By Jessica Reynolds Contributing Writer
The Daily Star
---- — There seems to be a chill in the air lately, reminding us all that winter is on its way. Whether this is your first time upstate for the winter, or you are a seasoned veteran, there are a number of hints and tips to keep in mind as you prepare to winterize this year.
Even though the last thing you may want to do during the winter months is travel, we all have to. That means making sure our cars are ready to take on those treacherous winter roads. A good set of snow tires is essential for this.
Greg Talbot, service manager at Certified Auto Outlet in Oneonta, said that it is important to make sure that you have the correct size tires on your vehicle, as well as ones that have a good flood and snow rating.
“As simple as it may seem, look for key seasonal words like ‘Weather’ in the name of the tire, such as ‘Weather-Master.’ This indicates a tire with a good winter rating,” Talbot said. Putting chains on tires is really only necessary if you live high up on a hill.
Correct tire pressure, which differs for every vehicle, is another aspect of tires that should be inspected before winter.
“Most people don’t realize,” Talbot said, “but inside every vehicle in the door jamb, there should be a little tag that tells you what your tire pressure should be.”
Another winter tip that the general public may not be aware of is that there are different kinds of cleaning fluids for your windshield wipers. Talbot advised that there is truly a difference in the formula for solvents that are made for summer and those made for winter. Having a winter formula for your cleaning solvent is a helpful trick to keep fluid from freezing on your windshield. It is also important to make sure that your vehicle’s wiper blades are in good condition, and to check the antifreeze concentration.
One of the easiest ways to make sure that your car is ready for winter is to schedule a checkup appointment with a mechanic. To make sure your car is in good overall condition, Talbot said, you should make sure that the inspection includes having an oil change and a battery test.
“When the weather drops,” Talbot said, “it’s harder on the battery.”
Winter weather can be daunting, but making sure your vehicle is in good overall condition can lessen the chances of getting stuck out in the cold and ensure that you always get home safely.
The home is another place where significant steps can and should be taken in order to ensure a safe winter for both new and veteran homeowners.
Frank Macak, a state-licensed home inspector at Prime Inspections in Franklin, suggests that the first thing you should do is clean outdoor gutters after the majority of autumn leaves have fallen. Before the first hard freeze, all exterior faucets should be drained and respective hoses should be disconnected, drained and put away for winter.
Macak said that many fires in the United States are caused by malfunctioning heat tapes. All de-icing heat tapes on roofs or eaves, and water pipe heat tapes, should be closely inspected for damage or wear.
The siding on your home should be checked thoroughly for holes, as well as any exterior door gaskets and seals for tightness, to prevent heat from escaping. If you have storm windows, make sure they work properly and are not damaged. Insulation in attics and basements should also be checked.
“It is important to remember that most of the heat loss from the house is due to drafts,” Macak said.
Inside your house, there are many things that need to be taken into consideration, as well. Proper maintenance of your dryer is key to preventing fires year-round, but particularly in the winter. The dryer hookup should be checked for lint buildup, and the vent damper should be checked for proper operation.
“Lint build up can freeze in the winter and obstruct the proper operation of the damper, potentially creating a fire hazard due to insufficient venting of the dryer,” Macak said. “A stuck damper in the open position can allow for rodent entry and creates a thermal bypass.”
To keep yourself warm and safe this winter, Macak said that it is important to have your heating system and fuel storage tanks checked and serviced by a qualified heating contractor ahead of time.
If you have a chimney, it should also be inspected and cleaned prior to the heating season, especially if you are using wood or other solid fuel. He said it is vital to make sure that there is a rain cap with a spark arrestor installed on all chimneys to prevent fires and keep birds or varmints from obstructing the flue.
“If you burn wood, we recommend having a Chimfex stick always nearby,” Macak offered, “since it can extinguish chimney fires in seconds.” Chimfex is a fire suppressant.
If you use a generator as a backup power source, it should be tested to make sure it works properly and can handle those nasty “Nor’easter” storms in case of power failures.
As always, one of the best ways to keep your home safe is to check all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure they have new batteries, are located properly, and work well.
Finally, Macak said, make sure you have proper clothing, equipment and snow shovels, so that you are ready for the first snow.
“When shoveling snow, take your time and stay safe, since many heart attacks do occur during snow-shoveling,” Macak added.
Before that snow falls, your lawn and garden will also need specific attention in preparation for winter.
Regina Winters, garden center manager at Asbury Gardens in Oneonta, said that it is important to fertilize your lawn throughout the fall months so that it has healthy and strong roots going into winter. Now is also a good time to put grass seed down on any bare spots on your lawn so that they will grow in spring.
“You want to make sure everything is as healthy as can be going into winter,” Winters said. That means cleaning up old leaves that may have diseases on them.
“Don’t leave those leaves on the ground,” Winters said. “When it rains in the spring, the fungus will splash up onto any surrounding plants and any disease problems that you had will just come back.”
For your garden, you will want to clean up damaged or diseased plants as well, Winters suggested. Once perennials have died, remove them by cutting them back. If you have a deer problem, deer repellent can help with this.
It is wise to cover any plants that may need some extra protection during winter. For any broadleaf evergreens on your property, a heavy fabric such as burlap will work well, Winters said.
You may want to put down mulch or compost in any vegetable garden beds to be tilled in spring, which will help you start off with healthy soil for next year.
Winter’s coming. Be prepared, be safe, and enjoy the ride.