Prepare your home and car for the cold

Winter is on the way, and with it the possibility of freezing temperatures, ice, and possibly snow—all of which bring specific hazards worth considering. With a bit of thought and preparation, this could be your safest and most comfortable winter ever. You might even save a few bucks.

Your home offers many opportunities to upgrade safety features, increase comfort, and save money on monthly utility bills. This is especially true if you live in an older home built before modern energy efficiency standards became commonplace in the building industry.

Let’s start by discussing the exterior of your home. What’s between you and the chill outside? If you live in a house that was built more than ten or so years ago, you may have noticed some drafty areas, especially near outer doors and windows. You may even have seen a bit of daylight showing between a door and a jamb.

Unless you live in a recently constructed home, chances are that your home would benefit from a window and door upgrade. Improving outer entryways with sturdier, well-insulated doors not only improves energy efficiency, it raises the security level of your home. Double-pane windows can protect against flying objects traveling up to around 35 miles per hour and improve the overall stability of a structure. Our area isn’t often subjected to winter storms as severe as those in other parts of the country, but window and door improvements also serve to harden your home against the ever-present threat of tornadoes.

For many of us, our car or truck is the most expensive single item we own, second only to our home. Yet many choose to use the garage to store… everything but the vehicles. Did you know some insurance companies allow a discount for parking inside a garage? Parking inside protects your vehicle from damage, ice, and snow, and lets you more comfortably enter and exit in inclement weather.

How are your tires? Try the penny test. Hold a penny by the bottom, so Abe’s head is exposed. Insert Mr. Lincoln’s head into the groove between tire treads. If any portion of his head is obscured by the tread of your tire, the tread is good. If not, it’s hard to recommend driving in snow—and it’s probably time to replace your tires.

Consider carrying an emergency kit in your vehicle. Ask yourself what you’d need if you broke down on a cold day in the middle of nowhere. What you might need depends on where you are, weather conditions, and how long you’ll be stranded, but some items are no-brainers, such as the basics of light, food, water, and keeping warm.

Recommended vehicle emergency kit items:

  • Food and water. Think high-calorie, non-perishable food that can be eaten cold such as canned meat and fruit, chocolate, or granola.
  • Flashlight and batteries!
  • A compact emergency radio that charges via solar or dynamo crank.
  • If your vehicle has the space, a small propane camp stove. If you’re short on storage space, pack candles.
  • Kitchen matches. Protect from humidity in a watertight container. to go slow. Start with just a couple of drops of oil per ounce of carrier. Add more as needed.

Winter Tips to Save Stress and Expense:

  • Drain garden hoses and irrigation equipment.
  • Add insulation over heated areas of the home to conserve energy.
  • Reverse ceiling fan direction to circulate heat.
  • Change HVAC filters monthly to improve air quality and save energy.
  • Insulate water pipes in unheated areas.
  • Lift wiper blades away from windshield, and place socks over them to prevent freezing to the glass.
  • Use gallon size plastic bags over car mirrors to keep them ice-free.
  • Check auto battery cables and connections for cracks and frayed wiring.

Check websites such as and for recommendations and reviews for reputable local companies that offer energy audits. These services can show you how to save real money while helping the environment by making your home more energy efficient.

Regular maintenance and a little forethought go a long way toward being prepared for winter at home or in your vehicle. Good luck, and stay warm.


By Steve Howell

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