Winter is the time to cuddle up in your warm house with a cup of hot chocolate as you watch the snow fall. But a frozen pipe or broken furnace is a surefire way to ruin the mood. Before you can burrow under the covers, you've got to prepare your home to brave the storm.
Here are my tips for winterizing your home, to the classic tune of "Let it Snow."
'The weather outside is frightful'Keep that weather outside, where it belongs! Secure your home so that the cold and ice can't get in.
- Put up storm doors and install weather stripping around windows and doors to prevent leaks and cold drafts.
- Clean and secure pipes and gutters. Fallen leaves will block your pipes if you don't remove them, and snow can easily pull down loose gutters. Give them a good cleaning.
- Check for leaks and misaligned pipes by running water through the gutters and tracing its path. You want the water to drain away from your foundation to prevent flooding.
- Cover all vents and other openings with chicken wire to keep out uninvited critters.
- Trim overgrown branches that extend over your home. Snow and ice can get very heavy. Overloaded branches are vulnerable to breaking and causing damage to your home.
- Prevent pipe bursts by draining water from exterior pipes and shutting outdoor valves. Once it hits freezing, let your indoor faucets drip. As long as the water in the pipes is moving, it won't freeze. You can protect pipes in unheated areas by wrapping them in insulation—In a pinch, you can use rags, newspapers, or even bubble wrap.
'The fire is so delightful'There's not much better than a warm fire on a snowy day. But before you light that fire or turn on the furnace, make sure they are safe to use.
- Replace the air filter in your furnace. A dirty air filter can't do its job. Improve the air quality in your home with a new filter every year.
- Turn on your furnace before you need it and make sure it all works. You may need to relight the pilot light if it blew out during the summer. A strong smell is common when first turning on the heat, but if it persists you should call a professional to take a look.
- Get your chimney cleaned. A blocked chimney will cover your living room in soot! That's the last thing you need during the holidays. Get your chimney cleaned to prevent a huge mess.
- Prepare some cozy blankets and house slippers with those grippy bumps on the bottom. Keep your feet warm, but don't wear socks around the house—they are way too slippery.
- Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. The holidays often mean home-cooked meals, fireplaces and candles. Unfortunately, all of these things increase fire risk. Make sure you have fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors throughout your home, and use this as a time to give them all fresh batteries so they can protect you all year.
'And since we've got no place to go'You may prefer to stay inside, but you should be able to get out if you choose! It's extremely important to prepare your entryway and sidewalk to prevent falls. For when you do stay in, make sure you have everything you need in case of emergency.
- Apply non-slip sprays to steps and walkways. These sprays are easy to apply and create a durable textured surface that prevents slips.
- Get a helping hand in keeping the sidewalks clear. Whether it's a professional or your neighbor's son, hire someone to shovel and de-ice your sidewalks.
- Install sturdy handrails throughout your yard. We all need a helping hand in the winter. A handrail will help you stay upright when the ground is icy.
- Use ice melt or sand to make the ground less slippery. When conditions are bad, you can sprinkle it before you as you walk.
- Create survival kits for when you are stuck in your home. Include plenty of batteries in case the power goes out. Equip your kit with a portable battery-operated radio, flashlights, blankets, and safety matches. Stock up on canned food (don't forget the can opener!) and water bottles. If you are ever snowed in or caught without power, you will have everything you need.
'Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!'Building snowmen, curling up by the fire, watching the grandchildren play—winter is a magical time full of possibilities. Now that your home is ready, you are free to enjoy the season.
Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pa., with offices nationwide. Shayne has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Harvard College and a Masters in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home.