Do you have a second home in Southwest Florida that is vacant for parts of the year? Or maybe you are not able to install and uninstall your storm panels each storm. If so, you may be curious if you can leave your hurricane shutters up all year. And this is a question we get asked quite a bit by residents in Southwest Florida. The general answer is no, it is not a great idea to leave your storm panels up all year. Keep reading as we give some reasons why and also review some local requirements from the municipalities in South Florida.
Reasons not to leave your storm panels up all year
As mentioned, it is not recommended to leave your hurricane shutter panels installed on your house all year. There are a few key reasons why this is the case. They have to do with safety as well as the durability and longevity of your panels. Below are some of the key reasons why it is not a good idea.
Before we dive in it should be noted that in this article we are talking mainly about temporary hurricane shutters. This includes storm panels, polycarbonate sheets, and plywood sheets, etc. Permanent hurricane shutters are always installed on your home and can easily be opened and closed. With that being said, it is also not advisable to keep your permanent shutters closed all year for many of the same reasons stated below for storm panels.
Reason 1: Storm Panels Block Egress and Pose a Safety Hazard
The main reason not to leave hurricane shutters up all year is your safety.
Firefighters and rescue teams strongly recommend against leaving hurricane panels installed all year.
Storm panels installed on the exterior of windows eliminate proper egress in your home. Egress is a fancy term commonly used in building codes. It just means the action of getting out of or leaving a place. An example is getting of your home through your windows in the event of a fire. According to the Florida Building Code your home must meet certain egress requirements. This is because if your exits are blocked or unsafe you need to be able to get out through your windows.
This is a major reason why it is unsafe to have your storm panels installed on your windows year round.
They eliminate your family’s ability to get out in the event of a fire. They also eliminate the fire and rescue team from getting into your home if necessary.
Reason 2: Exposure to the Elements Can Damage Your Storm Panels
Removing and storing your storm panels keeps them safe from the harsh elements of South Florida. The Florida sun, humidity and consistent rain can cause corrosion and other damage to your storm panels. And damaged storm panels may not work properly to protect your family and home during a storm.
In order to keep your storm panels working correctly and last a long time you should remove and store them in a dry, safe place. This will not only ensure they work properly but also that they will last longer and prevent the need to replace them.
Reason 3: They Hint to Burglars That Your Home is Unattended
Another reason why its not a good idea to leave your storm panels up year round is that it is a hint to burglars that you are not there. Most folks who are living in a home year round will take their panels down. So if a burglar notices a house with shutters on all the time they may assume the house is vacant. This makes your home a target for burglars vs ones that are occupied.
Reason 4: Municipality Restrictions
Another big reason not to leave your hurricane shutters up all year is that it may go against your municipality’s restrictions.
There are quite a few municipalities in the Southwest and South Florida area starting to restrict your ability to leave your storm panels up all year, unless there is a storm threat. This is mainly due to the danger the panels present. As we talked about above storm panels eliminate egress (your ability to get our of your house in the event of an emergency), which creates a safety hazard. Because proper egress is included in the Florida Building Code, installed storm panels may also go against the building code.
Recently, the City of Cape Coral proposed a city ordinance to restrict residents from keeping storm panels installed all year. The proposed ordinance was turned down by the city council in 2022. However, “the city still intends to pursue some form of regulating storm shutters through the Florida Building Code Commission.” This means the possibility of restrictions may be coming in the future.
The Port St. Lucie city website has “storm shutter regulations“, which state: “Hurricane protective devices that impede egress, light, and/or ventilation in a closed/secured position on occupied buildings must be removed no later than fourteen (14) days after the termination of a hurricane event (watch, warning, or actual hurricane or tornado)…”
We suggest researching or reaching out to your city/municipality to see if there are any restrictions for your area.
Reason 5: HOA and Condo Association Restrictions
In addition to your local codes and ordinances you may have restrictions from your HOA or condo association about leaving storm panels up. According to Beckerlawyers.com, “the question of how long hurricane shutters or protective window coverings like plywood can remain up following a storm depends both on the local codes and ordinances regulating the home or unit, and the terms of your association’s governing documents.” They go on further to say an association’s governing documents may include removal requirements and they may be stricter than local ones.
In other words, if you live in a home with an association you may need to check their rules regardless of your local requirements.
Alternative to Leaving Your Shutters Up Year Round
Installing and uninstalling your storm panels for every storm may not be possible or feasible. If you are not present it is impossible to do it yourself. But even if you do live in your house full time it is difficult and time consuming to install and uninstall them for each storm. If it is an issue you can hire an annual storm panel installation service. This type of service will install and uninstall your panels automatically every time a storm takes place. This eliminates the need for you to do the work yourself or to find someone to do it each time. Not to mention, it eliminates the stress of trying to find someone last minute.