Winter will be here before you know it, and for those living in cold-weather climates, it’s time to start thinking about preparing your life for the cold. Weather touches every aspect of our lives, and being prepared before the change of seasons can save us money and stress.
Preparing Your House
One of the most damaging results of snow and ice can be ice dams that form on the part of your roof that overhangs the outside wall. These can cause anything from leaky roofs to mold to collapsed ceilings. The best way to deal with ice dams is to stop them before they form, and the best way to do that is to make sure your attic stays cold. That’s right, cold. If your attic is insulated properly, it keeps the snow on the roof from melting and then refreezing into the overhanging icicles which cause the ice dams.
In-ground irrigation systems also need attention before the first hard frost. To do this, you need to turn off the main valve, and then the irrigation system itself. Next, open all the individual zone valves to drain the water and release pressure in the system. Or, if you’d rather, for a nominal fee most irrigation companies will come out and do this for you.
If you’re living in your house, your indoor plumbing is probably safe, simply from your use of the furnace. There may be, however, a few areas that need a little extra help. Pipes along exterior walls or in crawl spaces may be more susceptible to freezing (and then bursting), so extra insulation or heat tape should do the trick here.
Be sure not to forget your outside faucets and gardens hoses, too. You’ll need to turn off all the outside faucets and their shut-off valves (usually inside). Drain the water in the system from the drain plugs on the shut-off valves, and store all garden hoses inside until spring.
The drafty window is probably something we can all relate to. The two most common quick fixes here are weather stripping and plastic film. There are downsides to both, but overall they lower your heating bills and keep you from having to wear six layers of clothing just to feel comfortable.
Try to be environmentally-conscious when deicing driveways and sidewalks. A fine grain sand is best for this job. If you insist on using salt however, at least choose potassium chloride rather than sodium chloride, as it is less damaging to the environment. According to the Eco Geek, Matthew McConnell, “While rock salt (usually sodium chloride) is amazingly effective at melting ice, it’s also a highly corrosive toxin that ruins soil, contaminates groundwater and is harmful to pets.”
Preparing Your Car
It probably goes without saying, but at the first hint of snow, be sure to put on your snow (or all-weather) tires and have your chains in the trunk. Your trunk should also house a small snow shovel, a bag of sand, cat litter or a couple burlap bags (for creating traction if you get stuck), and an emergency kit. In addition to the normal contents of a roadside emergency kit, your cold weather kit should include a blanket, ear muffs, gloves, wool socks, a small coffee can (for melting snow), waterproof matches, a candle, a battery-operated radio (with fresh batteries), a couple energy bars and a flashlight.
Preparing Your Purse, Man Bag, or Briefcase
In the case of a frozen car door handle or lock, you should first try all the other doors (really). If that fails, be sure to carry a little squirt bottle of deicer in your bag of choice. Also important to have with you at all times are lip balm, waterproof matches, moisturizer, and a fully-charged cell phone. (And if you don’t have a car charger for your cell, you might want to seriously consider getting one and keeping it in your car.)
Don’t Forget Fido!
Many people have “outside” dogs, and winterizing their “home” is equally important. Their house or enclosure should be well-insulated, have an opening just large enough for them to enter and exit, and only be as large as is necessary for them to stand up, turn around and lie down (this minimizes heat loss). Provide plenty of warm blankets or clean bedding, and make sure they have unfrozen water at all times. Do not try to rig homemade heating systems use heating pads, etc., as these are very dangerous and may result in harm to your pet. Also remember that many people (and municipalities) do use corrosive salt to melt ice on roadways and walkways, and dogs’ feet are very sensitive to this. Keep this in mind while walking your dog and try to avoid treated areas.
McConnell, Matthew. “Ask the Eco Geek: Sidewalk De-Icing.” http://www.greenlivingonline.com/article/ask-eco-geek-sidewalk-de-icing