Tips & info on maintaining and enjoying your Connecticut home
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Winter 2012

The official start of winter is Thursday the 21st, and there is no doubt winter is here whether we are ready for it or not! Although the holidays are a busy time for us all, setting aside a little time for some basic maintenance and prep can save you major time, money, and hassle during the winter season.

Winterizing

Pest Prevention
Just like humans, pests seek the comforts of home in the cold winter months. Protect your home from unwanted visitors by taking some basic precautions:

 

  • Check walls, floors, and foundations for cracks and crevices. Mice and rats have an aptitude for locating these weak spots, and can squeeze themselves through any hole they can get their head through.
  • Discourage pests by removing potential shelter and bedding sources. Both insects and rodents enjoy hiding out in brush, bushes, plants, and mulch. Even firewood is a potential home, so be sure to inspect it thoroughly before bringing it into the home.
  • Don't offer pests a food source. Don't leave open food containers in cabinets or on counters. Seal trash bins (where possible). Vacuum often, and if you recycle, make sure any recyclables kept onsite are cleaned thoroughly; it only takes the tiniest scrap to get these critters looking for more.
  • If you believe you may have a pest problem, don't attempt to correct the problem yourself. Always call a licensed professional. Inexperienced attempts to get rid of pests may only exaggerate the problem.

Plumbing Fixtures with Potential to Freeze
While avoiding burst pipes may seem like a no-brainer, there are some basic preventative measures that are commonly overlooked. Make sure you are prepared:

 

 

  • It's easy to prevent pipes from freezing if they are inside the home. Ensure that your thermostat is set to at least 55 degrees. This is especially critical if you plan on being away from the home for any extended period of time (weather is unpredictable)!
  • Know your home; locate any exposed pipes (such as under a deck /crawlspace or in attics/basements). Determine if these pipes are adequately insulated, and if needed, take precautions.
  • Make sure you have a back-up plan! If you are going to be away from your home, have someone pop in to run the water, and check to make sure your furnace is functioning correctly. If a pipe has burst, catching the problem quickly is essential to preventing additional damage.
  • Learn where your shut-off valve is. In some cases, this may be in the home, but it is also frequently located on the street.
  • Take care to prevent outdoor fixtures from freezing as well. Drain any hoses or sprinkler equipment/systems, especially if the supply lines for these are located above ground.
  • If you have a pool, check with your pool care professional to ensure you have properly prepared for the winter months. Some professionals might recommend using insulation for protection, while others may suggest leaving filters and/or pumps running to prevent freezing.
  • Protect any well, fountain, or pump equipment by insulating with rags, blankets, trash bags, tarps, or foam.
  • If the power goes out and temperatures drop, run faucets at a trickle to prevent pipes from freezing. Opening cabinets underneath bathroom and kitchen sinks can also help prevent freezing for a time.
  • If a pipe does freeze, make sure not to directly apply any extreme heat to one point. Thaw pipes slowly and gradually using a heating pad/blanket, or a small space heater (not placed too close). If a pipe thaws too quickly, it could crack or burst.

Winter Yard Care
Winter may not seem like the season for lawn care, but there are some basic maintenance tasks that can prevent major headaches once temperatures drop:

 

 

  • Keep gutters clean and free of debris. Having clear channels for water to travel will ensure proper drainage, and can help avoid flooding, as well as lawn damage.
  • Check trees and bushes for loose/large branches; cut back as much as possible, and dispose of cuttings properly. If a strong wind comes, the tiniest twig can become a window-shattering disaster.
  • Take a walk around your yard. Make sure patio furniture is covered, or put away. Make sure any small items (toys, potted plants, watering cans) are stored properly for the season.
  • Have sand, salt, gloves, an ice scraper, and shovel on hand. Make sure these items are ready to use and not stored somewhere difficult to access (like the back of a shed).
  • If you have a dryer vent, make sure there aren't leaves or debris blocking it. If it snows, be sure to clear the snow away as soon as possible.
  • If you have an external meter for electricity, gas, or oil, try to keep the area clear of snow and ice to ensure professionals are safe when on your property.

 

 

Blizzard Preparation

While nobody likes to admit it, with winter comes the potential for an emergency. Make sure that you are prepared ahead of time.

 

 

  • Keep flashlights, candles, matches, and batteries in an easily accessible location. Make sure everyone in the family knows where these items are stored in the event of a blackout.
  • Have an updated first aid kit that is set aside especially for emergencies. If applicable, keep emergency meds (such as Benadryl or an Epi-Pen) in the kit in the event you need to travel to a shelter.
  • Keep blankets on hand. When the power goes out, temperatures can drop quickly. It's also a good idea to keep a blanket in the trunk of your car.
  • Stock up on non-perishable goods well before a storm hits. Avoid panic at the grocery store by being prepared ahead of time. Make sure you have a non-electric can opener handy.
  • Keep a few gallons of water on hand. If the power is out for an extended period of time, the town may issue a water ban.
  • If you have a land line, keep a non-battery powered chord phone handy. Even if the power is out, traditional phone lines may still be active. Have contact information for your oil supplier or Gas Company, as well as the electric company.
  • If you have pets, make sure you have supplies on hand for them as well. For exotic pets and fish, talk with your vet or pet supply store to see if there is a battery powered fail-safe for heaters or pumps to ensure a power outage doesn't put them in danger.
  • Keep your vehicle as full of fuel as possible. When the power goes out, gas shortages can occur. Having fuel ensures you are able to travel if needed. If you need to store fuel for a generator, ensure it is stored safely and properly.
  • Have a battery or hand-crank powered AM/FM radio available for storm and shelter updates. Make sure to check battery packaging for expiration dates.

For additional information regarding disaster preparedness visit the CDC at http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/poweroutage/needtoknow.asp