Snow shoveling. Whether you love it or hate it, here are some useful tips to protect your home from snow and ice damage and your family from slips and falls.
Shoveling snow is never fun, but it is an essential winter chore. The safety of your porch, driveway, sidewalks and roof can all be compromised by significant accumulations of snow. So, as you prepare for blizzard conditions to begin popping up in your local forecast this winter, keep these three snow shoveling safety tips in mind.
Protect Your Body and Your Tools
While it may just seem like a mundane chore, snow shoveling will get your heart pumping as much as skiing, playing hockey or sledding. Treat snow shoveling like a workout. Make sure you dress appropriately for the weather and stretch before you get started. If you're not in the best shape, take it easy and take frequent breaks when shoveling. According to the Weather Channel, on average, over 100 Americans die while shoveling snow every year. The reason? The American Heart Association says "the physical exertion of shoveling paired with the cold temperatures increases the heart’s workload," putting some individuals at greater risk of experiencing a heart attack.
In addition to warming up before you attack any massive snowdrifts, make sure you have the right tools for the job. They should make your job easier, not more difficult or aggravating. Use a shovel that won't easily get overloaded. Check the integrity of the shovel's handle before using. Also, D-shaped handles are best, as they help you better balance the shovel's load. To increase the performance of your shovel, coat its blade (or scoop) with wax or non-stick cooking spray. Doing so will prevent snow and ice from sticking to it.
Don’t Make Mountains Out of Molehills
Sometimes it’s difficult to know when to start shoveling snow, but an early start is always a good idea. Should the snow become packed down or frozen-over, it will be that much harder to break apart and remove.
It can also be hard to know where to start shoveling — but easier to determine where not to begin. You don’t want to shovel the same snow twice. Don’t make your snow pile in front of a doorway or common pathway that you’ll only have to shovel again. Have a good plan of attack, and make sure not to let the snow you shovel accumulate in large, precarious piles. If necessary, pack down the shoveled snow before moving on to the next area that needs attention.
Likewise, avoid starting by shoveling the end of your driveway or walkway first. It may seem wise to start at the street and to work your way back towards your home. However, as you move up your drive or walk, some of the shoveled snow will inevitably tumble back down. And that means you'll be forced to shovel those areas again. Only shovel street access points when you know its safe to drive and absolutely must get back out on the road.
Make Like The Wind
When shoveling, tossing the snow away from pathways and driveways can be an exhausting task. Often, the wind will simply blow a portion of that snow back into your path, requiring more shoveling. Reduce your workload and keep the snow more permanently out of your way by moving it with rather than against the wind. If possible, use the force and direction of the wind to help disperse the snow and thin its accumulations.
Of course, you can also invest in a snow blower and avoid shoveling altogether. If you choose to go this route, you will need to take several performance factors into consideration. This "Consumer Reports" guide offers a breakdown of how snow blowers work, as well as which features you'll need to evaluate when shopping for one of these devices.
Ice Ice Baby
So, what happens if you waited too long to shovel the snow and it freezes? You may worry that you’re stuck at home for the rest of winter. Fear not, because there are many at-home melting agents — from salt to sugar to garden fertilizer — you can use to loosen ice's grip and reduce your shoveling time.
Whether the next snowstorm brings you a foot or only flurries, following these snow shoveling tips will help ease your winter woes. For more information on staying both cozy and safe all season long, stay tuned to the American Home Shield® Home Matters blog.
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