The winter season can bring on a lot of stress. The weather gets cold, the roads become difficult and dangerous, and your home becomes more vulnerable to damages. Taking the necessary steps before and after cold fronts and big storms hit is vital to maintaining the value and comfort of your home. This can often be overwhelming as there are so many aspects of your house that could be affected by winter, but there are many easy and inexpensive ways to prepare. Follow this list below and you will be able to survive these long winter months without having to worry about the state of your home.
1. Service your furnace. Having your furnace inspected prevents the risk of malfunction before it becomes a problem. In the event that your furnace breaks, you don’t want to be freezing in your home waiting for a technician who is most likely swamped with similar calls. To avoid this problem, call someone now and have them inspect your furnace to make sure it is clean and functioning properly.
2. Replace filters. Even after your furnace has been inspected and serviced, you still need to make sure you are doing your part to keep it running properly. HVAC filters need to be cleaned or replaced monthly, and it is particularly important during the winter. Routine replacement will not only ensure that you and your family stay warm, but also helps keep your energy bill at bay.
3. Clean the gutters. If your gutters are not clear and empty in the winter, it can prevent melting snow from draining properly. If there is debris in your gutter, the melted snow could increase the weight, causing your gutters to become weighed down and eventually break. Make sure you are periodically cleaning your gutter of leaves and sticks.
4. Prevent ice dams. Ice dams are one of the most potentially harmful things that can happen to your house in the winter. When large quantities of ice form on your roof, it can cause extreme water damage to your home, or even a roof collapse. One of the causes of ice dams is too much heat escaping into the attic: the heat warms the ice and snow on the roof causing it to melt, but if and when it freezes again, ice dams may form. This can be prevented by installing extra insulation in your attic.
5. Cover outdoor furniture. If you have a grill or outdoor furniture, it is important that you do not let it sit out all winter. If you do not have a shed or a large garage for storage, make sure the furniture is at least covered during the cold months. The low temperatures as well as snowfall can damage grills of all types, as well as wood, metal and plastic furniture.
6. Prevent pipes from freezing. The last thing you want during winter is to lose your running water supply. Opening kitchen and bathroom cabinets can allow warm air to circulate around the plumbing, helping to prevent freezing. When the temperatures reach extreme lows, let cold water trickle from your faucets. In the event that your pipes do freeze, apply heat to the section of the pipe until full water pressure is restored (you can use an electric hairdryer, a hot towel, electric heating pad, or portable space heater).
7. Stock the necessary supplies. Although it is rare, winter poses the threat of being stuck inside your home for extended periods of time. If the temperature gets too low or the snow too high, you may find yourself unable to leave your house. Thus it is very important to make sure that you have all the necessary supplies on hand throughout the entirety of winter. These are the essentials for winter survival:
-Extra food that does not require refrigeration or cooking (canned food, bread, nuts, dried fruit, etc). Don’t forget about pet food if you have pets in your home!
-Water: Store tap water in bottles or pitchers or keep a supply of bottled water. Hydration is very important, so make sure there is plenty of water for everyone in your home.
-Medicine: Make sure to not let your prescription medicines go unfilled, and also stock up on over the counter medicine such as Ibuprofen or cold medicine.
-Heat: Consider purchasing an alternative heat source such as an electric space heater. If you have a fireplace, make sure you have plenty of firewood. If nothing else, stock up on blankets and warm clothes.
-Light: In case the power goes off, make sure you have plenty of candles, lanterns, or flashlights available, as well as extra batteries to power them.
8. Tips for on the road. Being prepared in the car is just as important, if not more important, than preparedness at home. The roads can be extremely dangerous, and pose threats to drivers who are not prepared. If the temperatures are low, snow is falling, or the roads are icy, make sure you have all of the following items handy in your car: salt or cat litter for traction, ice scraper, extra windshield wiper fluid, a flashlight and extra batteries, car phone charger, blankets or extra coats, bottled water, and all insurance or road side assistance information.
Winters in Illinois can be brutal, but we can all make sure we are at least prepared. Stay warm and safe this winter! Do you have any other winter tips that we missed?