4 Tips to Prepare Your Home for the Colder Weather

Simple tasks that keep you safe and comfy when the big one hits!

Fall is my favourite season. The crispness in the air, the leaves turning colour, the back-to-school buzz, and the thought that winter is just around the corner. But it is a good reminder to start your fall maintenance and get your home ready for the colder weather.

It’s no secret that weather is getting more extreme, more frequently. In Toronto we’ve seen ice storms that left thousands without power for days and temperatures so cold that incoming water lines remained frozen for a week or more for some. While we all hope that we are not affected, by the time winter storms strike it’s often too late to effectively protect our homes against damage. (It was after hosting family who lost power over Christmas a few years ago that inspired our family to be more prepared for these storms in advance.)

You can take a few steps this fall so that your home can be a safe place to hunker down in during stormy winter weather. Here’s how.

1. Clear gutters and eavestroughs

After the last leaves have fallen, be sure to clear your eavestroughs and downspouts of debris and repair any broken segments that may be leaking down your walls. This will ensure that autumn rain and melted snow can be carried away from your house. Also make sure downspouts are emptying away from your foundation – you can add extension pieces that carry the water into a garden or directed towards pavement that slopes away from your home.

2. Consider an alternate heat or fuel source 

If you have a fireplace or wood stove already, make sure the flue is clear and stock some wood so you’re ready for action if the power goes out. If not, consider investing in a small back-up generator to allow you to run some space heaters and heat water. This is one of those insurance polices you hope you don’t need, but the chances of using it are increasing (we have one and it has come in very handy in the past couple of years).

3. Have a water back-up

If your water supply is from a well, you are probably well-versed in the need to have back-up water when a storm is impending. But if you live in an urban setting, you don’t need power to have running water. Even in Toronto we have learned that your pipes can still freeze. Make sure you have some large bottles of water on-hand to last you a few days (you can also melt snow for non-potable uses like dishwashing and toilet flushing) or fill your tub when you get wind of a storm warning. Camping jugs are a reusable alternative to disposable bottles but you’ll want to rinse them out and replace the water every month or so (you can use the water to water indoor plants, flush toilets, brush teeth, etc. if you want bonus points for conservation). And yes, I know you probably don’t like to eat or drink out of plastic, but a few days with water stored in plastic is better than a few days with no water at all.

4. Check batteries in flashlights

Now is a great time to check the batteries in your emergency flashlights (which you already have in strategic and known places around the house, right?). Remind yourself where they’re located so you can grab them quickly if the lights go out. If you need new flashlights, consider having a couple wind-up ones that you can charge up manually when needed.

All of these can be done in a weekend (maybe with the exception of the generator if you need to factor it into your budget) and will make a big difference to your comfort and safety in the event of the next ice storm or mega snowfall. Your friends and family might scoff at your ultra-preparedness now, but they’ll see the light big time when they’re knocking on your door knowing that your house is the place to go in an emergency.

Now that you're prepared for emergencies, you should also get ready with these sustainable energy saving tips to help you get through those colder days before the storm! 

*Originally published September 27, 2016