- Defroster fan on highest setting
- Temperature control on its hottest
- A/C turned on
- Recirculate turned off
- Crack your windows
Okay, San Antonio. We all made it through our big snow day, and while it may be another 30 years before we see whiteout conditions here again, it was the perfect reminder that we DO get winter weather in the Alamo City. Cold temperatures and icy conditions are a part of most winters here, and now is the time to make sure you are prepared for them.
In thinking about my own preparedness for winter storms, I took a look at several websites and found some helpful information I thought I’d share. Ready.gov has some great resources on making an emergency plan for your family, as well as a checklist of what to put in your emergency supply kit to make it comfortably through extended power outages. They also have a kit to create for your pets.
Texas Department of Public Service has some good home winterization tips. One I found interesting is finding the shutoff valve for the water to the house. For most of us, there is a hole with a metal cover in the front yard somewhere that has a meter and valve, but how many of us know where it is, where our shutoff tool is, and how to use it? A burst pipe can cause an incredible amount of damage, and everyone in the house, from young teens to adults, should be aware of the valve’s location, and try their hand at operating it. If you aren’t sure how to do it, Mr. Plumber SA has a great video you can find by clicking on the link.
Did you leave a restaurant on Friday to find an inch of snow on your car, or wake up in the morning with twice that on your windshield? Put a scrapper in your car to be prepared for unexpected ice and snow. A warm blanket and some kitty litter wouldn’t hurt either. (If your vehicle gets stuck on a slick road, cat litter can help create the traction you need to get out. The non-clumping kind works best for extra traction on slick roads.) Better safe than sorry. And to settle the old argument, the proper way to defrost your car windshield, according to Car and Driver is:
You can also find a cool 6-minute video about the science behind this at the link I included.
A last note on winter safety: please check your carbon monoxide (CO) detector’s batteries! Experts recommend that you change yours every year during daylight savings time, but if you missed out, do it today. Any time you burn fuel in stoves, lanterns, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces, CO can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it. Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, and you have no way of knowing if you are at risk without a working detector.
I hope everyone enjoyed our little version of a white Christmas, and that you all take this opportunity to make sure you stay safe and sound for the rest of the season.
The newest tech gadgets can make life simpler, safer, and save you money in the long run. And the best smart home devices don’t require you to be a genius to operate them. But which are worth the investment, and which will join your breadmaker and NordicTrack in the storage closet? Here are a few to consider:
Ever get a few miles away from home and suddenly wonder if you turned the iron off? The Belkin WeMo Switch takes the worry out of leaving something on when you’re gone. Simply download the WeMo App, plug the Wi-Fi enabled switch into any outlet in your home, and plug the device you want to control into the switch. Then use your smartphone to control fans, lamps, heaters—just about anything in your home that plugs in. It’s that easy. Best of all, the device costs about $36.
The Nest Learning Thermostat has built-in Wi-Fi so you can remotely control the temperature in your home from your phone, tablet, or PC. At about $250, it’s not cheap, but it has the potential to cut energy costs by up to 15%. Nest learns what temperature you like and builds a schedule around it—turn up the heat a few days in a row when you come home, and Nest learns you like your happy hour at 70º. Just pop off your old thermostat and install your new Nest in about half an hour. Locally, CPS Energy has partnered with Nest, and will give you up to $85 when you use the device and sign up for their Rush Hour Rewards program.
Wouldn’t it be nice to arrive home in the evening, and rather than feeling your way around the house while you find the lights, have them all turn on at the push of a button? Phillips Hue White allows you to do just that using your smartphone. Simply buy the starter kit for about $70 (additional bulbs cost about $15) at any home improvement store, then follow three easy steps. Screw the two special bulbs into your existing light fixtures, connect the included bridge to your Wi-Fi, then download the app, find your lights with it and have fun scheduling your teenager’s room lights to flip on early Saturday morning.
Rain gutters can be unattractive and costly, not to mention a real challenge to keep free of live oak and cedar debris. So how important are they here in San Antonio? Can homeowners really take it all off and go gutterless?
Much of the answer depends on a home’s construction. If a home has long roof overhangs, lacks a steeply pitched roof and has excellent slope at grade that adequately protects the foundation, it may be a candidate for skipping the gutters. But extra care will need to be taken to minimize water damage during the storm bursts that our area is prone to get. A sloping concrete apron extending at least 6 inches past the roof overhang can be poured, or layers of gravel or stone can be arranged to catch rainwater in conjunction with a drainage system above or below ground.
For the rest of us, gutters make it easier to come and go without getting drenched at the door, and keep depressions from becoming ponds during a deluge. Rain gutters aren’t exactly glamorous, but they are unsung heroes when it comes to protecting a home’s siding, windows, doors and foundation from rot and water damage.
There are a huge variety of gutter materials out there, ranging from relatively inexpensive and strong vinyl to beautiful, long-lasting (and pricey) copper. And many homeowners have added gutter guards to decrease maintenance. All types of gutters work about as well, so homeowners can pick the material that best compliments their home’s aesthetics—and their budget.
We’ve had our first “cold“ front, football is back on television, and pumpkins abound. With fall in full swing, now is the perfect time to make sure your home is ready for the cooler months ahead. Check these items off of your “To Do” list today to stay snug and prevent those costly emergency service calls this winter.
√ BRUSH OFF GUTTER GRIDLOCK. Block proper drainage in your gutters and downspouts and you can end up with Niagara Falls cascading off of your front porch. Hire a pro, or climb a ladder and scoop the oak leaves and ball moss out into a bucket yourself. Follow up by using your garden hose to wash any leftover debris away.
√ STAY ON TOP OF ROOF PROBLEMS. Hail and wind hit San Antonio hard this summer, and if you haven’t already had your roof inspected, now is the time. To do it yourself, head up and look for damaged flashings and cracked or missing shingles and replace them. Roof too steep? Use binoculars to spot any trouble areas, and call a roofer.
√ GIVE FROZEN PIPES THE COLD SHOULDER. Cozy temps indoors protect the pipes under your sinks, but outside faucets are at risk of freezing when San Antonio gets those few frigid nights. Insulate exposed water pipes, and disconnect and store hoses.
√ WARM UP TO AN HVAC PRO. Have your heating system inspected. An HVAC technician can give your furnace a little TLC now, so it will still be working when you have the heat cranked in January.
√ TRASH FIREPLACE ASH. Fireplaces and chimneys are responsible for over 30% of home-heating fires. Stay safe while roasting your chestnuts this winter by repairing cracks, loose bricks and mortar and damaged chimney caps, and removing animal nests. Find a certified chimney sweep to do the dirty work of removing creosote and ash.