As the nights get darker and the cold weather approaches, winter can be
undeniably harsh for homes especially in northern regions.
Unfortunately, break-ins tend to increase in winter as opportunistic thieves take advantage of darker evenings. There is also the onslaught of rain, frost, snow, flooding and storms – all these can cause damage and destruction at homes.
It is generally recommended to review these steps right before winter so that you have some time in order to take the necessary steps to protect your home. Here are some useful tips for your home during cold weather:
Leave your heating on during day and night and regulate the temperature to prevent pipes freezing. When you are at home, set the temperature to something comfortable. During the night or when you are out of the house, consider turning your thermostat back to 10º to 15º which not only saves you energy and costs, but also makes it easier to warm up your house again for when you wake up or return from shopping. If you have to re-heat your home again at a very low temperature, it will cost you more. The best is to keep it at an average temperature without making any changes. If you can are comfortable in the above suggested temperatures then even better.
Double check your boiler as with low temperatures can cause the system to shut down. Don’t go crazy on the water temperature either. As an energy saving tip, you want to set the water temperature to around 120º F. You will not only save energy but avoid scalding your hands.
Check empty rooms. If you have empty rooms in your home such as the loft hatch or empty bedrooms, make sure you allow hot air to circulate around.
Check the insulation on doors and windows to prevent hot air from escaping and cold air to enter. Insulation is one of the most important tip in terms of energy saving and for a good reason. Feel with your hand under doors or on the side of windows if you feel any cold breeze or air. If you do, you may need to insulate better. You may also want to check if wooden windows for wood rot and to ensure that water flows away. You may want to consider double glazed windows before winter.
Check water valves and pipes outside and around the property. You may want to cut the water supply if possible with an exterior valve to prevent the water from freezing inside the pipes and damaging them. You may want to consider insulating those pipes to especially if hot water needs to comes from another area outside your home. An alternative is to let the faucet drip though it all depends on the outside temperature. If you think you have water frozen in your pipes, call a plumber immediately before they crack and the situation gets any worse. The plumber may cost you, but replacing or repairing pipes will be much more expensive. As always, try to take care of all this before winter kicks in.
Check your walls and roof tiles. Sometimes cracks and broken roof tiles allow for water to enter and turn into ice during frost expanding the fractures and creating more damage to the property. Generally you want to add an extra layer of protection in terms of cement or the weaker areas with a protective layer of paint. You can also check for any other areas where water could stand still for a long time which can turn into ice. For example in gutters or downspouts. Remove leaves and make areas clear so the water can flow away and freeze on the ground or soil, wherever as long as its not damaging the property.
Check for natural problems. For example, nearby tree’s or branches can snap/break and plunge into your home through the window. It is a good idea to see if nothing is laying around the property that could potentially harm the property during strong winds or heavy storms. Check and secure your satellite disk for example.
Consider pathways and the tiles they are build with. Try to keep driveways, paths and other walking areas clear of snow and ice. In addition it makes them safer to walk and avoid slipping. Careful with the use of salt as it could eat the surface of natural stone pathways.
Check your chimney. Allot of people heat homes using the old traditional wood and stove way. Make sure your chimney has had a checkup before winter so that its ready to be used and avoid smoke from entering your home. We hope you also stored your wood in a nice dry place to prevent humidity. A chimney will not heat properly if you use wet wooden logs. If your wood is stored outside, consider putting a small part in your garage or other roof covered area. It is best to do this before winter obviously. As an additional energy saving time, don’t go crazy on the wood. If you have good dry wood, consider 1 big lump of wood rather then 4 or 5 smaller lumps. The reason is because it will burn longer and prevent you from wasting your wood stock to fast. If you don’t make use of a chimney, then cover it as cold air can come through. Likewise hot air will escape through the chimney. If you have an AC unit, and you are considering turning it off, make sure you do it properly such as emptying pipes and hoses of water. You can prevent the unit from rusting using plastic.
Verify everything electric outside your home. From simple alarm bells to automated gates and porches. Some of these can be expensive and frost can be an issue causing you to replace the unit. Build a small cover over the bells or give them a plastic protective cover. Also check for electrical sockets around your home and give them sufficient protection.If you have security cameras or alarms, ensure they are protected so that snow does not cover the lenses. Visibility is everything!
Move wooden furniture inside to prevent wood cracks or decay. Also, don’t leave equipment such as ladders or other tools that burglars can use to break into your home. It is wise to always keep these in your garage or somewhere behind locked doors.
It may be a good idea to check your electrical heating stoves and check your the fire safety. Do not think that fire is no hazard during winter time. In fact, allot of things can happen. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and verify them regularly to see if they are working. You may also want to remove old batteries and replace them with new ones for the detectors. You may also want to check your gas installation if you use one. Better safe then sorry.
In case of power failure, have some type of emergency kit. A kit usually includes batteries, torches, first aid kit, a cell phone with working sim card and some tools such as screwdrivers or a swiss knife. If you have a storage room, get some tinned food stocked, you never know if your village gets cut off from the world for a week. Make sure you have a small contact list of all the most important numbers including the emergency services but also a few local friends or neighbors which you may need to call upon. And lets not forget the most obvious… blankets to keep you warm.
If you are away on holiday, consider timers to allow lights to jump on during specific hours during the day to give the impression somebody is home. Consider automating things but without creating a security risk or hazard to your home.
Lastly, check your insurance. Allot of things can happen during the winter and reviewing your home insurance can remind you of possible things that can happen.
We hope these tips have been useful so that you may keep your home safe from hazards whilst keeping energy bills at bay.
By: John Fraziano