Though we had a few cooler days, and the time change, it didn’t feel like winter in Houston until all the leaves fell off the trees, which seemed to have happened overnight last week. Since June, meteorologists have been trying to forecast the winter weather outlook with updates on the likeliness of an El Nino causing a dry, mild winter in our area. However, higher than usual snow accumulations in the New England states and our torrential rain brought by Winter Storm Diego (when did winter storms start getting names?) suggest you should winterize your home against the bite of Jack Frost just in case.
Start by checking for drafts around your windows and doors and seal them with caulking or new weather strips to prevent cold air from seeping in – which is actually a good way to keep cold, air conditioned air from escaping during our broil and bake summer heat! Most drafts are found under and around exterior doors in high traffic areas. These should be checked for regularly as changes in your foundation can create new drafts. Insulation is also an important all weather safeguard. Temporary draft protection can come in the form of blankets, towels or bubble wrap over leaky windows and draft stoppers covering cracks under doors. Change your filter - it can help your central air and heat work better. Turn your fans on reverse - it helps push the warm are down to where you are!
Make sure to check your chimney if you plan to use your fireplace. Even if you have kept the flue closed, birds may have nested or debris could be trapped in the top of the chimney. While you are on the roof, check and clean the gutters to prevent leaves and pine needles from causing blockages that could potentially cause the gutters to break off and fall. Also check for any tree branches that may have grow too close to the roof and need to be trimmed. Back on the ground, check the coverings on outdoor pipes and replace if needed. Add mulch to flower beds - it helps insulate too!
Throughout the winter, when temperatures drop overnight, make sure to bang on your car hood before starting your engine. This isn't a winterization tip, but to prevent injury to any small animals that may have used your engine compartment as a shelter. Feeling generous? Set up “stray shelters” in your garden by engineering “houses” out of old boxes and towels.