It’s the time of year when you trade your T-shirts for wool sweaters, your leaf rakes for snow shovels and your air conditioning for a roaring fire. The first snowfall is exciting and the holidays are just around the corner. But while your kids have visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads, you’re envisioning sky-high heating bills, bursting water pipes and other havoc wreaked on your home by the plummeting temperatures.
As homeowners we’re often faced with the harsher realities of the changing seasons. A heavy snowfall doesn’t just mean a day off school or work; it can also mean an overworked furnace, a power outage, even burst pipes. And let’s not forget about rising energy costs — South African spend almost twice as much of their income on energy as they did a decade ago. While we can’t always predict what Jack Frost will send our way from year to year, we can take a few precautions to ensure we spend less time cleaning up weather-induced messes and fretting over utility bills and more time building sledding ramps in the back yard.
Did you know about one-third of the heat lost in a home finds its way to the outside through doors and windows? That’s a huge amount. Inefficient heating and insulation can drive up electric and gas bills.
Windows are just bound to have gaps around them. The seal around the edges wears down or cracks over time with changing temperatures and a settling house. After a while, these gaps and cracks can let hot air out and cold air in (or vice versa during the summer). Use waterproof caulking or weather stripping to block the gaps and keep the heat inside where it belongs.
Just as bears and raccoons hibernate over the winter, most plants go dormant during the colder months. Most plants need sunlight, warmth and water to grow — three things usually lacking in the wintertime — so they stop growing and rest for a few months. During that time you get to take a break too, but before you trade in your leaf rake for a snow shovel, prep your plants.
Try to get in one last good watering of your outdoor plants during the late fall before the first hard freeze. You can also apply a slow-acting fertilizer to trees and shrubs, which will continue to feed the plants through the winter months.
Who wants to experience a winter without heat? It’s downright dangerous, so check out your house well before the first frost. Inspect your furnace, ducts, chimney, and pipes for leaks, cracks or broken parts. Perform any maintenance or energy-saving tasks, like insulating pipes, sweeping the chimney or changing the furnace filter. At the same time, protect the AC by covering it with a tarp and draining the water from any connected pipes.
To keep that precious heat from escaping through cracks, attach door sweeps to the bottoms of your doors. You can also use a draft stopper (also called a draft snake or a draft guard), a long fabric tube filled with rice or beans or an inflatable pouch that blocks the gap under a door.