Every year winter follows autumn…it’s just the way it is and every year people are caught out by burst pipes, power outages and black outs and snow storms emptying the shelves of the supermarket in a couple of hours.
Theres’s no need for such chaos. Having a look around your home before the onset of bad weather can save a hell of a lot of stress, mess and expense later on. Getting organised also puts you on track for the Christmas celebrations, giving you more time to concentrate on the fun aspects of winter.
- Eliminate draughts. Check your windows and doors. Make sure that they are in good condition and fit well. Heat escaping from your home costs you money in wasted energy and cold air coming in makes life uncomfortable. Check for gaps between windows and frames and caulk if necessary, it’s a cheap job that can make a world of difference to your utility bills and comfort levels. Heavier weight winter curtains can make life a lot cozier when the temperatures drop and they need not cost a fortune. How about making draught excluders for the doors? It’s a simple project the kids will love but if you’re not into crafts you can buy them cheaply.
- Check the loft hatch. You can lose a huge amount of heat through an ill-fitting loft hatch. As the heat rises the smallest of gaps will allow heat to escape into the roof space. Again this costs you money and reduces your comfort levels. You paid for the heat, keep it where you need it. A simple strip of foam backed tape is all it takes to seal small gaps around the hatch.
- Dress up the lounge with throws to match your decor. Not only will they be there ready should you experience particularly cold weather they are also handy if the power and/or the heating fails. You might even cut your electricity bill a little if the kids decide they are too nice to resist and curl up under them to watch TV.
- Have alternative light sources available so that if the power fails you can put your hand straight on them. Torches with spare batteries and dynamo torches for the kids are invaluable. Candles look decorative and make a great addition to your living space as well as providing light in an emergency. Solar lights are cheap and when left outside can charge up enough to provide emergency lighting for the kids bedrooms and stairwells should you need it.
- Many people in cities don’t have open fires or wood stoves these days. Consider a small space heater for emergency use. Remember to have adequate ventilation and invest in a carbon monoxide alarm, they are dirt cheap and could save your life. If you do have an open fire or stove make sure you have enough fuel and that the wood is the right size and well seasoned. Damp wood causes a creosote build up in chimneys and flue pipes and makes chimney fires far more likely.
- Build up a stock of basic food supplies. You know what will happen as soon as the weather forecast says snow is coming – the supermarket shelves will empty. Keep enough basics in stock for at least a week, more if you can. Long life or died milk, cereal, canned foods that can be eaten cold if need be and a few cans of soup will start you off. Keep a couple of loaves of bread in the freezer and make sure you have a few pre-cooked meals in there as well so you are not having to rush out in vile weather to stock up. Try to buy a couple of staples extra each week in the lead up to winter. A good supply of pasta, rice, eggs frozen/tinned vegetables and flour will see you through until normal service resumes.
- Still on food. Do you have a gas or electric cooker? Will you be able to prepare food if the power goes off? If you have a gas hob the electronic ignition won’t work in a power outage so keep matches or a lighter near the hob. If you are all-electric consider a large capacity thermos flask to keep a supply of hot water to hand. Filling a flask each morning may sound stupid but if you live in an area where the power goes off regularly during storms it’s worth doing.
- Are you pipes well lagged? Pipe work on outside walls should be lagged to prevent them freezing. If the weather is excessively cold leave the tap barely dripping all the time, it causes movement of water in the pipes and helps prevent freezing. Frozen pipes equals no water…not good at all.
- Still on water fill a few bottles with tap water beforehand if excessively cold weather is forecast – it may save you going without a drink until you’ve melted enough snow for your morning coffee.
- Do you have enough bedding? That may sound like a daft question but if there’s something you have been meaning to replace during the summer but haven’t, do it. Has a child recently moved from cot to bed? Do you have enough for if someone is visiting and they can’t get home? Is your duvet wearing a bit thin? Sort it now and it’s another job done.
- Got enough games? School closures are bad enough but being stuck in the house with the kids can be a nightmare when they are bored. Get a few things together to occupy them. Card games, crafts, whatever, it’s worth it to save your sanity.
- Does anyone in the family need prescription medicines? Make sure you are up to date and have some in hand particularly if the doctor is some distance away. Make sure you have over the counter medications in the house was well as plasters and any other bits and bobs that makes treating minor ailments easier.
- Do you have a decent shovel or better still a snow shovel? If not why not? Still on the snow and ice thing what about a bag of rock salt or grit for your path?
- Get a couple of power banks so that your phone can be charged…or even a tablet to keep the kids occupied…I can’t believe I said that – shame on you Lizzie.
Winter isn’t exactly awe inspiring if like me cold is your nemesis…I hate cold with a passion only rivalled by my hatred for politicians. I live in the south-east of the UK, warm by most winter standards but still I stock up like a demon just in case. One day I will be vindicated but in the meantime I will look at my winter preparations and feel happy to know that I have it covered…just in case.