators produce large amounts of carbon monoxide, which can be deadly in contained, unventilated spaces.
Do this instead: Set your generator up outside — at least 10 feet from your house — to ensure proper ventilation.
Open doors and windows
It might go without saying, but open windows or doors in your garage invite tons of messy debris during a hurricane — not to mention the potential damage to your car and other belongings.
Do this instead: Double-check that your garage door is closed and any and all windows are shut and locked before the storm makes its way in. Consider installing storm windows or shutters to the exterior of the garage to add extra protection against high winds and heavy rains.
Important Documents and Sentimental Items
With an increased risk for flooding and water damage, make sure you remove any important files or boxes with sentimental items before the storm hits.
Do this instead: Move any at-risk items safely indoors and store them in an interior room for the duration of the storm.
Are you prepared for extreme weather? Protect your family and your home by inspecting your garage to prevent unsafely storing potentially dangerous items in a weather emergency.
Eric Brandt has more than 25 years’ experience in the insurance industry. Eric currently serves as Chief Customer Advocate for Esurance, where he leads the customer experience, including claims fulfillment. Prior to joining Esurance, Eric led customer-centered transformations in the areas of claims, risk management and relationship management for carriers offering personal lines, commercial lines and employee benefits protection.