Well, if you’re like me and live in the North East then you’ve already had your first brush with winter weather. If you haven’t, then I envy you because I’m freezing. Even though I’m dealing with a huge amount of snow right now I was able to prepare my home and my life for the oncoming winter weather through taking a handful of steps that I’ll detail below. BY preparing early, hopefully before it’s very cold, you can make sure that your home, your vehicle, and your life will be ready to endure the bitter winter months ahead. Keep reading to find out what the best ways to prepare for winter are.
1. Get A Flu Shot Now
If you haven’t already gotten a flu shot, now is the right time to go to your local pharmacy or doctor and get your shot. While the news was going on about how terrible Ebola is, the flu is significantly more dangerous and kills many thousands of people each year over the winter months. Getting a flu shot is the best way to avoid the flu because the Center for Disease Control can predict with a good amount of accuracy the strain of flu that will be most prevalent throughout the winter and build their vaccination to ward off that popular flu strain. While you aren’t guaranteed not to get the flu after you get a shot, it will significantly lower your chances. Most insurance companies and employers offer free flu shots and if they don’t they typically cost $30 or less. Just think, if you get the flu you’ll be out of work for at least 3 days which will cost you way more than $30 on the shot, so go ahead and get one.
2. Replace Your Shingles and Gutters Before Winter
With the winter comes rain and snow, which coupled with freezing temperatures, can wreak havoc on the exterior of your home if it isn’t in good shape. Now is the time to get out your ladder and inspect your gutters and the shingles on your roof for wear and tear and holes. All it takes is one or two loose shingles to allow water into your roof and start to rot the wood, which costs hundreds or even thousands to repair. Similarly, if your gutters are full of leaves and debris from the fall they can’t drain water efficiently. If your gutters have water in them that can’t drain during a freeze then that puts extra strain on them and on your roof, which can cause damage.
3. Stock Up On Goods For If You’re Snowed In
Where I live I face the prospect of having a snowfall that is heavy enough to keep me stuck at home for several days. In rare occasions that might include a power outage or broken pipes, so if I’m not prepared I could be in serious trouble. If you don’t have one yet, put together a winter emergency box in a waterproof plastic container that contains candles, batteries, flashlights, matches, a hand cranked radio and blankets. When the power is out and you need light candles are your first bet so make sure you’ve got plenty. Typically gas lines still work during heavy snowstorms so you should be able to light your stove and cook food even during a blackout. Check your pantry and stock up on dry goods like pasta, rice, beans, and canned goods so that if you’re stranded at home you won’t go hungry. By spending a few minutes preparing for the worst you can head into the winter feeling comfortable you’ll be ready in an emergency.
4. Check Your Heating System and Chimneys
If you have fireplaces that you will burn wood in this winter, you have to make sure that the chimney is cleared of debris. You may find vines, leaves, or other items blocking your chimney, which can cause a fire hazard. Having your chimney professionally cleaned is also a good idea as creosote can build up in the chimney and catch fire. The other hazard of not clearing out your chimney is that smoke and carbon monoxide can waft into your home instead of out the chimney, which is very dangerous. Similarly, you want to make sure your heating system is working properly and that the vents to the system are clear. Anything that is near or in the vents should be removed as it can cause carbon monoxide to enter your home, or trigger a heating system emergency shutoff switch. After you’re sure your vents and chimneys are cleared, check your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure the batteries are fresh and that they are in good working order. Carbon monoxide has no odor and is very hard to detect without a detector, but can kill if it builds up in your home.
5. Prepare Your Pipes for Freezing Temperatures
One of the most expensive winter problems you can have is a burst pipe. When the mercury drops, the water in your pipes can freeze and expand and break the pipe. There are several steps to prepare your pipes for the winter, but first start with going to a home repair store and buying pipe insulation and tape. Covering exposed pipes can help keep them just warm enough not to burst. Second, you’ll want to bleed the water from pipes that you aren’t using, like your sprinkler system. For pipes that are coming into your home, when you know it is going to freeze leave the faucets running at a very slow trickle. The moving water will avoid water buildup that can freeze. Finally, if you have a swimming pool be sure to winterize the pool before the first freeze of the year and avoid costly repairs come springtime.
6. Winterize Your Car
Prepare a winter weather kit for your car that has blankets, some food like granola bars, and a first aid kit in case you get stranded in your car during a snow storm. Make sure that you have a full tank of gas prior to any big storms and that you have extra blankets in the car for warmth. Don’t forget to stash bottles of drinking water in your vehicle as well as you can become dehydrated quickly while trying to stay warm. If you know you’ll be having frequent snows then you may want to invest in snow tires, or at least have a good set of tire chains ready to get you out in a storm.
7. Stock Up On Dry Goods
Now is the time to hit your local warehouse store and stock up on toilet paper, paper towels, bread, milk, and other items you’ll want around this winter. Make sure you have a good snow shovel ready to clear off your driveway and sidewalk and buy bags of salt to clear away ice buildup. If you wait until right before a storm and run to a hardware store you’ll find shelves empty except for the most expensive items. Preparing early before winter will be the difference between you feeling confident going into cold weather storms and being worried that if the worst case scenario happens you might be in trouble.