While the beginning of this week brought some pretty mild temperatures to the Merrimack Valley (I even took the princesses to the playground!), with Thanksgiving only one week away nobody can forget that winter is lurking right around the corner. Winters in New England can vary in intensity. For example, last winter (2011-12) we barely had a winter - there were about 3 snow storms and most days the temperatures made it close to 50 degrees. However, the year before that, it snowed almost every other day; it felt like the minute we were done shoveling another 6 inches fell on top of the freshly cleared walkway.
No matter what, it's hard to predict how the weather will be for any particular year and in the spirit of the famous saying "Better safe than sorry" it makes sense to get your home ready for the possibility of cold temperatures and snow.
In an effort to help you get ready, the Queen has compiled a list of some of the things you should check and get prepared:
1. Check Your Furnace: First and foremost, unless you really know what you're doing it's best to call in a professional to do this job. You want to make sure that the filter, supply lines, and ductwork is checked as well as the thermostat.
2. Clean Your Chimney: If you have a fireplace that you plan on using, it's a good idea to get the chimney checked and cleaned (I recommend by a professional - we cleaned ours ourselves one year...it was...interesting and dirty). Creosote can build up inside the chimney and there's always the possibility that a bird or some other animal built a nest inside. Also make sure the damper is checked. Trust me, the last thing you want is carbon monoxide build up occuring in your home and then your alarm going off at 2 am and having the fire department evacuate you and your pets into the 20 degree air in your jammies, but I digress..
3. Clean Your Gutters: Most people I know don't enjoy this task - you're either on a ladder or clambering around on your roof trying to get all the leaves and debris out of there. I've personally done both of these things - so much fun (or not!). Anyways, fun or not, cleaning the gutters is important because if your gutters are clogged and fill up with rain, then freeze, they can detach from your house or cause the gutters to crack. You don't want to be replacing gutters in the spring, so clean them!
4. Check Your Snowblower (or plow): Here in New England, a lot of people are caught off guard by the first snowfall. We all know it's coming eventually but it's still surprising when it actually happens. The King and I have been stuck with a driveway full of snow and no removal method except our shovels and our muscles. Don't wait to drag that snowblower out and give it a once over to make sure it's ready to go when you need it.
5. Install Weatherstripping: Now is the time to inspect around your doors and windows to see what condition the caulking and weatherstripping is in. If there are cracks or broken pieces, replace them to prevent air leaks. An interesting fact - in the average American home, the gaps around doors and windows are equivilant to a 3x3 foot hole...that's a lot of (expensive) heat escaping!
Last but not least...
6. Assemble an Emergency Kit: Your emergnecy kit at a minimum should contain flashlights, bottled water, blankets, first aid kit, and non-perishable foods. It's also a good idea to have a battery powered or crank radio so that you can keep up with what's going on. Yes, I know most people just use their smart phone now but I realized during the last storm when my cell/4G service went offline for about 6 or 7 hrs that I had no idea what was going on - it's always good to have another link to the outside world during a weather event.
Question: Any lessons learned about winter preparedness that you'd like to share? I'd love to add them to my list!
Last Words: This blog post reminded me that I need to check all these things around our own house. Sometimes life gets so busy that things like this don't get attention until it's too late. I'll make a deal with you - I'll check mine if you check yours - the first serious snowfall and super freezing temps will be here before we know it!
Thanks for reading!