Be Prepared for Winter Storms
If you’re not prepared for them, winter storms can be, at best, unpleasant. At worst, they can be dangerous, especially if your heating system malfunctions at a critical time. That’s why it’s crucial to prepare for winter storms well before they happen, starting during the spring and summer. You should have a few backup plans in place to ensure that your family remains safe and comfortable, no matter what the weather is like outside.
First, Educate Yourself on the Weather in Your Area
Many people run into trouble during the winter because they don’t know what to expect. Especially if you’re new to an area, you may not be fully aware of just how stormy it can get. Just because you’ve heard that it can get “snowy” in an area doesn’t mean you are necessarily ready for the worst winter has to offer. Spend some time looking into just how bad it can get in your area. Remember, even if you’ve lived in an area for years, it might still be possible for the winters to surprise you.
You should also educate yourself on the terms used by the National Weather Service. This organization will endeavor to inform you, ahead of time whenever possible, of incoming snowstorms and other major weather events. For example, a winter storm watch means that the NWS is keeping an eye on conditions, and it’s possible that hazardous winds and snow may occur within the next 48 hours.
The next step up from this is a winter weather advisory, which means that weather conditions could cause problems, although these are not expected to be severe. Finally, and most seriously, a winter storm warning, which refers to dangerous conditions that are expected by the experts at the NWS.
Make Sure Your HVAC System Is in Good Working Order
Maintenance of your HVAC system should be done in the off-season so that you don’t experience any catastrophic failures on the coldest days of the year. Find a reliable contractor from a company like Entek who can perform routine maintenance to ensure that you don’t have problems when it’s really important. This maintenance should be performed at least once a year.
If your HVAC system does fail, it’s also important that your contractor is available 24/7 for emergency services. A company like Entek offers this type of service. That way, no matter when your heating goes down, they’ll be able to come to the rescue so you don’t have to learn how to stay warm without heat.
Winterize Your Home
The next step is to prepare the outside of your home for the coldest winter days. Once again, don’t wait until it’s freezing cold to start doing this. Spring and summer are when you should start thinking about winter. In this way, you’ll have plenty of time to tackle potential problems and won’t be surprised when winter finally rolls around.
To begin winterizing your home, start with the pipes. Insulation sleeves can be placed around pipes to prevent them from freezing. Heat tape can also help with this. You should also ensure there are no cracks in the structure of your house that can allow warm air to escape. These cracks can be sealed with special caulking designed for this purpose.
Perhaps most importantly, ensure that your home’s insulation is up-to-date. Poor insulation means that your HVAC system will have to work extra hard to keep your home warm, potentially driving your energy bill up tremendously.
Consider Buying a Generator
Power failures are among the biggest problems that occur during winter storms. You can be prepared for these by investing in a generator for your home. Of course, the trick is getting the right size generator for your particular home. They range from 800 to half a million watts, so you’ll need to do some calculations to pick the right one. You will need a whole-house generator, which can be anywhere from 20,000 watts and $5,000 to around 60,000 watts and $16,000.
To figure out what size you need, calculate the wattage of all of the essential power sources in your home and add them up. This includes light bulbs, refrigerators, and electrical heat sources. Increase this number by around 25 percent, and you’ll have the generator size you need.
If you need to purchase a generator for your home, once again, don’t wait until a winter storm hits to run out to the home store. Chances are, they’ll be sold out long before you arrive. You also don’t want to be setting up your new generator with cold hands and by the light of a flashlight. Plan ahead so you won’t have to stay warm without heat.
As with any mechanical device, a whole-house generator must be maintained once a year or so. During the off-season, you must change the oil in your generator, as well as change the air filter and potentially replace the spark plugs. If you’re diligent about this, you’ll help to prevent a loss of power during the coldest parts of the year.
Prepare for the Worst
Even if you have worked to prepare throughout the year, you may end up losing your heat and power anyway. While it’s unlikely if you have taken the proper steps to prepare, it can still happen, and you must be ready for it. If your HVAC system does fail, you must learn how to stay warm without heat. Remember that body heat and proper insulation can save your life when it’s extremely cold. Purchase sleeping bags, heavy blankets, thick socks, and mittens so that you can bundle up when it gets extremely cold.
Have a fully stocked first-aid kit to address any injuries that may occur. A stock of canned food is also a good idea. You’ll also need some basic tools, such as a shovel if you need to remove snow from in front of your door.
Caution: Never use camp stoves, car engines, or other improvised gas-burning methods of heating inside your home or garage. The fumes generated in this way are toxic.