Our short days and chilly nights tell the tale: All Northwesterners are now fair game for heavy rains, snow and ice – and the worries they can bring for a home or RV that isn't up to the weather.
If you haven't yet weatherized, now's the time to prevent damage while cutting your energy expenses, too
Five do-now tips for your home:
- Insulate the attic and crawlspace. Know your insulation's R-values (R is short for "thermal resistance") and if it's lacking, beef it up to meet recommendations for your area. Adequate insulation also helps to prevent indoor heat from leaking through unheated attics and rising to the roof. That's an important defense against ice dams, in which gutters freeze solid and meltwater from the roof, with nowhere to go, backs up under shingles and penetrates walls, causing damage.
- Cover exposed water pipes in the garage, attic, crawl spaces, outside walls and laundry room with foam pipe sleeves, available at hardware stores. During extreme cold snaps, you can warm exposed pipes near a power source with UL-listed heat tape (be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions). Plug cold-air leaks around pipe installations with caulk or insulation.
- Add heat-blocking window coverings. Keep heat in during winter (and out during summer) when you replace sheer curtains with heavier drapes or blinds. They're a second line of defense after ensuring you have good caulking and weather stripping around doors and windows. While it's best to apply latex caulk between 40 and 80 degrees F., silicone caulk can dry even in freezing weather as long as the surface is frost-free and dry.
- Install a programmable thermostat. Save on energy costs with a thermostat that automatically adjusts when you're sleeping or away. You may even get a rebate from your utility company. Learn more about programmable thermostats. And while you're at it, be sure to reverse the blades on your ceiling fan to push warm air down into the room.
- Replace surge protectors that are more than two years old. Surge protectors absorb excess voltage and silently degrade every time they save your appliances and tech. Since there's usually no way to tell when an electrical event occurs, it pays to replace them frequently. Surges can happen during stormy weather that triggers power outages.
Five do-now tips for your RV or boat:
- Replace failing caulk and seals. UV exposure breaks down seals over time. If you're unable to park in a covered storage facility, you (or your RV service technician) should check caulking and seams twice a year, starting with the roof – screws, vents, TV satellite brackets, air conditioners, racks and ladders. Move on to doors, windows, compartments and slide-outs. Also, after windstorms, check roofs for punctures from fallen branches.
- Make sure tarps are breathable. Moist, still air encourages mold. A breathable cover helps prevent condensation from forming between it and your RV or boat.
- Improve ventilation. Hinder mold growth by opening bathroom doors, cupboards, drawers and ski lockers. Defrost the refrigerator, turn it off, wipe it dry and secure the door so it stays ajar. Consider a dehumidifier made especially for RVs and boats.
- Drain plumbing. To prevent leaks, drain everything including hot and cold fresh water lines and tanks.
- Park on a dry surface. Tires sitting in mud for even one season become susceptible to dry rot.
Five bonus tips for boaters:
- Change all fluids, and watch for metal shavings. If you have an outdrive, look for discolored outdrive fluids. If you find either, take your boat to a repair shop.
- Drain everything, including the freshwater pump, block, manifolds, tanks, hoses, etc. Close seacocks and clean the bilge.
- Flush the engine and disconnect the battery. Replace zinc anodes as necessary.
- Lube and pack your trailer's wheel bearings and check the tires for air.
- Protect your boat from theft. The Northwest is among the nation's hot spots for boat thieves.
If you'd like to take a deeper dive on protecting your boat from winter damage, check out this worry less, live more advice, courtesy of boats.com.
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