You’re switching out flip-flops and beach towels for boots and wool blankets. There’s a 30% off coupon on your fridge with bulk hand-sanitizer and Kleenex purchase written all over it. For the umpteenth time, you wonder how on earth the kids could have grown so much since last winter, while the mental list of what you and your family need for this year just keeps growing.
Remember the time your daughter had three friends over and heavy rain turned unexpectedly to ice and sleet? That spontaneous tween sleepover almost broke you — even before groaning branches eventually took out the power lines!
Then there was the night your son slipped coming up the front stone steps with an armful of books. Thank goodness your dentist has on-call hours.
You may not be able to prepare for every surprising turn of event this season, but there are some smart precautions you can take to ready both home and family for winter’s elements — and keep hair-pulling frustration at bay.
1. Service Furnace
Who do you want to be? The parent whose kids are huddled under wool blankets while you wait for the HVAC technician to wade through eight other emergencies who happened to call in before you? Or the smarty on a warm Fall day who makes an annual service and inspection appointment?
If your furnace is under a service contract, regular inspection is more than likely included. Optimally, it should be scheduled right before cold weather hits. During an inspection, the contractor will clean filters — and replace if necessary — check for carbon monoxide and make sure blowers and fans are running smoothly.
If you don’t have a service contract, contact North American Technician Excellence — NATE — for a .
2. Reverse Ceiling Fans
Did you know that the ceiling fans in your house which sweep hot air out in the summer can also be used to keep warm air in during winter? Check for a switch on the motor. Flipping it will change the directional turn of the blades. A counter-clockwise motion pulls heat up and out, while clockwise pushes warm air down, back into your living space.
3. Seal Air Leaks
Drafts around the windows and doors of your home will counteract the heating efficiency of your furnace and ceiling fans. Because hot air moves towards cold, a surprisingly large percentage of your heat may eventually find its way outside.
You can remedy this by sealing the leaks with caulk, plastic sheeting or weatherstripping. Caulk is sold in tubes and can be applied with a caulk gun almost like squeezing toothpaste on a toothbrush. Remember to store unused calk tubing inside so it doesn’t freeze.
Plastic weatherproof sheet kids are sold pre-cut. Simply fit plastic over window banks inside and seal around the edges.
Weatherstripping can be . Materials come in nail-on or self-stick form; you may require specialty pieces for your doors.
4. Prepare for Power Outages
You can use that 30% off coupon to stockpile batteries as well, and perhaps even votive candles. But that won’t save the food in your fridge, charge up your devices or run the heating system in case of power failure. Consider purchase of a backup generator.
Traditional generators are gas-powered and portable. When the power goes out, you fill the generator with stored gas and wheel it in to temporarily run basic appliances. Most homeowners keep two to four five-gallon tanks at the ready; the generator will only run for as long as its fuel allows. Not only might home gasoline storage present a fire hazard, but any unused gas needs to be replaced after one year.
Standby generators, on the other hand, of your home. A licensed technician connects the system to your circuit panel with a 220-volt line, allowing for generation “take over” of all your electrical appliances at once.
5. Trim Trees and Branches
Power outages are often the result of damage caused by snow and ice-covered branches breaking heavily over the lines. Safeguard your home from similar destruction. Take a good look at your roof line. Identify any overhanging branches and mark them for removal.
Smaller shrubs and dead branches around your home should also be cleaned up and trimmed. Wind can send debris hurtling towards your house in a manner of seconds. Make sure plantings that are not firmly rooted are cleared away.
6. Put Garden to Bed
Hand in hand with proactive arbor measure now is the perfect time to secure outdoor furniture and gardening equipment.
Drain garden hoses and unscrew them from outdoor faucets. Cover deck and lawn furnishings tightly with waterproof coverings to prevent rust. If you have indoor storage, stow the pieces inside.
Cover plants that are sensitive to frost loosely with burlap and take down wind chimes.
7. Clean Gutters
Finally, grab a ladder and clean the gutters of your water drainage system. Dead leaves, pine cones, seeds and other bits and fragments from surrounding trees can get trapped in your trench, creating flow dams with the potential to freeze when the weather grows cold.
Ice easily cracks gutter materials. It flows over your roofline in the form of icicles and drips onto surrounding steps and walkways, creating pedestrian havoc.
The potential for moisture to leak into a home’s structure increases whenever water drainage is slowed or stopped. Wet siding is the perfect place for mold formation. Mold spores multiply and travel quickly, damaging interior walls and threatening foundation stability.
Mold can also be hazardous to the health of your family members. Symptoms of mold exposure include shortness of breath, bronchial cough, sinus congestion, fatigue, difficulty concentration and joint pain.
No stockpile of hand sanitizer, batteries and Kleenex can trump a warm, safe home with effective generator back-up. Can you imagine that unexpected sleepover with a working fridge — and Wifi? Game-changing!