I recently made some new friends over at Essential Media in Australia, and while our friends down under are starting to shed their layers in favor of warmer weather and swimsuit season, we here in the Northern Hemisphere are bracing for what appears to be a very intense winter in some places. Here in Southern California we are bracing for El Niño.
Many fans have asked what they can do to prepare their home for the coming winter months. Here are a few tips that can minimize repairs and make the spring thaw come a little more easily. Starting at the top:
I’D MAKE A ROOF JOKE, BUT IT WOULD BE OVER YOUR HEAD
For my friends that live in the colder climates and can expect snow, like in Big Bear, cleaning out the gutters will save you from building up ice dams that can damage the roof in the winter. Clean them with a leaf blower or wash them out with a hose. Check for any holes or other damage to the gutters and repair them before heavy snow makes them worse. It’s also a good time to take a look at the roof itself and fix any shingles that are curling or any flashing around chimneys that has come loose. If your roof is in bad shape, bring in a roofing contractor to assess whether the roof needs to be replaced before winter or can wait until the spring. I promise if you wait for the first storm of the season, the contractor’s time will be pressed and you may end up paying more. An ounce of prevention in this case is worth a pound of cure.
GO WITH THE FLOW: INSULATE EXPOSED PIPES
Granted most people in SoCal will not experience the wonderful effects of Jack Frost on their water pipes, but some will. Improperly insulated plumbing lines in unheated spaces, such as attics or exterior walls, are a major cause of power use, since the water heater must work extra hard to heat water. It can also cause pipes to freeze and burst if you live in an area that dips below 32 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. Check all of your plumbing lines to identify those that are outside or underneath the house, or are in an unheated basement or attic. Foam wrap can be purchased at any home improvement store. I’m actually partial to Imcolock Insulation. Just remember if you are wrapping standard 1/2″ copper, use the 5/8″ ID insulator. For 3/4″ pipe use 7/8″ and so on. As it gets colder your energy bill will thank you.
DON’T LET YOUR FURNACE BLOW MONEY OUT THE WINDOW (OR DOOR)
Doors and windows can develop cracks in the seals that let cold in or the heat out. Here are a few simple steps that mean a big difference in your utility bill.
- Check for cracked window panes and replace them. Costs on window panes can vary, but a good budget number I’ve found is around $12 per square foot for glass. A little more for tinted.
- Get a good caulking gun and some tubes of caulking (I’ve always been partial to DAP brand) and make sure all your windows are sealed and without cracks. The goal is not to let any breeze through.
- A Window Film Insulating kit is a good low cost added layer of protection too. 3M makes a good one.
- Make sure you put new weatherstripping at your exterior doors, this will keep your energy bill down too, and you’ll need it for the Christmas Lights.
DON’T FORGET THE DECKS AND PATIOS
You won’t be using them as much for several months, and they’ve gotten pretty worn over the spring and summer. Sand down wooden decks and apply a good water seal (I’ve always found Thompson’s to be a good multi-weather seal)
WINTERIZE YOUR LAWN
This may be an unnecessary step, if your soil has all the right nutrients, so do a soil sample and make sure you have the right amount of potassium in your soil. In addition a good lawn winterizer can make reclaiming your lawn in the spring.
In addition, make sure your sprinkler system includes a rain sensor shutoff to make sure you’re not wasting money or resources watering your lawn when it’s raining. It just makes no sense to water your lawn in the rain.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you take a few simple steps in the coming weeks, it will hopefully make for a smoother transition through winter and into spring. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.