As the temperatures cool and the leaves change color, it’s time to face the inevitable: winter is on its way. Is your home ready? Here are a few ways to prepare your abode for the coming months.
- Healthy Heaters: No matter what method you use to heat your home, it’s important to make sure your system is clean and ready to run so you’re not left shivering in the deep freeze. Have heat pumps or furnaces serviced by an HVAC contractor. Wood and pellet burners, get those chimneys cleaned, and check fireplace dampers. And if you’re storing firewood, remember to stack it in a dry place away from your home to prevent insect damage.
- Air Flow Basics: Most of us use ceiling fans in the hotter months, but remember that heat rises. Reversing your fan blades to push air down will help circulate heated air throughout the room and increase comfort without having to increase the setting on your thermostat. And don’t forget your air returns. Most homes have two air returns on the wall. Typically one of them (or both) has a lever so it can be opened or closed (if you don’t have a lever, most home stores sell return-sized magnets to seal the opening for a season). In the colder months, you want the warm air that rises to the ceiling to be pulled downward where you can enjoy it. You can accomplish this by closing the top return and leaving the bottom one open. (The same principle applies in reverse for cooling during the summer months.) Just make sure there is adequate space between furniture and any supplies or returns.
- The Air We Breathe: You’re sealing up your home and preparing to spend a few months indoors. Naturally, this is a good time to think about air quality. Do you have a functioning carbon monoxide detector? Are your smoke alarm batteries fresh? If you have an air purifier, is it clean and well maintained? And if you don’t have a purifier, would you consider getting one? The right system can be a tremendous ally in the fight against airborne illness, allergens, and odors. Personally, we’ve had great results with our Fresh Air by Vollara, which is both powerful and portable. Also consider installing a humidity gauge and using a humidifier (cleaned regularly to prevent mold or bacteria growth) to keep the moisture level in your home comfortable for asthma and allergy sufferers.
- Bed Warmer: Keep a lookout for creative ways to stay warm. Last winter I scored at Target with the discovery of a dual-control heated mattress pad on clearance. We haven’t lived in our home long enough to replace the drafty windows and add extra insulation, so the second floor gets really cold at night. Tim and the kids are hot pots and are comfortable with a good blanket or two, but I used to freeze even under several layers. No more, thanks to this wonderful invention. Now I can heat up my side of the bed to whatever temperature I want while Tim enjoys his subzero sleeping. And the little bit of electricity required to warm the pad is miniscule compared to cranking up the thermostat.
- Dryer on Duty: Before a breathtaking snowfall blankets the ground, delightfully obstructing you from exterior access to your dryer exhaust tube and vent, take a few minutes to check these parts for accumulating lint and debris. You’ll be glad you did when those soaked snow suits need a warm-up.
- Door and Window Readiness: Can you see daylight around the edges of your front door? Feel a draft slipping through the cracks? Sounds like you need new weatherstripping. Remove the old and bring a piece to your local home store to get something new that will work. Windows also need some attention this time of year. I like to give mine one last cleaning before winter, then stow the screens and if you have storm windows, use them.
- Attic Sense: Ever wonder why fresh snow melts off one roof in a day but sits on the neighbor’s place for weeks? The most likely cause: insulation. Attics that are inadequately insulated allow warm air to escape the living spaces below and heat up the roof instead. Consider adding additional insulation upstairs to keep your home warmer and save on heating costs.
- Plumbing Prep: Don’t forget to drain and store those garden hoses. Make sure your spigots are clear of air and water, and capped. And if you leave town overnight, remember to keep your thermostat set to at least 55 degrees to prevent freezing pipes.
- Be Prepared: Getting snowed in can be a blast, but only if you’re ready for it. First, take care of the practical things, like gathering candles and matches, bottled water, some non-perishable foods, a first-aid kit, and plenty of blankets. Then plan for the not-so-rustic snow days, when the kids are home from school but the power’s still on. The McLennans, though we homeschool, designate our school district snow cancellations as Pajama Days. We still do class, at least for a couple of hours, but no one’s allowed to get dressed, including Mommy. There’s usually a fair share of cocoa making, book reading, popcorn munching, and movie watching, plus the occasional fingernail painting and bubble bathing. Having a loose plan for those days makes them feel like a holiday on the rare occasion when they do happen. That’s how winter memories are made!
Congratulations to Jessica Whitley on winning last week’s blog giveaway: a signed copy of The Poor Will Be Glad by Peter Greer. And stay tuned, everyone, for another fun giveaway coming up this holiday season!