4 Tips To Winterize Your Home
Forecasters expect El Niño to change up the weather this winter, and now’s the time to plan so you’re not caught unprepared. Parts of the Midwest, like Chicago, may get a break from the brutal cold of recent winters, while the Southwest, Deep South, and Eastern Seaboard may get slammed with rain, sleet or snow. Whatever’s predicted for your area, this list can help you “weather” it comfortably and safely, and it might even save you some money.
1. Tune up your heating system
Test your heating system before the first big cold snap so you can arrange for repairs or upgrades before the winter rush. HVAC work is not cheap, but you may not have to bear the whole cost yourself. All states and the District of Columbia have programs to help low-income homeowners pay for heating and cooling maintenance and replacement. Contact your state’s assistance program to find out how and when you can apply for funds. There may be a window of time each year to request help with major expenses. For example, in New York state, homeowners can apply for boiler and furnace funds for several weeks during November and December.
2. Check your home safety equipment and supplies
Even if you live in a snow-free area, it’s a good idea to review your winter preparedness now. Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and your household fire extinguishers. Have your fireplace checked if you plan to use it this winter. And stock up on a few days’ worth of drinking water, medications, nonperishable foods, batteries and flashlights in case you lose power or are homebound due to severe weather.
3. Ask out about utility and snow-removal assistance programs
Those state programs mentioned above can also help with utility bills and weatherization upgrades (like weather-stripping to stop air leaks and extra insulation to reduce heating costs) for eligible households. Your electric, gas, and water utilities may offer discounts and free programs, too. In Austin, for example, the city-run electric utility will register medically vulnerable customers on request, give them extra time to pay bills and offer coordinated case-management services. The utility also offers billing discounts and free energy efficiency upgrades to qualified customers that can save hundreds of dollars.
While you’re checking with the utility, find out what snow removal resources may be available to you. For example, in Washington DC, which was socked with 28 inches of snowfall over 5 days in February 2010, DC Snow Team volunteers band together to remove snow from the sidewalks outside seniors’ homes.
4. Prevent falls with the right shoes and slippers
According to the Today show, winter is when seniors are most likely to fall and break a hip. To reduce your fall risk, invest in sturdy, non-skid walking shoes or snow boots for outdoor wear, and make sure they’re easy enough to put on that you won’t be tempted to dart to the mailbox in your slippers. Speaking of slippers, they should also have non-skid soles—socks alone are not recommended. Get your shoes, check out your home safety and utility help options, and you’ll be prepared for whatever El Niño brings your way this winter.