How To Prepare Your Home and Your Family For The Approaching Winter Weather

Winter weather can bring about unexpected disruptions at home. In case of emergency, it is a good idea to have the below items on hand to ensure that you and your family are well prepared for winter power outages and more.

  1. Flashlights and Batteries

Instead of keeping candles on hand for winter power outages, invest in a few flashlights and plenty of batteries. Using candles during power outages can put your family at risk for a house fire.

2. A Hefty Supply Of Blankets

If the electricity goes out in your home, chances are that your heater will go out as well. To prepare your family for a potential power outage or winter storm, make sure you are stocked up on cozy blankets to help keep your family comfortable and warm. 

3. A Winter Safety Kit To Keep In Your Car

The area in which you live will depend on the supplies you will need to keep in your car during the winter months. If you live in an area where it snows often, make sure you keep a shovel, some sand for tire traction and tire chains in your car. However, no matter where you live, whether you are in a snowy climate or not, make sure to keep booster cables, a cell phone, extra warm clothing and boots, an ice scraper, snacks, water, a flashlight, batteries and matches in your winter safety kit.

Additional items to have readily available in your home as we approach the winter months are a safe space heater with no open coils, a supply of medication to last you for a few days in case you cannot access your pharmacy and a fan for your fireplace that does not suck up heat into the chimney, but blows it into the room. You should also keep a supply of nonperishable food in case of winter emergencies. The Department of Homeland Security recommends stocking your kitchen with at least three days worth of food. Some suggested food items include peanut butter, canned juices, crackers, bread, long keeping milk, canned tuna, raisins, nuts and canned beans.

Playing Outside With Your Family During The Colder Winter Months

Just because the weather has cooled down does not mean that you and your family cannot enjoy some quality time playing outdoors. In fact, there are even benefits of playing outside when temperatures drop. These benefits include an increase in exercise during an otherwise sedentary season and getting some fresh air to avoid the close proximity to germs as families are huddled together indoors. However, during this time there are some precautions you should take to ensure that your family stays safe and warm when playing outdoors.

Although Texas winters do not usually become too harsh, there is still the occasional winter day that will drop below freezing. For days like these, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests dressing infants and small children in many thin layers of clothing including long johns, turtlenecks, a t-shirt, a sweater, warm socks, boots, gloves or mittens and a warm jacket. As a general rule, you should dress your children in one more layer than you would wear while you are spending an extended period of time outdoors. In addition to dressing appropriately, you should also take snacks if you are going to be exposed to winter weather for long periods of time. Stick a couple power bars in your pocket in case you or your children get hungry. Lastly, watch out for signs of hypothermia. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, slurred or mumbling speech, slow or shallow breathing, a weak pulse, clumsiness or lack of coordination, drowsiness or a lack of energy, confusion or memory loss, loss of consciousness and bright red, cold skin in small children.

Preparing The Inside Of Your Home For Colder Temperatures

Not only does preparing your home for winter ensure that your family will stay comfortable and warm all winter long, but it can also be more cost effective when it comes to heating bills. Use the checklist below to prepare your home for winter weather.

Tip 1: Install Weatherstripping

Before the coldest temperatures of winter present themselves, check the exterior doors in your home for air leaks. This should be done from the inside of your home so that you can detect where the strongest currents of air lead indoors. Once you have located any air leaks in your home’s exterior doors, seal these leaks with foam or felt weatherstripping inside of the door frame. If you are unfamiliar with this process, head to your local hardware store where an associate can guide you to the correct products and proper installation techniques.

Tip 2: Install A Door Sweep

A door sweep is a flexible piece of rubber or plastic that attaches to the lower edge of your door. You can use door sweeps as an extra level of weather protection for your home, as door sweeps will prevent cold drafts from making their way to the inside of your home.

Tip 3: Seal Air Leaks In Your Attic

Air leaks in your attic could be allowing up to thirty percent of your home’s heated air to drift outdoors. To avoid this and to save on heating costs, find and seal any of these gaps that are allowing air to escape. Check the cutouts surrounding electrical fixtures, pipes, fans and outlets under the insulation in your attic for any holes that might allow air to pass through. You can use caulk to seal the smaller holes or gaps and expanding foam to block those larger openings.

Tip 4: Lower The Temperature Of Your Home’s Hot Water

The average water heater is set at 140 degrees. To save on fuel costs and to avoid getting water burns over the winter, you can lower the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees. This will still leave the water plenty hot for bathing, laundry and dishwashing.

