November 6, 2013 at 6:40 pm EST | by guest columnist
Is your home ready for a winter storm?
Snowmageddon, snow, gay news, Washington Blade

Winter weather is coming. Are you prepared?(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)


We all know the drill. When we catch wind of an approaching winter storm, we all head straight to the store to stock up on bread, milk and other common necessities. But how often do we think about whether our home is prepared to withstand the challenges brought about by severe weather? The structure of our home is one of the most crucial tools for safety during a winter storm and you should spend as much time readying it as you do your pantry shelves.


Have an Alternate Heat Source

Having an alternate, non-electric heat source is especially vital when the temperature drops and the power goes out. These sources can include a fireplace or wood stove, a kerosene heater or a backup generator. If you are using a fireplace, make sure it has been properly maintained and you have plenty of dry wood stored. If you have a tank where you store fuel for the system, such as propane or oil, don’t forget to stock up on supplies before the storm hits. If a severe storm does occur, your regular fuel carrier may not be able to reach your home for a few days because of demand or roadway conditions. Also, consider buying a camping stove to prepare meals and heat water in case of a power outage, but be sure to only use it in a well-ventilated area.


Caring for Your Home

Regular maintenance is essential in order to ensure your home is ready to withstand a strong winter storm. Keep the following checklist on hand as the winter months approach to help you stay on top of your home so you don’t have to scramble at the last minute. Inside the home: replace smoke detector batteries; replace carbon monoxide batteries; check and clean fireplaces and chimneys; lock windows to keep them square.

Outside the home: clean debris from gutters and downspouts; shut off and drain hose bibs; check and clean septic system; caulk and retouch exterior paint; make sure drainage is heading away from the house.



A “Fall Start Check,” consisting of the following, should be performed on each unit of the HVAC system.

  • Check and replace air filter.
  • Check combustion chamber.
  • Check charge on heat pumps.
  • Check humidifier operation and replaceable parts.
  • Clean away leaves and debris from outside units.
  • Adjust dampers to favor northern, not southern, rooms.

In addition to following the above winterizing checklist prior to the start of the season, there are a number of things you can do to help protect your home from inclement weather. For example, if a power outage causes you to lose heat, let your faucets drip slightly to help protect the pipes from freezing. Familiarize yourself with where your home’s main water shut-off valve is located in the event that a pipe does burst or you need it as a preventative measure. Keep your eye out for signs that your pipes may be freezing, such as reduced water pressure, and turn the water off immediately. If you do lose heat, you can put towels under doorways to help isolate the heat in one room, and cover the windows with blankets at night to prevent further heat loss. If you have an automatic icemaker, particularly one with an in-door dispenser, you may want to empty the ice compartment if you lose power. This will not only stop the melted water from dripping out onto the floor, but also prevent it from refreezing inside the dispenser once the power comes back on, which may cause it to break.

With a little bit of investment and planning, you’ll be able to weather any storm and enjoy the winter.

Josh Baker is the founder and co-chair of BOWA, an award-winning design and construction company specializing in luxury renovations, remodels and additions in the greater Washington, D.C. area. BOWA has more than 25 years of experience and has been honored with 160 local and national awards. Reach him at 703-734-9050 or visit

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