It’s getting a little harder to get out of bed in the morning and more tempting to linger in a hot shower, sure signs that winter is on its way.
South Africa’s temperate climate means that for most of us this means bringing out a heavier duvet or putting more blankets on the bed. But are there any other practical steps you can or should be taking to prepare for the change of season? Between the money saved on electricity and future repairs, your wallet will thank you later.
Your home needs to perform at its best during the coldest months of the year, especially when the first frost or storm hits.
Weatherproof your doors and windows
It’s important to get ahead of the winter weather and make sure your home is ready to handle the cold to come. Check your doors and windows closely for gaps and areas that may cause a draft. Use weatherstripping or caulk to seal them up, or consider replacing the windows or doors if the problem is severe enough. After a hot summer, you might need to replace some of the putty that has dried and cracked.
Get an annual fireplace inspection and chimney sweep
Clogged chimneys lead to house fires, but they can also cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Having a yearly inspection and chimney sweep may cost you money, but it could also save your life. Additionally, make sure the flue on your chimney is fully functional so when the fireplace is not in use, you don’t experience drafts.
Bring the outdoors inside
In case you didn’t already do this before Autumn came around, be sure to move all outdoor furniture and appliances (grills, lawn mowers, etc.) into your garage or shed as well as any planters you’d like to save through the season.
Clean out your gutters
While your trees got a trimming, they were probably also doing their best to drown you in Autumn leaves. Not only are they a pain to rake up off the ground, but they love to find a home in your gutters. Give your gutters a thorough cleaning before the first winter weather hits to ensure you don’t get any major blockages. Also, do a quick check of all your downpipes, just to make sure they are firmly fixed to the wall.
Rodents and pests
Seal all the holes and cracks around the exterior to help ensure pests like squirrels, mice and rats can’t get inside for hibernation.
Hot water heating system
Another tip is to make sure your geyser is crack-free. Have it checked and serviced by a licensed contractor at least once a year. Chances are if you haven’t installed one in 10-15 years, you’ll need to replace it. Fitting a geyser blanket will also help reduce your electricity costs as will insulating your roof.
Other items to attend to
- Trim trees and remove dead branches so they do not damage your home or injure someone if they fall because of wind and winter storms.
- Check smoke detectors, fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and replace batteries to ensure they are operating properly.
- Accidents do happen, as much as we don’t like to think about them, and keeping a clutter-free home is another way to avoid unnecessary risk.
- Keeping short-term insurance in place by paying your premium and following your terms and conditions, provides a warm safety net to help protect you for the cold winter ahead.
If you take care of the small things, the big things take care of themselves.
The inside of your home
Once the outside is in order, your last port of call is the inside: With the outside of the roof checked, take a quick trip into your attic area. Shine a torch up at the underside of the tiles, looking for any signs of damage or water entry. While you’re up there, make sure you have adequate insulation installed – as hot air rises, a large portion of your heat can be lost if your insulation is lacking. Damp is winter’s best friend, and your home’s worst nightmare. During winter condensation on your windows can become a problem, so check these areas on a regular basis during winter. Consider investing in a humidifier for any rooms that look to be struggling. A trick that not many of us realise is that our ceiling fans have a “reverse setting”. This causes the blades to rotate in the opposite direction, helping keep hot air from escaping.
It’s easy to overload electrical outlets such as the heater, TV and children’s gaming consoles that are all plugged into one extension cord. But keeping an eye on shared plugs around the house or upgrading to a better, bigger outlet with surge protection, could help you avoid the possibility of overheating a circuit and blowing a fuse.
Check regularly for plugs that trip or for loose wiring around the house, because these could mean there is an electrical fault that needs fixing. With lockdown, a lot more time is likely to be spent in the living room (especially if it’s cold), so don’t be complacent. Avoid leaving heaters unattended or candles burning. Make a note of any repairs that require professional help and check with your insurer if they qualify for insurance assistance. Generally, ‘wear and tear’ type repairs will be for your own account and need to be done to maintain your insurance cover.