It’s time for us to make sure our homes and living spaces are ready to take on whatever winter throws our way. For the general population, winterizing is about preserving two things inside our homes: warmth and water. Every step you take to prepare for cold temperatures and winter storms is like taking two steps forward—for your wallet, home and for our planet!
Which brings me to the heart of this blog: our annual plea for homeowners to winterize in order to avoid potentially costly damage and unnecessary wasting of our natural resources. Confident that, by now, our readers are well versed on the basics, such as bleeding valves, shutting off outside water sources, caulking cracks, insulating pipes and so forth*, I’d like to take you through some lesser-known tips that can help you prepare and enhance the effectiveness of standard practices—and may provide great solutions in a pinch.
Stand back, water! Water that pools near the foundation or in rain gutters is a huge threat as temperatures dip below freezing, then warm up, then drop again—and all the expansion, contraction and ice buildup can lead to cracks, leaks or worse. Make sure that all gutters and downspouts are clear of debris, water is directed to flow an adequate distance from your house, and any low spots near foundation walls are filled in with soil to prevent pooling. Also be sure to properly drain and shut down sprinkler systems and swimming pools, using a professional if necessary.
Wrap it up. Bubble wrap is an excellent insulator when taped against the interior of window panes. Other things you should be sure to wrap for insulation include exposed pipes and your water heater.
Support your local heater. Help your home’s heater/furnace perform more efficiently and avoid breakdown at the worst time by having it professionally maintained and changing filters in early fall. To get even more mileage out of your heater, you can do the following: Reverse ceiling fans so that they run clockwise, which will push warm air gathered at the ceiling down into the room; make sure all vents are clear of furniture, pet beds, toys and the like so that there is a full, clear flow of heat; and invest in a programmable thermostat, which can lower energy usage by making it easier for you to lower temperatures at night while the household is in bed.
Warm up from the outside in. An attached garage, if it is allowed to “run cold” during the winter, can make your home less energy-efficient. So insulate your garage and consider using a heat source such as a solar heater to keep it warm. Also, evergreen trees planted near your home make excellent wind barriers.
Harness your heat! Dress in comfortable layers, using the heat your body naturally produces will keep you warmer and allow you to keep your thermostat lower.
Lastly, even the most prepared household can fall victim to a particularly harsh storm, so make sure your home is stocked with ample supplies of water, canned foods, blankets and candles. By taking a few steps now, come what may—snow, ice, sleet, blizzards or an unusually balmy four months—you can help ensure a safe winter for everyone.
*It never hurts to have a refresher on the basics. Take a quick review here, here and here!