Tips to Help You Prepare for Winter
“Winter is Coming” is not only the motto for House Stark of HBO’s medieval fantasy series, Game of Thrones; these three words are enough to send chills down your spine. The winter blues, cold nights, -40 °C days, endless shoveling – living in Canada, winter is inevitable every year.
The best thing we can do is prepare, or if you can afford it become a snow bird – but that’s unrealistic for many of us. Since we have to deal with it, here are some great tips to help you prepare for the winter.
Tips for the Home
De-clutter your gutter
A clean, good working gutter is essential to keeping a well maintained home in the winter. Before the snow starts to fall, make sure to unclog your gutter of leaves and twigs to ensure that they can drain the winter rain and snow properly. If left unclogged, water can pool in one spot which could result in a costly home repair down the line.
The air out there
You want to keep the cold out and heat in – it’s as simple as that. Make sure you check your windows for any cracks, leaks and any openings that let cold air in and hot air out. These cracks could end up costing you a fortune over the cold winter months and put a strain on your furnace; as it can run non-stop to heat the house.
Change filters and go
During the winter ─ and year round really ─ make sure to change your filter regularly. A dirty filter will decrease air flow and energy-efficiency. Make sure you check, or get a licensed professional to check the condition of your furnace before the cold winter months. If your furnace is ready to be replaced, it’s a good idea to buy an energy-efficient model. These can save you money and energy each month. Having a broken furnace in the middle of old man winter is a tough situation to put you and your family in – I wouldn’t want to wish that on any one!
One of the worst things that can happen to your home is a burst pipe caused by the winter freeze. You should take as many precautions as you can to prevent that from happening before the temperature drops. Ensure that the water to your hose bibs is turned off inside your house and that the lines have been drained. You can install styrofoam insulation at the spigots to help with this. Then look for non-insulated pipes – usually in garages, crawlspaces, and basements.
Duct duct goose
It is estimated that homes with central heating can lose as much as 60% of their heated air through poorly connected and non-insulated ducts. If possible, repair these problems in your house before winter starts. You might find your ducts in the attic, basement or other hidden places. They should also be vacuumed every couple of years to remove the build up of dirt and dust – this hinders proper air flow.
Blinded by the night
There’s less daylight in the winter so naturally we’ll have to turn the light on sooner, and for a longer period of time. Buying ENERGY SAVER products and bulbs for your outdoor lightning can save a lot of energy. ENERGY STAR even makes CFL and LED flood lights that can withstand the rain, snow and sleet. As an extra energy-saving effort, look for automatic daylight shut-off and motion sensors. Also unlike the Griswold’s, you can save money decorating with LED holiday lights instead of regular bulbs to reduce the energy cost you use for the holidays.
Tips for the Car
Tire for hire
The tires on the vehicle are probably the most important part of winter driving. It’s generally recommended that winter tires be installed when the temperatures plunge below 7° Celsius. Winter tires enhance safety by improving traction, braking and handling in winter conditions. Make sure you install four winter tires with the same size and tread pattern. If the tread is low on the tires, driving in the snow becomes dangerous. Proper tire pressure extends tread life, improves safety, reduces fuel consumption and should be checked regularly. Tire pressure decreases as temperatures drop – make sure to check the pressures at least once a month. They are a hefty investment, but the peace of mind they provide on the roads are worth every nickel. Having a set of winter tires installed will also reduce your insurance rates, contact your broker for more information.
Blades of glory
Wiper blades wear down over time and as the air gets colder and drier, the compounds used in the rubber degrades even faster. Replacement wipers are cheap and available at almost any store that carries auto parts. When the roads are covered in slush that consists of snow/ice and the salt used to melt it, that mixture can completely obscure the view out of your windshield. If you have wiper blades that are not cleaning the whole windshield properly you will have a hard time seeing. This can be a hazardous to other drivers and pedestrians on the road. Replacing wiper blades is a quick and cheap fix that can be done by anyone.
Make sure your windshield wiper fluid reservoir contains fluids that remain in its liquid state even when the temperature plunges well below zero. If you don’t already know, find out what temperature your windshield wiper fluid is rated at. The normal washer fluid that gets topped off during your oil changes don’t have additional non-freeze additives. Some are meant to be used in warmer climates where temperatures rarely dip below 0°C and some are meant to stay liquid at -20°C. Being in Ottawa where temperatures can dip to temperatures as cold as -40°C, you don’t want to drive down the street with no visibility and find out your windshield wiper fluid is frozen. The non-freeze variety is a little pricier than the regular washer fluid but is definitely worth it – especially on those extra cold days when you have a lot of driving to do.
Get lubed up
Get an oil change if you haven’t had one in over 3 months or have driven over 5000 km. Over time as the car is driven, oil starts to lose its viscosity. When temperatures also dip, oil loses its ability to lube and protect the engine even more. As a result, engines have to work harder and will consume more fuel to do so. Check the level of the coolant system first, then check the dilution. These are easily and usually checked during an oil change at most garages/oil change shops. If you’re not familiar with the system, it’s best to let a professional handle this as there’s risk to be burned by hot steam and liquid. As for checking the dilution of the anti-freeze, there’s a tool that will measure the temperature at which the coolant will actually begin to freeze. Most are normally rated for -30°C, and some go even lower (especially with cold climate like ours). If it’s anything less, you’ll want to get a flush done and make sure to repair any leaks. The coolant is also the source of the heating system in the vehicle and on those sub-zero days, going without a heater in the car can be not only inconvenient but also hazardous.
These tips are only a few of the many steps to be taken to get your home and car ready and prepared for the upcoming winter. Winterizing will save you money, energy and keep you and your family safe and sound.
For more winter tips check out our blog: Tips to Save Money and Energy This winter