Our Newsletter: December, 2013
Happy Holidays - Happy New Year 2013
Valuable Winter Homeowner Tips
Here is a list of valuable information to consider this winter
You might be losing a lot of heat through your roof, so take a look at the quality
and amount of insulation on your attic floor. It should be in good condition, uniformly
thick and distributed evenly with no gaps. The vapor barrier side should be facing
downward -- toward the living space you are trying to keep warm. Also, the insulation
should be dry and free of gaps.
Do your snow chores
There are many chores that need to be done after a big snow. Consider the task
as your excuse to get outside and enjoy winter's splendor:
- Clear all walkways with a snow shovel and sprinkle sand or rock salt on them for traction. (Be careful with the salt; it can leach into your flowerbeds and can hurt your pets' feet.)
- Make a complete check of your roof for ice dams and break them up to release water if necessary. Frozen ice dams along the eaves cause water to pond above and possibly leak through.
- Knock snow away from tree branches near your house to keep them from breaking under the weight.
- Clean snow and ice from roofs that have shallow angles or little support (sheds, carports, lean-tos, etc) if it can be done safely.
Block that vent
As a short-term measure to get through a cold winter with water pipes intact, block north-facing crawlspace vents with a piece of plywood or other suitable barrier.
Let your water run
If a cold snap is predicted and you live in an marginally insulated house, leave your sink and bathtub faucets on -at a slow trickle- to keep your pipes from freezing. This is particularly important if the heat is turned off in the house for any period.
Maintain the oil heater
If you have oil heat, you can save fuel and repair costs by cleaning some parts of the oil burner yourself. Turn off power to the system, lift the blower cover and then dust the blades of the blower. Lubricate the motor by pouring oil in the oil cups. If you're handy, you can clean the oil strainer and replace the filter. Check the burners owner's manual to get details on do-it-yourself maintenance for your oil burner.
Clean heating ducts
If you have forced-air heating ducts, completely check ducts once a year for leaks and seal with duct tape. Regularly vacuum dust grilles, and have the entire system professionally cleaned annually, or as recommended by your heating system's maintenance manual.
Get rid of mice or rats
If mice or rats have occupied your home despite efforts to keep them out, don't be
discouraged. They can do damage that ranges from leaving a mess of droppings to
chewing through electrical wires, which can cause a fire and burn your house down.
First, determine whether you have rats or mice. Rats make a lot of noise and
leave half-inch droppings. Next, buy a dozen traps, bait half of them (peanut butter
works great and is cheap bait) and place them without setting them. After the rodents
have taken the first bait, re-bait and set all the traps in one fell swoop. Wear gloves
to dispose of the rodents, trap and all. (Do not reuse traps or you will have a harder
time going through with the chore.) Mice and rats breed like rabbits, so keep repeating
this cycle until there is no new evidence of these unwelcome pests.
Check emergency supplies
Take time to evaluate your home's emergency kit. A battery-powered radio, a
first-aid kit, several blankets, several gallons of fresh water, tools for shutting
off gas and water lines, candles and matches, flashlights and batteries should all
be included. Check the batteries -- they will drain with time if not used.
If you live in an area with extremely cold winters, make sure you have a backup
heat supply, whether it's a wood stove and a well-stocked woodshed, or a backup
If you live in hurricane country, keep a supply of plywood
and nails for protecting windows. Residents of earthquake-vulnerable areas should
have a multiple-days' supply of water and food per person. If you are a camper,
consider keeping your camping supplies near your emergency stash -- camp stoves,
waterproof matches and tarps are all items that could come in handy should disaster
strike. Consider your area, and what measures you should take if disaster strikes.
Make big plans
Winter is the perfect time of the year to itemize changes you would like to make
in and around your house. Take a day to sit down and make a list of what you would
like changed, from new throw rugs to a complete remodel. If a remodeling job is on
your list and you want to begin as soon as the weather warms, start talking to
contractors now, you may be able to negotiate an off season deal.
If you have a new home, live in it for the better part of a year before you
undertake a major remodel. Become familiar with your house; watch how it interacts
with its environment through spring, summer, fall and winter. This will help you
decide what you really need.
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