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Preparing For Winter

We love the changing of the seasons here at HD Insurance, the leaves changing, the birds migrating, the days shortening and the temperatures dropping all mean one thing, winter is coming. We love winter almost as much as we love summer, Doug enjoys ice climbing in Montana, Wyoming and even Twin Falls, and Drew likes to ski at either Brundage, Tamarack or Bogus Basin. It sounds like this winter may bring the same cold temperatures and above average snowfall that last Winter did and we couldn’t be more excited.

Some people aren’t quite as excited as we are about that prediction though and we completely understand why. Cold temperatures can wreak havoc on homes, cars and even on our bodies too. We all remember the issues that were caused by the excessive snowfall and the difficulty in plowing it all, turning what was normally a 30-minute commute into an hour or more drive in miserable conditions. Some people couldn’t even make it out of or into their own driveways once the roads had been plowed. All around, it was a nightmare for some people here in the Treasure Valley which is why we’ve decided to take a few moments to go over some winter preparation tips.

We’ll start out with vehicles because they’re something we all need, especially during the cold winter months, to get from points A to B and we all want to be confident that we won’t run in to any problems while on the way. Now is a good time to start checking your tires, make sure they’re maintaining the proper air pressure levels, cold temperatures can cause tires to lose their pressure, and check the tread. It might be wise to invest in some winter tires, including studded tires, especially if your car is not all or four-wheel drive capable. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck in the snow when it’s cold outside.

You’ll also want to keep an eye on your engine coolant and antifreeze levels. You can do this by going to almost any auto supply store and asking for a kit that will quickly let you know if you have an appropriate coolant mix. You can also do this by reading through your vehicle’s manual for instructions. Another thing to make sure you’re using is winter windshield washer fluid and a winter-grade oil at your next oil change. Not only will proper windshield washer fluid not freeze in your car, it helps to melt snow and ice as it forms on your windshield.

The next thing you want for your vehicle is a winter supply box to keep in your vehicle at all times. This should include gloves, hats, warm socks, warm blankets, a flashlight, road flares, first-aid kit, a bag of sand (for extra traction), an extra ice scraper and some high energy snacks like protein bars, jerky, nuts, dried fruits or no-bake energy bites. If you get stuck or break down while you’re out and about, especially if you’re like us and enjoy going skiing, ice climbing or snow-shoeing, having a winter supply-kit can save your life. Staying warm, hydrated and energized will keep you alive longer in harsh winter conditions. Remember, if you’ve broken down or run out of gas the heat most likely won’t work.

When it comes to preparing your home for winter, there are many things we can do to make sure we’re ready for whatever might happen. There are the well-known tactics like making sure your sprinklers get blown out, never leaving the home without setting the thermostat at 60 to prevent frozen and burst pipes and cleaning the gutters to prevent ice jams. But there are many more ways to prepare your home so that winter doesn’t cause damage to your home and there are also numerous ways to make your home cozier throughout the cold months.

Start by servicing your furnace. Newer furnaces need professional servicing every two years and older models require annual maintenance. It is not something you can do on your own, unless you have experience doing so, but doesn’t cost much. Cold temperatures cause damage to just about all types of machinery so keeping your house warm is crucial. You can also consider insulating your hot water heater to save on energy costs that can go up sharply while your water heater tries to keep your water warm. This is something anyone can do, just make sure your water heater isn’t pre-insulated or that your owner’s manual doesn’t advise against it.

Reversing your ceiling fans will reverse the flow of air, which usually sucks hot air to the ceiling, and push hot air to the ground level, keeping you and your family warmer for longer without running the energy bills up too high. It may even allow you to turn down your thermostat a few degrees by keeping the warm air low.

Checking your roof for damaged or missing shingles can help prevent leaks that could cause thousands in water damages, which usually aren’t covered by insurance. If you have a flat roof make sure to clean it off thoroughly prior to the first snow, it becomes much harder to clean once everything becomes frozen in place. You also want to make sure that you don’t have any air leaks from your attic spaces which can cause ice jams to form, something many people were worried about and even experienced last winter.

If you’re worried about your yard there are a few things you can do to prepare it for winter. Instead of raking up and removing your leaves you can mulch them by mowing over them while dry, cutting them into dime sized pieces, and spreading them over the top of your lawn. This will nourish your grass over the winter. You also want to make sure you don’t prune your trees or shrubs too early, late-winter is usually recommended by most horticulturists. It’s better to wait until they’ve been dormant for awhile and temperatures are getting ready to climb, this will help your plants grow in the spring.  

Winter can be a beautiful time of year. Snow falling on a quiet night, with clouds reflecting the city lights, is one of our favorite things to see. But it can also be a dangerous time if we’re not prepared. Some of these recommendations can be done right now, it’s never too early to have your furnace serviced and if you’re buying non-studded snow tires you can do that now as well. Other items on this list will have to wait until we’re closer to winter but you can always get your winter supply-kit ready.

Staying prepared for the elements can save money, prevent damages and even save lives. If you have any questions or would like more advice on how to prepare for winter, or where the best ice climbs and powder runs are, contact us today, we’re happy to help however we can.

Drew ColwellWinter, Preparation