Prepping your home for icy temperatures
Texas winters come with a lot of uncertainty. There’s a lot of truth to the saying that Texans often experience “four seasons in one day”. A December day could begin at a pleasant 65, reach up to the toasty 80s in the afternoon, and then drop down to 40 after a quick evening thunderstorm. With such variable weather patterns, it’s important to be prepared for anything– especially in the winter when cold temperatures are to be expected.
Weatherproofing and winterizing
Before it starts to get cold, it’s a good idea to check how well-insulated your home is. This includes weather-stripping doors and windows, caulking windows, and checking insulation in the attic. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), about 43% of all energy consumption in U.S. households come from space heating units. A small amount of heat loss is inevitable, but 25% of that heat loss comes from poor insulation in the attic. Since heat rises, it’s important to make sure the top of your home isn’t releasing all of that precious hot air.
Another thing to remember is your outdoor and indoor pipes. Ice and plumbing don’t mix, and a burst pipe can be a real pain to replace, especially in the cold. When it comes to outdoor spigots, make sure to remove hoses and turn the handle on the shutoff valve to stop waterflow. Open the outdoor spigot to let all of the residual water drain, then add an insulated faucet sock/cover to trap the heat. If you have a swimming pool, keep an eye on the pump to make sure it’s moving water, and make sure your pool equipment has a freeze protector. During especially cold periods, it’s possible for indoor pipes to burst as well. Keep garage doors closed as much as possible, as water supply lines are often located in the garage. Opening cabinet doors in your kitchen and bathrooms can also help expose plumbing to warmer air, and make sure to let your faucets drip to keep the water flowing.
Protecting things and pets from the cold
Much of Texas’s flora and fauna is not built for the extreme cold, so don’t forget about your beloved plants and animals when the temperature begins to drop. Bring in plants and flowering trees if it drops below 45 degrees. If you can’t bring plants inside, it’s possible to protect them with a sheet or a light blanket, and for added protection you can add a plastic cover over the cloth.
Despite the fact that many of our four-legged friends have thick fur coats, cold temperatures can still be unsafe and uncomfortable for our pets. Bring animals inside, or (if you have animals exclusive to the outdoors such as chickens or horses/cattle) make sure they have adequate shelter and heating arrangements, and plenty of insulation such as hay and blankets to snuggle in.
In addition to plants and animals, don’t forget about outdoor power equipment, furniture, and grills as well. If possible, store things that can be damaged by ice in your garage or shed. If you don’t have quite enough storage space, purchasing insulating covers can be a good alternative. Gas grills with propane tanks should be stored outside, so make sure you close the tank valve and disconnect the tank before covering the grill. Warmer days are coming, and your grill should be protected so it’s ready to go for BBQ season.