Friday, August 30, 2019

Hurricane Shutters

Not actually Erin.
& is used with permission.
Florida has yet another hurricane bearing down on it, so now is the time for all smart Floridians to begin implementing their hurricane preps. (No, not "go shopping". Smart Floridians stock up in June or July because we know that there'll be a rush on stores and shelves depleted when it looks like there will be landfall.)

For me, that means looking at the weather forecast and deciding when I want to put up the hurricane shutters. I don't want to put them up too soon, because honestly they're a pain in the butt to do and it's hot, sweaty, get-eaten-by-bugs and get-scratched-by-thorns work, so if I put them up when I didn't have to, I'll be annoyed. There's also enough work involved with them that once they go up they stay up until the end of the season (which is officially the end of November but is effectively the end of September).

On the other hand, if I want too long, then I end up putting them up in the wind and the rain, which is also pretty miserable and also increases the chances for injury.

Let's talk about the three major types of storm shutters.

Plywood

Image found across the internet

If you live in a coastal area frequently assaulted by hurricanes, don't use these. Yes, they're cheap, but quality and durability is suspect because plywood isn't milled, but rather manufactured from cheap wooden wafers pressed and glued together.  Plus, in order to install them you have to drill holes into your house, which looks ugly and if left untreated allow ways for termites and other vermin to get inside and damage the structure of your house. If you do this be sure to secure the sheets as tightly as you can, because they have a nasty tendency to get sheared off and go flying.

Please, for the love of all that's good and holy, don't use particle board. Just don't.

https://apps.floridadisaster.org/hrg/content/openings/diy_shutters.asp

Metal
https://youtu.be/2wkrr685enM

These are the kind of shutters that I have. They are metal (either steel or aluminum) and lock into metal fixtures with metal bolts and wignuts. So long as the fixtures are properly installed (you can find DIY instructions here, although there are companies who will install them for you quickly and professionally), you have a strong barrier that will protect your windows from storm debris.

Those are the good points. The bad points are:
  • They are expensive;
  • The edges are sharp and can result in injury if you are not wearing protective clothing; 
  • They are tiring to carry (each sheet is lightweight, but it can take between 4 and 7 sheets per window; multiplied by however many windows you have and whether or not you need to haul them up a ladder for second-story windows, they get exhausting quickly);
  • Over time, the brackets collect rust and debris and need cleaning, which delay installation;
  • Once installed they block out sunlight; 
  • Once installed, they make it impossible to escape through the window in case of emergency. 
They are very much a two-edged sword whose benefits only slightly outweigh their drawbacks. 

Motorized


This is the Cadillac of storm shutters: a miniature garage door that rolls down over doors and windows. They are the most expensive of all the options, and most of them require electricity to operate. However, some of them can be raised manually with a crank (demonstrated in the video below), and they can be wired to accept power from a backup battery as well... and honestly, if you're going to this expense, you might as well shell out for the battery too. 



Despite these significant drawbacks, the benefits are massive:
  • Your house is protected with the push of a button;
  • You can wait until the last minute to activate them;
  • You can use them against other disasters, such as tornadoes;
  • You can put them down before a vacation to protect against burglary (admittedly, at the risk of advertising you're out of town);
  • Some units can be hooked into a home wifi unit to engage them remotely if a severe storm strikes while you're at work. 
If you can afford this option, I recommend it. 

Other Options
There are other options which are less common and might not be available where you live, such as Bahama shades, Colonial shutters, and polycarbonate windows. I don't have experience with them but they may be worth investigating. 


Regardless of which option you choose, please protect your windows from hurricane damage by putting up your shutters. 

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