Winter is now right around the corner for us Canadians and there is lots do check to make sure we are ready. There are four categories of preps to check up on for the coming season.
Home Prep – insulation & general maintenance
Car prep – winterizing
Emergency kits – BOB and GHB
Emergency power – heating, lighting, cooking
Home prep – insulation & general maintenance. In an emergency situation, the power may go down for an extended period of time. It will be much easier to keep things warm if we take the time & energy to make sure that your home can hold whatever heat you put into it.
Check the attic first as heat rises as this is the number one loss of heat for a home. A good indication would be the amount of snow that stayed on your roof last winter. If the snow melted from your roof rather quickly, you are probably losing a fair amount of heat through the attic. Add loose fill insulation, fibreglass batts, or foam sheet insulation to give as much of an R value as possible. R-40 is about the least you want. Check where vent pipes come through the ceiling to the roof and caulk up any cracks you find.
Walls are more difficult to insulate as they are already closed up. But you can add insulating foam sheets if you plan to add siding to your home. Remove old caulking & recaulk windows & doors. Massive amounts of heat can be lost through the smallest cracks near door & window frames.
Get heavy fabric curtains for windows...keep them open in the day and closed at night. This is called passive solar heating, using the sun to heat a room during the day and having drawn curtains to help keep it in at night.
For older, less energy efficient windows, you can get the shrink film kit to help reduce heat loss & drafts. Personally, I don’t like then as the adhesive tape that comes with the kit either doesn’t stick, or peels off your pain in the spring. Also, they prevent opening the window during a warm spell, which you may want to do from time to time to change the air.
Now is the time to have funaces checked, and filters changed. Also, weather you use oil, gas or wood heat, if you have a chimney, get it cleaned before heating season really gets started.
Now is also the time to consider your backup heat source. Wood is probably the most popular secondary heat system, but if you can’t use that, consider propane or kerosene space heaters. Remember, although many new models of heaters are safe for indoor use, always have plenty of ventilation and a CO detector. When using a space heater, you will want to designate a HOT ROOM, one room in your house that will be closed off from the rest of the home and used by everyone to live and sleep. You can hang blankets in doorways to do this if you have no doors.
Power failures are common in the winter, so you should have alternative sources of light & communications. Battery powered lights & radios should be checked and plenty of spare batteries kept on hand. As usual, I will take this opportunity to state my humble opinion that crank powered lights & radios make a better choice that battery powered appliances. Although they do require regular maintenance in the form of periodic cranking and use to keep the internal rechargeable batteries in top shape, if you keep them maintained, you will have less to worry about in the way of stocking up batteries and rotating them to keep fresh ones on hand. My favourite model comes from Canadian Tire and is made by Noma. It has a built in AM/FM radio with antenna, and you can use one or three LED lights. It also has the accessories required to charge a cell phone. It can also be charged with the use of an included USB cable from a laptop. The best part about it is the price at a mere $15.00. There are also inexpensive crank powered lanterns that are handy to set on a table to light up an entire room.
Another source of light is combustion. Propane or camping gas lanterns are handy as they produce a good amount of light and have heat as a by product. Kerosene or oil lamps also produce a good amount of light, but many of them will smoke a little or have a smell to them that many find offensive. Candles are great as they store forever, but many cheaper ones drip wax as they burn. With all combustion light sources, always be careful about placement such as nearby curtains or other flammables. Also, tipping is always a danger, and you should be VERY careful when using them around children. A light source that many of us have but few consider is the outdoor solar path lights. Most produce low light levels, but may be used to keep a room dimly lit and keep you from tripping over a rug. Simply place them in the light during the day and bring them in at night. Perfect for the bathroom or by the kitchen sink.
· One thing you should stock up on is fire starting...in the form of matches(I like the strike anywhere type), butane lighters and tinder for the fireplace. Commercial fire starter is fine, but stick to the solid fuel type. BBQ gas &fire starter is dangerous and gasoline should NEVER be used to start a fire in the fireplace or woodstove.
Along with alternate heat, light & communications, you will need a way to at least heat food if not cook. If you have a fireplace or woodstove, then you are all set. If not, a BBQ or small campfire, outdoors of course will fit the bill. Propane or camping gas camp stoves come in handy, just be cautious about combustion sources, just like with your lighting options. Keep ample fuel available. Fondue pots come in handy also, although the heat output is lower and lends itself to heating soups and other canned goods, and not so much to boiling or frying food. A more advanced prepper may want to consider a volcano stove or solar oven.
If you plan on cooking on a fire, either outdoors or in a fireplace, try to get old fashioned cast iron pans & dutch ovens. They are more durable for fire cooking and clean up better than your expensive stainless steel cookwear.
Winterize your car now. Many of you have heard of a stow storm that just hit the eastern US, taking many people by surprise. The fact is, for snow regions, consider the possibility of snowfall anytime after mid-October. Get a checkup done on your vehicle, or if you’re handy, do it yourself. Change the oil & filter, check antifreeze, and change any worn belts or hoses. Get your snow tires on and make sure you have your ice scraper/brush with you. Verify your battery and spare tire & jack.
Check the contents of your trunk...here are a few things you should have with you.
· Small folding shovel
· Traction aids
· Jumper cables or better yet...battery jumper.
· Traction material such as sand or kitty litter.
· Basic tool kit with screwdrivers, pliers/wrenches, spare fuses, work gloves, and flashlight or road flares.
Always keep your gas tank at least half full and if you can, keep spare gas. At the least, have a small 2 gallon gas can and a siphon hose so you could buy some gas off a passerby.
This is a good time to check you BOB and GHB for not only seasonal equipment such as clothing & bedding, but also check expiration dates on foodstuffs, batteries and generally verify all your gear.