9 Things You Need to Do Now to Prepare for Winter


Winter is coming, and Westeros isn't the only place where there's much to prepare for. Make sure you keep your home, health, and sanity intact by taking the following preventative measures now.

1. Slowly Condition Your Home to Cooler Temperatures

As soon as our homes get chilly, the kneejerk reaction is to run to the thermostat and crank up the heat. While our bodies are instantly grateful for our natural impulses, our wallets will start to feel the pain not long after.

Kyle James, founder of Rather-Be-Shopping.com, suggests a different approach to help acclimate your body to living comfortably by changing your warming pattern.

"If during the winter and fall months you typically keep your thermostat at 73 during the day and 66 at night, try an experiment and lower it by one degree each week for a month," he says. "Slowly try changing the temperature you are used to and let your body adjust. Wear a sweatshirt if this is a difficult adjustment. This tip has the potential to save you quite a bit of money this winter."

Another great tip he shares to help your home capture more heat during the winter is to seal or wrap your windows to prevent cold air from seeping in, and open the blinds and curtains in the morning to take advantage of the natural heat from the sun that will pour through your windows and help raise the temperature of those rooms a bit.

2. Kick Rodents and Other Pests to the Curb

During the milder months, the weather is nice enough that we generally don't have to worry about vermin taking over our homes — they're enjoying the outdoors as much as we are. But when the temps take a dive, everybody runs for cover… even the creepy-crawlies.

"Rodents, spiders, cockroaches, and other pests also seek shelter from the winter elements — and unfortunately our warm homes make the perfect haven," says Amanda Polyak, a representative for the National Pest Management Association. "It's important to take preventative measures now to keep these pests out because they are known to spread diseases, bring other dangerous pests such as ticks and fleas in to the home, and trigger asthma and allergies."

To help keep this nightmare scenario at bay, Polyak recommends taking a few steps to ensure your home is home to only you and your family:

  • Seal cracks and holes on the outside of your home to help prevent rodents from getting inside. Be sure to check the areas where utilities and pipes enter the home. A mouse can fit through a hole the size of a dime.
  • Replace loose mortar and weather stripping around the basement foundation and windows.
  • Store firewood at least 20 feet from the home. Mice and ants can make their nests in woodpiles and easily gain access to your home if the pile is nearby.
  • Rodents can hide in clutter, so keep storage areas well organized, and store boxes off of the floor.
  • Eliminate all moisture sites, including leaking pipes and clogged drains. Pay special attention to kitchens and bathrooms, as these areas are particularly vulnerable to cockroach infestations.
  • Keep attics, basements, and crawl spaces well ventilated and dry. Install door sweeps and repair damaged screens in windows.
  • Screen vents to chimneys.

3. Stock Up on Your Outdoor Hardware

You wouldn't face an impending winter storm without the proper essentials indoors  bread, milk, toilet paper, WINE — and you shouldn't forget about the supplies you'll need to take care of the outside of your home either. Do an early check to make sure you have rakes, shovels, snow blowers, sidewalk salt, and other winter cleanup items that you'll need to keep everybody safe who will step on to your property before, during, and after a winter-weather event. Rush the hardware store a day before and you'll likely find very little stock left or face supply-and-demand pricing, which will only make matters worse.

4. Clear Vents and Chimneys to Avoid Carbon Monoxide Mishaps

Tim Flynn, owner of Winter Home Services, has seen firsthand the dangers of obstructed chimneys and vents — a hazardous scenario due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. He offers a few tips on staying safe and warm this winter:

  • Inspect vents and chimneys to make sure they are unobstructed. Clear leaves and vines; prune shrubs and plants so they do not block vents. Anything around a vent or chimney needs to be removed as it can block the exhaust, which can cause carbon monoxide to back up into the home as well as trigger heating system shut-off or malfunction.
  • Install, check and/or replace smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Both fire and carbon monoxide can be deadly and silent. Manufacturers recommend replacing detectors every five years.

5. Take Preventative Measures Against Pipe Freezing

The last thing you want this winter are burst pipes that have frozen because you didn't properly prepare them. WikiHow has a great step-by-step DIY article on how to properly prevent pipes from freezing, but you also can find a few great tips from Wise Bread.

Bill Redfern, founder and president of A Buyer's Choice Home Inspections, goes a couple steps further when he suggests that we "check to ensure sprinkler systems are blown out and winterized and exterior faucets and water lines are insulated; drain the air conditioner pipes; and if your air conditioner has a water shut-off valve, turn it off."

If you have a swimming pool in your yard, it's important that you properly winterize that as well.

6. Visit Your Doctor or Local Pharmacy for a Flu Shot

Ebola fears have reached a fever pitch lately, but that virus doesn't hold a candle to seasonal influenza, which claims thousands of lives each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Give your body the best chance of avoiding the flu — and fighting it if you do catch it — by getting a flu shot. While you're at the doctor, update your prescriptions and take care of any other check-up type necessities, so you can make fewer trips when the weather is poor.

7. Outfit Your Car for Winter Weather

Paul Purcell is a terrorism and natural disaster preparedness trainer and author of Disaster Prep 101. He suggests topping off your tank, "docking" your car, pre-treating your locks so they don't freeze, covering your car if it's susceptible to the elements, and keeping the engine block warm.

Personally, I also would recommend keeping a first-aid kit in your car (at all times, not just during the winter), along with hand warmers, flares, heavy blankets, an emergency phone (I own this model from SpareOne), and a few days' non-perishable food and water in the event that you're ever stranded. These items literally could be the difference between life and death.

8. Replace Shingles and Clean Your Gutters

Hop up on the roof to inspect and replace any loose shingles to avoid a potentially devastating in-home disaster from melting precipitation that could make its way inside. At the same time, clean out your gutters to remove leaves, sticks, and other debris that can block the flow of rain and melting snow and ice and which also will put an added strain on your gutters with additional precipitation on top of it.

9. Consider the Well-Being of Your Mind and Body

Winter is notorious for bringing on bouts of depression as a result of many nefarious factors — cold temperatures, limited daylight, cabin fever, etc. That's why it's important for you to plan ahead and prepare yourself based on how you expect you'll feel when the going gets tough.

These preventative measures will be different for every person, and I'm not a doctor so I can't tell you exactly what you should do here, but you probably have a good idea of the initial steps you can take to make the best of this situation. You'll also want to make sure you've stocked up on moisturizers and other skin-hydrating products (or make them at home) so your skin can stay smooth and comfortable throughout the winter.

How do you prepare for winter? Do you have other tips you'd like to add to this list? Please share in comments!

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Guest's picture

In our house, the temperature never got turned above 69 in winter ... it's an adjustment anyone can make, and you won't die .... I'm living proof!