Need a “cold weather” checklist?

With summer falling further in the rear view, we’re moving right on through Autumn at a regular rate. In the Northeast, the temperature varies between 50-70 degrees and cooler at night.

I’ll try not to bring up the snow too much, but the end of fall/beginning of winter is my favorite time of year. The cold is refreshing, and I enjoy layering up and not wanting to leave the covers and get out of bed for work at 6AM.

I’ve got the basics on what to focus on to get prepared for the cooler weather, and inevitably… WINTER.

Outdoor Tasks

  • Clean up those leaves!

    Nobody enjoys grabbing a rake, blistering up their hands and sniffling for hours in the yard while the wind cuts through the 15 year old hooded sweatshirt we keep around for such an occasion as this.

    Unfortunately, it’s got to get done though! Rake ’em, use a leaf blower, a tarp, volunteer your own children to turn off their distractions and clean up the yard for a few hours the next couple of weekends.

    Why?

    If those leaves don’t get cleaned up, they’ll still be there in the spring. Sitting under the snow all winter, then in the mud after the meltdown, your grass is going to suffer, and so will the seasonal allergies.

    Damp, musty leaves don’t fair well on the sinuses. Though, the old timers claim mulching up the leaves will help your grass grow healthier, there’s no benefit to leaving whole leaves scattered on the lawn.

    At that point, you’re just trying to see how long it takes your annoying neighbor to call the Home Owners Association on you.
  • Just clean the gutters while you’re at it.

    If you just sighed deeply, or shook your head. Do us both a favor, and just call the local gutter people; it’s either that, or you’ll procrastinate until it’s too late. [Been there!]

    It’s important to clean the gutters out, or snow and water will build up, then freeze. When it freezes, it could clog up or burst your down tube on the gutter; the extra weight could also pull the gutter off your home.

    Usually along with the gutter might come some drop edge, fascia board, and/or some shingles depending on your roofing material.
  • Do you have a wood stove?

    It goes without saying, but get to splitting some logs!

    Or hit the yellow pages for a place selling cords of good firewood. Don’t cheap out here and burn pine in your wood stove, unless a chimney fire at 3AM is just the excitement you need in life.

    It’s fun to make splitting wood a family event too, invite some strong working-class types over for some food and beverages of choice to make short work of stacking the winter supply in a dry, accessible area.

Indoors

  • Check the type of window you have.

    When I was a kid, we had the “crank out” windows that had glass panels covering the inside during the winter, and screens during the summer.

    These should be switched out from screen to glass right about now (or wait as long as you like, really).

    If there’s no way to put glass over them, and the window doesn’t shut tightly anymore (normal, but should be addressed when you can), then investing in some of the window plastic wrap at a local hardware store, or the big box stores would be a safe bet.

    The plastic covering works, but be sure not to use in a child’s room, or anywhere suffocation might be possible; be smart about usage, and follow the manufacturers recommendation.
  • Check for drafts

    While on the topic of windows, it’s good habit to go around all windows and doors with your hand on a cool, windy day to identify any drafty areas.

    I did this last year at my apartment and I was extremely surprised at how many drafty cracks I had around the windows.

    It’s an easy enough fix if the cracks are small enough, mark them out, get some silicone (I bought white to match the painted trim), and caulk up the gaps.
  • The type of heat you use matters

    As I mentioned above… Wood stoves; it’s recommended to check all chimneys, vents, and fireplaces at least once per year.

    Oil furnaces are a different story. These type of heaters have a lit flame and a fan to pull the hot air into the heating ducts/vents to dispense around your home.

    Be sure to clean the filter on this, and it’s safe practice to have a professional clean and maintain these units on a regular basis to avoid any troubling misfires or improper combustion. These should be checked at least twice during the heating season.

    Gas furnaces are slightly different than oil in that they’re cleaner and require less babysitting. It is still good practice to have a professional maintain your unit by scheduling a service once or twice per year.
  • BAKE SOMETHING

    That’s correct. Bake something to warm up your home with the wonderful aroma of delicious autumn treats! Unless health food is the name of the game, in which case, make a carrot cake, I guess.

Don’t forget the Car

Hot weather is tough on cars, while a lot of devastation occurs in the summer months when the AC units are running non-stop, our cars take a beating in the cold weather too.

  • Check your battery

    Some service stations (or parts stores) actually will check your battery for free!

    It’s all too common for car batteries to leave us stranded when strained with sub-zero temperatures, so getting ahead of it is not a bad idea. At least if the tests show the battery is weak, there’s time to save up before seeing 0 on the thermometer just yet.
  • Check fluids

    Just as important as the battery is to top off all fluids, and be sure the maintenance schedule for changing out fluids is up to date.

    Have your antifreeze replaced if you never have and the car is over 2 years old. Proper antifreeze is necessary for your heat to work, as it flows through the heater core at the firewall and a fan blows the radiant heat into your frozen hands and face.

    If the antifreeze is old, it loses its ability to not freeze in extreme cold temperatures, and frozen anti-freeze may sound confusing… That’s because it’s not a good problem to have.

    Check the oil, as obvious as that may sound as some of our parents had to check their oil before every trip, no matter what the weather was. That was during times where we didn’t have the reliability of modern vehicles though.

    Power steering fluid should be inspected (ever notice the car making a lot of whining just sitting still right after starting up? That whine typically goes away after the warmup cycle of 30 seconds or so, but if it doesn’t and is made worse by turning the wheel side to side… You should get the power steering system looked at for leaks that typically happen around the high-pressure line).

    Brake fluid is simple enough to check, so give it a peek while the hood is up.
  • If you run winter tires, grab them out of storage and be ready to swap them out by the second week of November (in the Northeast).

    Now, I choose to run all-seasons year round, but my commute is not taxing on me. Treacherous roads, or snowy weather really aren’t intimidating, so it’s a risk I take. Though, my daily driver is an all-wheel-drive SUV and the all-seasons I get are severe snow rated (with the 3 peak mountain and snowflake symbol), it’s recommended to have dedicated snow tires.

    Rear-wheel-drive vehicles should definitely have dedicated snow tires, and 3 season/summer tires that are swapped out in the appropriate season.
  • Put floor mats on your Christmas or Hanukkah list (if you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah).

    The rigid, molded mats keep all of the slush, salt, sand, and whatever other winter trash we track into our vehicles with snowy boots. Plenty of people swear by weather tech, but who knows if they’re the best.
  • Put the snow brush back in your trunk.

    It’s inevitable, the first snow storm hits while we’re at work, and we go out to clean it off before leaving in the afternoon and *rats!*, forgot the snow brush in the garage or closet it has been sitting in since April.

    Stop reading and put that brush in there so you can say you got something from this post. (:
  • Put supplies in the vehicle

    Cold weather brings many surprises, including the risk of being stranded.

    It’s good practice to keep a change of clothes, an extra jacket or sweatshirt, dry/sealed snacks, and some partially filled (full containers will burst if they freeze) water containers inside the vehicle in case of an emergency.

    As an extra measure, I’m always sure to have a lighter on me, or matches. It’s unlikely that a situation will happen where I’ll need to survive for more than a couple of hours when stranded, but I would rather be prepared.

Prepared

That’s what this whole post has been about, right? Preparation for the last chapter of this year, and the first chapter of next.

Come up with your lists of cold weather “to dos” and share some things I forgot in the comments below.

Enjoy the weekend!

And enjoy the fall foliage if you happen to live in an area that sees the change, like the Hudson Valley of New York.

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