As they say on Game of Thrones, “Brace yourselves. Winter is coming.”
One of the best ways to brace yourselves for the onset of cold weather, winter storms, and potential power outages is to prep your home for the season. And this is one of the nicest parts of prepping – quite a few of the cozy touches that you add to be more prepared are also delightful and decorative.
When summer begins to fade into fall, it’s the best time to begin preparing for the advent of winter weather. None of these tasks are particularly difficult, but they can be a little time consuming. Waiting until the last minute usually means that you’ll end up fighting the crowds who have also rushed to the store or that you’ll be going without something that could have made your power outage a lot more comfortable.
Here are a few ideas that will make you snug and safe during the cold months that lie ahead.
- Check your windows and doors. Make sure that they are in good condition and fit well. Drafts will not only make you uncomfortable but will let heat escape from the house. Now is the time to replace them if necessary.
- Reduce the draftiness of your windows. If you can’t afford to replace your windows (or if you are a renter) you can still do several things to reduce the drafts from older windows. Caulk gaps between frames and brickwork and replace any damaged panes. If you live in an older home with single pane windows, apply window insulation film to help make them more weather tight. Finally, purchase or make fabric draft stoppers to place at the bottoms of your windows.
- Break out the heavy drapes. Heavy curtains are more than just a decorative way to welcome colder weather. When you pull them shut at night, they can help to keep warm air in and keep cold air outside where it belongs.
- Use draft stoppers on external doors. (My favorite for doors that aren’t used all the time is this “twin” stopper that goes on both the inside and outside for double protection.)
- Check entrances to the attic and the basement. Treat these openings exactly like exterior doors. A great deal of heat can escape through the edges, and the cold from these unheated rooms can seep into the rest of the house if gaps are present. Seal them tightly with weatherstripping foam tape and draft blockers.
- Make sure you have an alternate light source in case of power outages. Solar lights charged during the day are excellent for children rooms, bathrooms, and stairways when night falls. Make sure you have a good quality flashlights for every member of the family. Headlamps are great for tasks in which you need your hands to be free.
- Stock up on fuel for your fireplace or woodstove. If you have a way to heat with wood, make sure you have adequate fuel,that it is cut to size, and that it is well seasoned. Dry wood produces less creosote and lessens the chance of chimney fires. I
- Make sure you have a secondary heat plan. If you do not have a woodstove or fireplace, be sure that you have a backup heat system. I strongly recommend the Mr. Buddy heater. It is one of the few propane devices that is rated to be used safely indoors.
- Get a carbon monoxide alarm. These inexpensive devices could very well save your life. Be certain to get one that is battery-operated, because the most likely time you will need it is when the power is out. If you’re using a secondary heat method or a generator, make certain you have adequate ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Do you have enough quilts and blankets? That may sound like a silly question but you would be surprised how many people move to colder regions and haven’t considered this. Take the time now to launder them so that they are fresh and clean in the event of an emergency.
- Make sure you have enough games and things to do. If there is a chance you will all be at home for an extended time without power, you’re going to want to keep the kiddos entertained. Children get very bored when the initial excitement of three feet of snow has worn off, especially if their usual entertainment requires electrical power or internet access. Here’s a list of 30 ways to keep them occupied. And don’t forget the grown-ups. Keep books and craft supplies on hand for the adults too!
- Invest in cute wooly socks and slippers. Keeping your feet toasty warm will help you maintain your body temperature in cold weather, especially if you have floors instead of carpets.
- Check your food supply. Do you have enough basic supplies, no-cook food, dry milk, and emergency food buckets for a couple of weeks without a trip to the store?
- Do you have a way to cook if the power goes out? If you have a gas-powered kitchen stove, it may still work without electrical power, but that isn’t guaranteed. Have at least one backup cooking method like a rocket stove.
- Make sure your snow shovel is in good condition. Repair or replace if not.(This ergonomic one is easier on the back.)
- Store some de-icing supplies. Rock salt can help melt ice on sidewalks and driveways, and the grit provides extra traction for safer walking.
- Make sure you have several good sized thermoses. You can fill a thermos with hot drinks or soup to reduce the need to reheat throughout the day.
- Keep lids on warm beverages. Break out the travel mugs to keep your coffee or cocoa hot for longer.
- Stock up on prescription and over the counter medications. Make sure you have enough necessary medications and basic OTCs to last through an extended storm. Consider also feminine hygiene products, diapers, and any special needs items that infirm family members may require.
- If you rely on a well, you may not have running water during a power outage. Make sure to store drinking water, and consider purchasing a water bob. These can be placed into the bathtub and you can use them to catch any of the water that might be remaining in the pipes and store it for emergency use.
- Check your pipes. Are pipes that are on the exterior of the house or against outer walls properly protected from the cold? If a water pipe freezes, it can rupture, causing an enormous mess (and expense) when it thaws.
- A power bank is invaluable to keep your cell phone charged. Not being able to communicate, especially if one parent is stuck and can’t get home, adds to the stress of the situation, especially for children. My favorite is the Jackery Bar.
- Make sure walkways and driveways are clear of debris. Pick up downed branches, clear off leaves, and make sure that walkways are clear. This will make your life much easier when shoveling snow.
- Put candles on display. Part of your fall/winter decor may include candles. While decorative, they’ll also be handy in the event of a power outage by providing immediate light. (Be sure to keep a lighter nearby.)
- Decorate your living areas with cozy throws. Soft, fuzzy blankets not only look inviting, but they can also help keep your heat bill down when nobody is able to resist curling up under them.
Do you have anything special that you do to make life more pleasant at your home during a winter storm or emergency? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.