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Winter is here. If you have’t prepared your home for cold weather, now is the time. The main reason most people winterize their home is to save money on their heating bills. But from a prepper’s perspective, many of the things on this list will make your home much more livable should the power be knocked out for an extended period of time. Once you gather the necessary supplies, you should be able to get most of this done in a single weekend. Take care of it now before the craziness of the holidays arrives.
1. Seal Air Leaks. Doing this will significantly lower your heating bill. First, caulk around the edges of windows, then add weatherstripping, but don’t stop there. Weatherstripping is also great for stopping drafts around doors (don’t forget the attic access door). You should also install door sweeps.
Of course, windows and doors aren’t the only places where heat can escape. Walk around your house and look for gaps around plumbing pipes and vents (for this you might need some foam sealant). You should also add insulation around recessed lights (baffles are good for this), and close exterior vents.
2. Cover Your Windows. Get a window insulator kit and start covering your windows. This traps air between the film and the window and turns the air itself into an insulator. The kit comes with double-sided tape and will cover up to 5 windows. If you can afford it, storm windows are a more permanent solution.
Blackout curtains can also help prevent heat loss, but I wouldn’t rely on these alone. Still, they’re a good thing to have when there’s a power outage but you don’t want the whole block to know you have plenty of lights (and therefore plenty of supplies). Just be sure to open them during the day to let sunlight in.
3. Check Your Heating System. It’s a good idea to have your heating system checked by a professional to make sure it’s working efficiently. If you have a furnace, clean it out and replace the filter. Also make sure any heating vents around your house are not blocked by furniture or drapes.
Be sure to put fresh batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in case your heating system gets overworked or in case the power goes out and you have to use candles, oil lamps, space heaters, camp stoves, etc. You can also save on energy by putting an insulation blanket over your water heater.
4. Get Your Fireplace Ready. Fireplaces aren’t a very efficient way to heat your home, but they’re good for heat and cooking during power outages. Get a flashlight and check the flue for creosote buildup, bird nests, large cracks, and other potential problems. Don’t forget to check the outside to make sure none of the bricks or mortar are crumbling. And of course, don’t forget to stock up on plenty of firewood.
It’s also important to make sure the damper closes tightly to prevent drafts, but even that may not be enough. If your fireplace has been used even just a few time times, the damper might be warped and letting out heat. A great solution is a flue sealer. It’s basically an inflatable plastic pillow that plugs up the flue. Just install it carefully to make sure there are no leaks around the edges.
5. Reverse Your Ceiling Fans. Most ceiling fans have reverse switches, and there’s an important reason for this. If you look up at your fan you’ll notice it turns counterclockwise, but in the winter you want it to turn clockwise instead. Warm air rises to the ceiling, but with your fan spinning clockwise it will create an updraft that pushes warm air around the room without creating a wind chill.
6. Insulate Pipes. Make sure to cover exposed pipes in unheated areas such as the basement, attic, crawlspace, or outside. For this you can use pipe insulation sleeves. Be sure to cover every part of the pipe including the bends and joints and seal the seams with duct tape. This will prevent busted pipes and serious water damage. Another option is pipe wrap insulation, but you might have to use a lot of it. I’ve also heard of people using newspapers and duct tape. And of course you can just let your faucets drip, but it’s a waste of water and be warned that if it gets cold enough your pipes can still freeze.
One other thing: Don’t forget to remove any garden hoses that are attached to outside faucets and put them away for the winter. After that, find the shut-off valve for your outside faucets and turn it to the off position. Finally, open the outside faucets and let them drain.
7. Add Insulation To Your Attic. Since heat rises, much of it can be lost through a poorly insulated attic. The type and amount of insulation you need depends on where you live. For this, I would go somewhere like Home Depot rather than order it online.
8. Clean the Gutters. When gutters are clogged, rain and melted snow can cause leaks and damage. Get all the leaves, twigs, and caked-on dirt out of there, and run water through the downpipes to make sure they’re not clogged. You can also install snow guards to prevent piles of snow and sheets of ice from sliding off the roof and causing damage.
9. Check for Tree Limbs. Heavy snow and ice can cause them to break and fall, so be sure to trim any limbs that are hanging over your house.
10. Make a Plan. If you’re a prepper, you should already have food, water, and medical supplies. But do you have a plan for staying warm and cooking food if the power goes out? If not, check out the articles Indoor Heating Without Power and Indoor Cooking Without Power.