The seasons change slowly in North Texas, but cold weather is definitely on its way. While you might be relieved at the drop in temperature, don't put off winter preparation. You always think you have more time than you really do! Winter this year is predicted to be mild, but you know how Texas is: if you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes.
Here's a quick list of simple tasks you can perform to get your property ready for winter weather and prevent damage. Even if the damage is covered under insurance, getting your home or car repaired during any season, but especially winter, can be costly just in terms of your family's inconvenience.
• Save your pipes! Check for leaks, and know where your pipes are to understand the freezing risk in your house. If you know the temperature is going to drop below freezing, open the under-sink cabeinets in the kitchen and bathroom to allow the house's air to circulate. Consider letting a slow drip flow during the night as well. Know where your water shutoff valve is in case of a burst pipe.
• Have your heating system serviced -- and do it early to avoid delays! Many people wait until the last minute, only to have a cold front come through. If there are any problems, you'll want that handled before you turn it on, not after. Plus, the earlier you do it, the less likely you'll have to wait in line behind all the other procrastinators! (And this includes fireplaces, if you have one.)
• Make certain the space around any heat source in your house is clear. This includes fireplaces, space heaters, and even central air vents. Similarly, make certain that your stove and refrigerator both have a gap on all four sides to allow air to circulate properly.
Home (Yard and Exterior)
• Clean out your gutters! Even if your house doesn't have a lot of leaves falling on it, pollen, dirt, and grime can still clog it over time. Keeping your gutters clean before any snow or ice forms will prevent damming. That's when your gutters freeze but your roof doesn't, and it can mean water damage for your roof and interior walls.
• Drain your hoses and exterior faucets before the temperature drops.
• Trim any branches overhanging your property, either your car or your house. Just like with your heating inspection, if you have to get a professional out, do so early to beat the rush!
• Check the seals around any telephone, Internet, power, or TV lines running into your house, as well as look for any other holes. Not only are these areas where you can get heat loss, but they're also spaces where vermin will retreat to when the weather gets cold.
• Check the treads on your tires. We might not get a lot of snow in Texas, but don't let that lull you into a sense of complacency when it comes to traction -- especially at Texan highway speeds!
• Top off your antifreeze. We might not use as much of it as in other states, but you don't want to get caught without it in a sudden cold snap.
• Keep your car clean. Even if you've got an old beater, a clean windshield and lights can make a huge difference if driving conditions turn sour.
• If snowfall occurs, keep to main roads as much as possible, even if it means sitting in traffic. Back roads may take much longer to clear.
• Never drive with large chunks of snow or ice still on your vehicle. Even if they do not obscure your vision, pieces may fly off at highway speeds and hit a car behind you, raising the possibility of an accident.
• Drive slowly and carefully, watching for areas that might conceal black ice, especially early in the morning. The very same higher average temperatures that keep snow from lasting long in Texas can put roads at a higher risk for icing right after any form of precipitation during the night.
• Save emergency numbers in your phone, such as for a AAA membership and your insurance agent, even if you regularly carry their cards in your wallet.
Stay safe, and enjoy the cooler weather before it freezes! You'll miss it when we hit summer again.