When Jack Frost comes nipping around the corner with winter on its way, it’s time to batten down the hatches and keep your home warm and safe from snow, cold and ice. From experience, I’ve learned that some homeowners will take the time to invest in permanent solutions against winter problems, while others prefer temporary alternative ways.
Whether you have your own house or rent an apartment, below are 10 ways you can implement to secure your comfort zone against the winter throes.
Keeping Drafts Out
With the winter winds blowing or not, the cold drafts will enter, nonetheless, if your home is not properly insulated.
To ensure that heat stays in and doesn’t get lost, it’s wise to thoroughly check your house inside and out for possible ‘air filtration’. Check around the windows, doors, floor baseboards. Then take a walk outside and carefully inspect the house wall and foundation for any crevices or cracks.
Patching the outside wall cracks will not only keep the winter chills out, but save your home’s foundation when ice rain begins to trickle along the walls, saving you a fortune in future home repairs.
1. Check for old, cracked and brittle caulk around your windows. Repair as necessary. (Tip: When applying caulk, put dish lotion on your fingers to avoid the caulk from sticking on your hands.)
2. Homeowners can also use cheaper alternatives like window insulation kits, which can be obtained in any local hardware store. The kits include plastic shrink film that can be applied to the indoor window frame with double-stick tape, then heated with a hair dryer to shrink the film and remove any wrinkles. When I lived in low-cost apartments, these kits proved to be quite effective.
If you don’t like looking through a window with a plastic film, then obtain self-stick rubber weather sealing kits. Cut long strips to fit your window dimensions, then peel and stick to the frame to close any gaps and keep out drafts.
3. Another way in minimizing drafts, is creating ‘draft snakes’ which are fabric tubes that can be placed on a window sill or under a door to prevent cold air from entering. Do-it-yourselfers can easily make draft snakes by simply sewing a tube of fabric and then filling it with small hard beans. I enjoyed creating these. I’ve also heard that some use rice instead.
Secure the Pipes
4. Go to where your pipes are located, whether in the basement, attic, or under floor cupboards and fit them with wrapping or insulation sleeves to prevent the cold air from building ice within the pipes. This is necessary to prevent the pipes from bursting due to water pressure caused by ice formation.(Tip: During electrical outages, leave a faucet open just enough to trickle through water. This will ensure release of pressure and prevent ice build-up.)
5. The radiators (if any) are included in water piping. Before winter sets in, take the time to ‘bleed’ the radiators. This is a simple procedure of removing water filth that has built up in the heating pipes over time.
Simply remove the radiator cover (if any), and you will see a small pipe extension with a screw on it. Place a large bucket underneath the extension, and with a screwdriver slowly turn the screw counter-clockwise until the water starts to slowly come out. If a radiator has not been drained out for some time, you will soon notice how filthy and black it has become. The black water will feel like an oily residue, so it’s imperative that it fall directly in the bucket so your walls won’t become stained by the residue. You may need a couple of buckets, one to keep under the extension while you go empty the waste water down the toilet or sink with the other bucket.
Once the water radiators are cleaned, re-tighten the screw, place back the cover over the radiator (if any) and know that the heat within your radiators will now be evenly distributed.
6. For homeowners with a gas or oil furnace, it’s important to keep the motor running smoothly. This can be done yearly, by locating a small opening on the side of the furnace to lubricate it with a bit of fresh motor oil. Don’t forget to clean the filters, as well.
For electrical heating, clean the baseboard elements.
Ice dams are an accumulation of ice under the eaves of a sloped roof where ice gathers in troughs or gutters. When the snow and ice melt off your roof, the ice in the gutters prevents the water from going directly to the ground, provoking water seepage under the roof tiles and in between the walls.
7. To avoid damage, keep the attic well-ventilated and allow the cold air to freely circulate so there will be less melting and refreezing on the roof. Also, keep the attic floor well insulated to prevent the rising heat from reach the roof, and also to retain the heat within your home.
(Tip: After cleaning residual fallen leaves, cut long strips of canvas, and line the troughs. Place a thin layer and even amount of rock salt to melt the ice off, thereby preventing water build-up under the roof tiles and wall seepage in between.)
8. Winters can be full of unpleasant surprises, especially when outages occur. Lighting candles can lead to fires, so make certain each room has a battery-powered alarm detector, and yes, also make certain the detectors work.
9. Obtain affordable stair ‘rubber carpeting’ to line your stairs or front porch. Under the snow, a surprise layer of ice can often send you reeling on your back. Solidifying the steps with ‘gritty rubber’ will lessen the chances of you slipping.
10. Rake leaves away from sidewalks and driveways, to prevent nasty falls. No amount of sand salt will help you if the outside passageways have a thick top layer of leaves. So make sure to clean that up before the snow falls.