My name is Dorothy – but everyone calls me Dot – and I am new to the area. I’ve read your home and real estate advice in the magazines at my doctor’s office and am hoping that you can help me with some advice before winter sneaks up on us! I just moved here from Colorado in March. My husband Gene and I were born and raised less than 20 miles from each other and we raised our family less than an hour’s drive from my home town. We lost my Gene last winter. He loved to be outdoors and was a caretaker of our family and home in the truest sense. I was knew that my heart was not ready for him to go, but I was also not prepared for all of the things I would need to learn at my age.
This brings me to my question for you. I’m now living with my daughter who is recently divorced and two of my grandchildren in College Station. We’ve learned to do a lot of work on her home already. I never thought I would be so proud to say that I know how to fix a running toilet, but I am! I know that winters here are not nearly as harsh as they are in Colorado, but I still want to be prepared. Can you please provide me with a to-do list for preparing our home for winter? Any guidance is much appreciated!
Thank you in advance and I hope that you and your loved ones have a wonderful holiday season!
First I’d like to say that I am very sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine what you have been through this year. Although I’ve never met you and did not know Gene, I can’t help but think that he must be very proud of you for all that you have accomplished on your own this year!
Winters are not generally as harsh here in central Texas as they are in Colorado, but we do have winters with hard freezes on occasion. Here is a list to prepare your home for winter:
The first thing that you will want to do is call a local heating and air conditioning company. They will come out and do an inspection and service on your furnace to make sure that it is running efficiently. They will also do a carbon monoxide test to make sure that your furnace is not leaking this colorless, odorless deadly gas. Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized. You should also make sure that you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed throughout your home. You will want to change out the batteries on those detectors at least once per year.
Trim large tree branches that overhang your roof or area where you park your vehicles. Winter storms can be powerful enough to knock down tree branches and other debris which can damage homes and cars.
Clear rain gutters of debris. This is a good practice throughout the fall, especially if you have a lot of large, mature trees in your yard. If your gutters are full of debris, water can back up against the house and damage roofing, siding and wood trim.
If you have a fireplace and use it frequently, go ahead and call out a chimney sweep to make sure that your chimney is clean and in good repair. This helps to prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide from creeping into your home.
Winterize your exterior spigots (water faucets). First, remove, drain and store your water hoses. Then, cover and insulate your faucet and hose bib. An insulated slip-on cover can be purchased at any hardware store.
If your ceiling fan has a reverse switch, once you start using your heat, use it to run the fan’s blades in a clockwise direction. Because hot air rises, the fan will produce an updraft and push heated air from the ceiling into the room. This really helps in rooms with high ceilings!
The last suggestion I have is to be sure to pack a winter “safety pack” for your car if you are going to be traveling during the winter months. Essentials include: jumper cables, blankets, water, flashlights, batteries, gloves, boots, and a first-aid kit. If you will be driving into winter storm territory, you may want to include an ice scraper and road flares.
Dot, congratulations on all of your newly discovered skills! I wish health and happiness for you and your family this holiday season!