Have you been waking up in the middle of the night wondering if your house is under attack? Or if you’re having nightly hail storms? Nope, not hail or instruments of war. Acorns. Lots of them. And falling acorns means that we are heading into the cold weather season. Are you ready? More importantly, is your house?
Even though we live in the South, the land of mild winters, it doesn’t mean we won’t have sub-freezing temperatures at night or even an occasional snow storm. And, as Murphy’s Law suggests, if you don’t prepare your house for winter, you can be assured it will be a nasty one.
Luckily, there are many things you can do to prepare that are fairly simple (you can do them yourself) and not outrageously costly.
First, clean out your gutters. (This might be one of the tasks you actually do hire out.) All those leaves and acorns have accumulated over the past few months and are just waiting to hold water and then freeze over once the temperatures drop. If that happens, gutters can’t do their job draining moisture.
The end result? Water seeps into your house and causes a huge mess, an even bigger headache, and an enormous expense. After you get gutters cleaned, make sure they are properly fastened and in good condition. Seal or replace where necessary.
Next, make sure your house is as energy efficient as possible. If there are air leaks in your home, warm air goes out, and cold air rushes in. This causes unnecessary burden on your HVAC unit and will make your heating bill skyrocket. Seal leaks. Replace cracked or broken windowpanes. Add insulation to your ducts and crawl spaces. Check the weatherstripping around windows and doors. Maybe replace screen doors and windows with storm doors and windows. And if you want to make an investment in your future (and in our environment for that matter), add a few solar panels.
Get your furnace checked and tuned up. You do NOT want it to go kaput on a really cold night and that’s the only time it happens, right? And while you’re at it, make sure your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are properly working as well.
And that other heating element in your house – your fireplace. You need to make sure there are no cracks, it’s clean, and free of soot buildup. In other words, call a chimney sweep, especially if you make fires several times a week during the winter. And if that warm fire is what you like most about the winter, go ahead and order firewood now. If you don’t, you’ll run out at the same time as everyone else and you’ll pay a pretty penny to get more.
What about your yard? That can be winterized as well. Check your trees for rot and dead branches. And cut back any that are dangerously close to your house or the power lines. The last thing you need is a stiff, cold wind knocking down a dead tree or heavy, ice-laden branches eliminating the electricity to your house. And those never-ending leaves? Instead of raking them over and over, you could just let them all fall and then use a mulching lawn mower to obliterate them. That’s not lazy – that’s preparing your grass for spring.
Since it’s hard to find plants that will hold up to a hearty winter, you will probably have clay pots and planters sitting empty on your deck or patio. Go ahead and remove the loose soil, and move them to a shed or other more insulated place. That will prevent cracking when the typical Southern winter temperatures fluctuate thirty or more degrees in a day.
Detach any connected hoses to faucets outside and store them away. You’ll find that you won’t need to replace them as often and they’ll hold their shape better. Then wrap those outside faucets to prevent water damage. Finally, turn off those exterior faucets. But make sure you also drain the water from outdoor pipes and sprinkler heads to avoid bursts.
Now that daylight savings is in effect, we’ll be experiencing more hours of darkness for a few months. Of course that means we’ll be turning lights on earlier and using more electricity (making your bill rise), but when it comes to outdoors, you don’t want to skimp on lighting. If you have your hands full walking up to your door at night, you need to see that shine of ice so that you don’t end up making an unexpected trip to the ER. Buy energy saving light bulbs for your outdoor lights. There are brands you can buy that are more weatherproof than others and you can put them on timers and install motion sensors so that they’re not on more than they need to be.
This list may seem like a ton of effort but it’s worth it in the long run. But get started now. Because by February, it’s absolutely possible the temperatures will be back in the 80s. It is winter in the South, after all.