A few weeks ago we ran a section on winter auto care. It is just as important to make sure that our homes are also ready for the winter months.
I did some digging and found a few really important things that need addressing before the snow flies. This morning’s little dusting of white across the valley is a good kick in the caboose to get these done.
Heating and cooling system maintenance – replacing the furnace filter helps the furnace run more efficiently and helps keep the house clear of dust, dirt and allergens. If possible, having an expert do a yearly inspection reduces the possibility of an unfortunately-timed breakdown. Window air conditioners need to be removed for the winter and external units covered to protect them from snow and moisture buildup.
Fuel source stock – Ideally, you want to start the cold season with a full tank of furnace fuel, or propane, a good stack of pellets or a full woodshed. If that is not attainable, make sure that your heat source fuel is stocked with enough fuel to get you through a month or two at a time, and monitor it so you don’t find yourself without during a cold snap.
Thermostat – Annually check your thermostat’s battery and change if needed. Set programmable thermostats to maintain a comfortable temperature to be more cost-effective. If you plan to be away for an extended time, a safe temperature to leave your home at is between 17-19 degrees.
Windows and exterior doors – Check windows and doors for air leaks. Adding insulation, weatherstriping, and door sweeps around doors, and caulking or plastic covers over windows can help prevent cold air drafts and help conserve energy.
Exterior wood – Wood on the outside of the home is vulnerable to moisture. Make sure wood is re-painted and sealed to prevent any insects or wildlife from nestling in over the winter.
Roof ventilation – Leaving roof vents open all year allows moisture to escape your attic to prevent mould and mildew. Bathroom vents should be inspected to ensure they are adequately insulated to prevent condensation from freezing. Don’t forget to clean and check the dryer vents as well.
Gutters and chimneys – Gutters collect leaves in the fall. When water collects and freezes, gutters get weighed down and can cause damage. It is important to clean all chimneys, not just before the winter, but regularly, preventing the build up of chimney-fire-causing creosote.
Plumbing – Close all water valves that lead to outdoor faucets and drain the outside faucets. Then leave those outside taps open to allow any freezing water expansion somewhere to go. Disconnect your garden hose, drain it and store it in a dry place. Insulate any exposed pipes to maintain a reasonable temperature.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors – This is a good time to, while you’re checking batteries in your thermostat, to also replace the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. It is also wise to run tests to make sure they work.
Prepare outside the home – Make sure there are no tree branches that may fall and hit electrical systems or wires causing a power outage or fire. Dig out your snow shovel and have a supply of ice melting substance on hand.
Get help from a neighbour – If you are going to be away from your home for more than a day or two, leave the heat at a modest temperature and ask a trusted neighbour or friend to come check that things are running smoothly while you are gone.
Home emergency kit – A kit should contain enough supplies to sustain you and your family, animals included, for 72 hours.
Check your home insurance policy – Know what is covered due to hail or snow damage. Understand liability coverage for slips and falls or personal injury. If you think you may need more coverage, talk to your insurance agent.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it serves as a reminder that homes need winter prep as well as vehicles.
Now, if only someone would come up with a checklist that helps the human body prepare for colder weather. Brrrrr.