Tip 5: Add Insulation To Your Attic

Insulation is especially important during the winter time, as it keeps the cold air from entering your home and the warm air from escaping. It is suggested that homes in states where the climate is warmer, such as Texas, have R-38 insulation in the attic for optimal results. Adding insulation to your attic, basement or crawl space can be a fairly difficult task, so hiring a professional to get the job done might be the quickest and most efficient route to take.

Tip 6: Invest In A Programmable Thermostat

According to EnergyStar, investing in a programmable thermostat can save you up to $180 per year in energy costs. These thermostats will conserve energy by automatically adjusting the temperature in your home to a level that is comfortable or adjusting the temperature in your home while you are away. Additionally, adjustable thermostats are eco-friendly because of these energy saving benefits.

Tip 7: Seal The Furnace Ducts In Your Home

On average, the air ducts in your home which carry warm air will waste approximately twenty to thirty percent of this warm air as it travels through the ducts. This can be attributed to leaks or poor conduction. If your heating ducts are leaking, this can lead to higher utility bills and a home that seems impossible to keep warm. Some of these heating ducts will be out of reach, as they are hidden inside of your home’s walls, ceilings and floors. However, you can improve the function of some ducts by sealing those that you are able to reach. These exposed ducts will usually be located in your attic, crawl space, unfinished basements and garages. To seal the furnace ducts in your home, use mastic sealant or metal tape. These materials are more durable than standard duct tape.

Tip 8: Replace Your Home’s Furnace Filters Every Month

When your furnace filter is dirty, furnace efficiency is reduced, which consequently increases your home’s heating bill. Dirty furnace filters can also cause your furnace to malfunction and lead to premature furnace replacement. To extend the lifespan of your furnace and to ensure that it is functioning optimally, check and replace the filter every month during the winter or every three months as long as the furnace is running. One way to identify whether or not you need to change the furnace filter is by holding the filter up to the light. If you cannot see light through the filter, it is time to be replaced. The next time your replace your furnace filter, opt for a pleated filter. These work best because they are able to trap more dirt.

Tip 9: Keep Your Home’s Furnace Running Smoothly

In addition to checking your furnace’s filter, you should also have your furnace serviced every year or every two years, depending on the age of the furnace. Having your furnace regularly looked at by professionals will help you to find any problems before they cause larger issues which in turn, extends the lifespan of the furnace.

Tip 10: Plug Any Leaks Around Your Home

Before winter arrives, perform a walk through on the inside and outside of your home. As you do this, take note of any areas where you find cracks or gaps that might let outside air indoors. Pay special attention to the areas surrounding your home’s siding, foundation, skylights, vents, doorframes and windows. Approximately one-third of heat that makes its way outside from the inside of your home will escape through windows and doors. The seals around the edges of windows are prone to cracking and wearing down over time as a home settles and temperatures change. If you do find any cracks or leaks in your home’s window or doorframes, seal these with waterproof caulking or weather stripping. On all other areas of your home, use caulk to seal small cracks and foam sealer to plug any larger areas. You should also check the openings around appliance vents, electrical and plumbing fixtures and furnace ducts for leaks.

Tip 11: Insulate Your Home’s Hot Water Pipes

Insulating your hot water pipes will help to keep your home warmer in the winter. If your home’s hot water pipes are exposed, they can waste heat as the water that passes through them cools down. Check your local hardware store for pre-slit, hollow-core, flexible foam pipe insulation. Make sure you measure the diameter and length of your pipes and take these measurements with you to the hardware store.

Tip 12: Use Window Coverings In Your Home

In addition to the insulation which provides a barrier between the inside of your home and the weather outside, you can also use window coverings such as curtains, drapes, shades and mini blinds to help keep your home warm during the winter months. Close the window coverings in your home at night and while you are not at home to help trap in heat.

Tip 13: Purchase A Carbon Monoxide Detector For Your Home

Fuel burning appliances such as furnaces, water heaters, stoves, fireplaces and generators are sources of carbon monoxide. As we use these types of appliances more often during the winter time, we are at a higher risk for carbon monoxide exposure. Investing in a carbon monoxide detector as winter begins is a good way to keep your family safe, as these detectors will alert you when the levels of carbon monoxide in your home become too high. You should also check that your smoke detectors are functioning properly.

Tip 14: Keep Your Home Humid

As we seal our homes up to trap in heat during the winter, we are preventing moisture from entering. This lack of moisture can cause a variety of problems in the winter time, including health problems such as dry sinuses. For the sake of your health and for general comfortability, use a humidifier in your home during the winter months.

Preparing your home before the cold weather hits will allow you and your family to enjoy a much more pleasant cold weather season. We hope these tips make this coming winter a bit more tolerable and enjoyable for you and your loved ones as you spend quality time together at home.

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