If you’ve been in Texas for more than a few days you’ve probably learned how fast the weather can change. You might wake up to winter, eat breakfast in spring, feel the heat of summer by 3pm, and reach for an autumn jacket as the sun goes down. There’s a saying here, if you don’t like the weather here, just wait a couple hours.
Texans, especially central and south, are not used to prolonged periods of cold, especially ice and snow. 2021 was eye opening for sure. Homes here are not built for that type of cold either, especially older homes. And our grid system is another problem that has not been resolved yet. So it’s a good idea to plan for the worse again and hope for the best.
Last year’s great freeze was a surprise to everyone, so this year we can better prepare from lessons learned! Although we live in the south, it’s still a good idea to winterize your home, as we now know. Not only is winterizing your home important, but also preparing to hunker down and manage power and water outages as we saw in 2021. Here are a few basic tips to get you ahead of the game the next time the mercury drops below freezing.
1: Cover Outside Faucets
The most important thing to winterize is your outdoor faucets, hoses, and pipes. These have the greatest potential for water to freeze and burst. You can prevent this by covering your faucets with styrofoam bib or an insulated cover to seal off the outside cold air. This works well if the temperatures are only low for a short period of time. If temperatures are going to be colder for a longer period you might want to think about draining the water out of the hose and detaching the sprayer nozzle since water will expand when it freezes and burst the pipe. Locate your main water shut off now and make sure you have a key or tool to turn it off if you have a pipe burst.
Keep yourself warm by checking your doors and windows for cold drafts. Use caulk and weather stripping to seal off any opening that are letting the warm air out and the cold air in. Also check for any cracks around the house that may be letting cold air in. You don’t want to waste your money heating the outdoors! Check the insulation in your attic too and make sure all pipes in the attic are insulated well. If your windows are old and drafty, you may want to consider replacing them. Replacing your siding can also help better insulate your home. Contact us for referrals to reputable local companies if you plan to do any major home improvements.
3: Check Your Heater and Fireplaces
I don’t know what is worse, having your HVAC break down in the hot Texas summer or the cold of winter. Either way, getting an inspection and keeping up with maintenance will help you feel secure this winter. For those who have a fireplace here in Texas, you’ll want to make sure there are no critter nests in the chimney before you start that fire. Having a chimney sweep and inspection done is also a good idea. When we had our siding replaced recently, we surprisingly discovered we had a chimney fire and didn’t even know it! Luckily our house didn’t burn down! You should also invest in carbon monoxide detectors and install them per the specific instructions. As always, be careful with space heaters as they are a major cause of house fires each winter. Contact us for local referrals if you need vendors to prepare your home for winter. If you have a fireplace, stock up on wood now and keep it in an accessible, dry spot.
4: Trim Trees and Clean Gutters
Cleaning the gutters can be a pain, especially if you are like me and have all the tiny oak leaves in your yard. Having clean gutters will help water flow and prevent any damages from potential freezes. Invest in leaf guards for your gutters to help control clogging and reduce maintenance. Make sure that tree branches are trimmed back from the roof. This will help prevent shingle damage when the branches are blown by wind or sagging from ice. While you are up there give your roof a good check for any damaged shingles that may need to be replaced.
5: Winterize Plants
Start by bringing the potted plants inside. If you have a lot of plants and not enough space inside you can try a shed, garage, or portable green house. For the plants you can’t bring inside, start with a good layer of mulch. Mulch and water will help insulate against cold weather and keep moisture inside. Give the plants a good watering before it gets dark. To give your outdoor plants the best chance of surviving you should cover them. Some type of fabric material (shade netting, bed sheet, table cloth, blanket) should do the trick, just make sure you take it off during the day to get sunlight. Of course, if it gets too cold there might be nothing you can do except hope for the best. This year I added lights to my greenhouse to keep the temperature up. Last year, with the prolonged freezing temps my plants didn’t make it.
6. Prepare for a Power Outage
Always stay prepared for any power outages that may happen during a winter storm. Whether it’s branches falling on power lines or rolling blackouts, you may well end up without power for hours or even days, as some people experienced in 2021 in TX. Keep plenty of flashlights on hand as well as lots of extra batteries. When the power goes out for extended periods of time, the inside temps of your house can drop quickly. Have a plan for how you will maintain warmth in your home. Close doors to rooms that get the coldest and plan to live in the warmest rooms with plenty of blankets and hopefully a fireplace. Keep pets indoors and warm with you. Never use propane heaters indoors. Invest in some thermal under garments and wool socks. Check on neighbors and elderly friends to make sure they are safe too.
7. Prepare for a Water Outage
Due to pipes bursting, many people found themselves without water for many days last year. Many residents in apartment complexes lost water for weeks as plumbers were in short supply due to the overwhelming amount of pipe breaks. If you do get water damage inside or behind the walls, take great care in remediating all the water and completely drying out boards before replacing drywall so as to not create conditions for mold to grow. This became a big problem in 2021 as the aftermath of storm damage. Stock up on gallons of fresh drinking water. Purchase some face and body wipes in case you can’t shower for a few days. It’s also a smart idea to fill up any bathtubs with water before the storm to use to flush the toilets. If you don’t have a tub, start now collecting old gallon jugs to fill with tap water to have on hand. Locate your main water shut off now and make sure you have a key or tool to turn it off if you have a pipe burst.
8. Stock up on Food and Supplies
Driving can also be treacherous. So it’s best to avoid going out of possible. In 2021 roads were closed for days as we do not have the equipment to prepare and clear roads when there is that much ice and snow. Stock up on food and water so you don’t have to get out to go shopping. Set yourself up with supplies you can use if you have no water or power too. Here are some good ideas. Check on your elderly friends and neighbors to make sure they have supplies.
9. Be Careful Walking Outside
Yes, it’s beautiful outside in the snow, but it’s also dangerous if you aren’t used to it. Sidewalks and driveways can be very slippery. You definitely do not want to end up in urgent care during an ice storm!
We hope these winterize tips help you stay safe and warm this winter!
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