4 Tips to Prepare Your Homestead for Winter

The Weather Channel is predicting colder than average temperatures through January for the Plains states and the area from southeast Texas to the Florida panhandle. Whether you live in a major metropolitan area or have a ranch covering several acres, winter preparedness is fairly similar for just about every home. You need to keep everybody safe and warm and take all the necessary precautions to prevent extreme weather from damaging your home. These four tips cover the most important items.

Drain Sprinkler System

The first freeze of the year can mean large repair bills for homeowners who neglect to address their irrigation systems and exposed pipes beforehand. This is particularly the case with PVC pipes, but polyethylene pipes can also be damaged, despite their elasticity.

Most sprinkler systems can be drained manually. The valve is typically located at the bottom of the mainline. Make sure to wear eye protection and release all pressure from the line before draining to prevent injury. The blow-out method, using compressed air to clear the pipes, is the only way to 100 percent guarantee no water is left inside. You can do this on your own, but due to the inherent dangers, it’s better to hire a professional.

All pipes in unheated areas of your home (garage, attic, etc.) should be insulated with pipe-wrapping material that can be found at any hardware store.

Close the Pool

There are different methods for winterizing in-ground and above-ground pools, but the end result is similar. Use granular chlorine to lower the overall chlorine level of the water and save your cover from being damaged. After a thorough cleaning, lower the water level to about one foot below the tile for mesh covers and about six inches for floating covers. Buy a winter closing kit that comes with everything you’ll need, including instructions. Cleaning methods for filters and lines will vary by pool, so follow the manufacturers instructions carefully.

Clean Gutters

Gutter cleaning is not glamorous, and it can be dangerous if the proper precautions are not exercised. The two most important factors for safe gutter cleaning are a dry roof and a ladder long enough to extend beyond the roof. To prevent slips and falls, do not climb on the roof if it has rained in the past 24 hours. Leaf blowers are effective for cleaning long gutter sections, but its best to watch a professional do it once before attempting this yourself.

Energy-Saving Items

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that heating costs were higher for 90 percent of Americans homes last year than the winter of 2012-13. This was mostly due to higher costs for natural gas and propane.

A great way to cut energy bills is to invest in heated bedding. The Electric Blanket Institute (yes, this really exists) estimates a typical household can save up to $40 per month on heating costs by turning down the thermostat 10 degrees while sleeping. Make certain the electric blankets you choose are marked with Underwriters Laboratories safety approval (UL #964). A winterized home also has all gaps wider than a nickel between door and windows frames chalked to keep the warm air in and cold air out.

Every home has unique features, so winterization steps will vary. But completing all of the above are steps in the right direction.

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