Winter months can be particularly harsh for seniors and the disabled, especially for those who live in states where the temperatures drop below freezing. It’s important to prepare your home now before the colder temperatures arrive. A little time spent winterizing your home — inside and out — will decrease your risk of falls, lower heating costs and reduce the impact of damaging winter storms.
1. Windows and Doors
Make sure your windows and doors are ready for storms and will keep in the heat during the winter. Check the weather-stripping and caulk around your windows and doors. Inspect wooden window frames, looking for rot or decay, and check the panes of your windows for cracks or gaps. If you find any problems, replace or repair your windows and doors to make sure they are sealed tight against the cold air.
2. Outdoor Landscaping and Maintenance
Trees or tree limbs that are near your house or that may be in danger of connecting with power lines should be trimmed. This prevents frozen or wind-blown branches from causing damage to your house or cutting off your electricity. Store flower pots, planters and hoses inside for the winter. Turn off your exterior faucets and drain your sprinkler system. Replace any missing bulbs in your outdoor lighting system, so that your sidewalks and doorways will be well-lit throughout the winter.
3. Snow and Ice Removal
Your snow blower and snow shovels should be stored a handy place for easy access. Check and refill the oil on your snow blower. Stock up on ice melt or sand for de-icing your ramps, sidewalks, steps and driveway. Keep the de-icing materials near exterior doors, so you can easily scatter it on icy surfaces.
4. Heating and Ventilating
Inspect your fireplace and chimney for any problems or hazards. Make sure the damper works to keep out drafts. If you have ceiling fans, switch them to a reverse or clockwise position to push hot air down from the ceiling. Don’t forget to clean or replace the air filter in your furnace—and do this regularly throughout the winter. A clean air filter will improve your furnace’s efficiency and the quality of the air inside your home throughout the winter. This is also a good time of year to test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, replacing batteries if necessary, and make sure you have working fire extinguishers in a few places around your home. Inspect your attic to be sure the ventilation and insulation are adequate to prevent ice dams on your roof.
5. Gutters, Roof, and Drains
If your roof is missing shingles or is damaged, repair or replace it before snow and ice can cause leaks. Ice and snow can also be hard on your gutters and downspouts, so be sure they are securely fastened. Clean out your gutters and make sure water drains off the roof and away from your home’s foundation.
6. Emergency Preparations
Create a bad weather emergency kit for both your home and your car. For the house, the kit should include plenty of extra water bottles, candles, matches or lighters, flashlights, and batteries in case of a power outage. Also, store canned food and other non-perishable items. Place flashlights on the bedside table and in other frequently used rooms. For your car, you will need flashlights, batteries, a cell phone charger, de-icing material, a small shovel, a snow/ice scraper, a warm change of clothes and a blanket. Keep a bag by your door packed with water and non-perishable food to take with you on each journey.
Government Assistance is Available
The Department of Energy helps low-income citizens and the elderly winterize their homes through government assistance programs. If you qualify, you can get help with insulating your home (sealing the interior, including walls, floors, attics and air ducts). This can save you a lot of money on your heating bills. The federal government supplies funding for this program to the states through a program known as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). You can find a listing of all agencies across the country and contact information on the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program home page.
Winterizing your home will allow you to create a safer living space and save money this winter. A local professional that specializes in age-in-place improvements can help you determine what needs to be done and can assist with inspections or needed repairs. With a thorough inspection and a few repairs when necessary, you can prevent damage to your home and ensure that it will keep you warm and dry during the coming winter.