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Keeping Warm – Winter Prep List for You and Your Home

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Little things can make a big difference when it comes to keeping warm and comfortable in your home. A friend of mine made one change from this list and raised the temp in her daughter's bedroom over 10 degrees – without turning up the thermostat. With the right preps, we reduce our heating bills all season, and are in much better shape if a winter storm knocks out the power.

snow covered door

This post is part of our Winter Home Heating Series, which includes:

Keeping Warm – Winter Prep List for You and Your Home

Start with the house, inside and outside, then make sure each family member has the right gear for keeping warm.

Home Heating Safety

Get stocked on fuel. Make sure your propane tank is full for the winter and/or you have plenty of dry firewood or heating pellets. In the middle of a snowstorm is not when you want to realize you are out of fuel.

Make sure everything is clean. Change your furnace filter (if you have one). Clean the woodstove and chimney and inspect for any signs of wear. Have your furnace inspected at least annually.

Have emergency supplies on hand. Stock up, make sure you have a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit – because things happen, and no one wants to see you on the nightly news for bad things happening. Extra toilet paper is great in case you get snowed in and find yourself in need. Storing extra of your favorite foods, and some long term foods is also a great plan. Have at least 7 days of food and water.

Use space heaters wisely. My friend, CJ Harrington, recommended Buddy Heaters (that burn propane) for safe indoor use. There are also a wide variety of electric space heaters available. Check and double check to make sure any combustion device you choose is rated for indoor use and that you have enough airflow. On electric heaters, watch for frayed cords or other signs of excess wear. Always keep combustible items clear of your heat source, and don't plug electric heaters into a power strip. They will melt the strip.

Outside the house. Inspect your house. Walk around the exterior looking for openings and gaps. Do the same inside and check the attic in late spring when its still cool. Keep an eye on your roof throughout the winter. If you get icicles or ice damns, you likely have excess heat loss in the attic. Inspect the roof the following spring/summer for leaks due to ice damage.

wall mounted extinguisher

Control Drafts

Even with good windows, doors and patio doors, you might need to block drafts. In our first house we had a brand new front door. When we got below zero weather, the door frosted up along the bottom edge. We added draft blocker against the door to reduce heat loss.

Some spots to check for drafts include:

  • Weather stripping on all windows and doors. Replace any that is damaged or missing.
  • Electrical outlets – many may have drafts. If you are qualified, disable the circuit, pull out the plug and carefully insulate around the box. Simpler fixes are outlet insulation and outlet covers.
  • Door bottoms. Place rolled up towel at the base of a front door or drafty door to keep heat in or cold out. For a sturdier draft blocker, use a leg from an old pair of sweats stuffed with old socks, tshirts and other “rags”. Fill it and tie off ends and lay along door blocking the draft. Another more attractive option is heavy duty draft blockers that lock to the door.
  • Windows  – See the Reduce Window Heat Loss Section on 25 Cheap Ways to Keep Your House Warm in Winter. Installing window insulating film over an old patio door helped my friend warm up her daughter's bedroom.

Keeping People Warm

Stock Warm Clothes. Make sure each family member has:

  • Long underwear tops and bottoms.
  • Good winter boots and outdoor gear (if you're freezing outside, it'll take you that much longer to warm up when you get in)
  • Clothes that you can layer for warmth, such as flannel overshirts or sweatshirts
  • Polypropylene 1st layer socksvery warm wool socks and slippers

** For more info, see The 4 Layers of Winter Clothing Everyone Should Know

Warm feet help keep you whole body warm.

Bedding. Make sure you have a few extra very warm blankets and comforters. Watch for sales or buy them secondhand to save money.

  • A good wool blanket can really improve the livability of a cold house or cold bed. If you don't like wool, sandwich it between cotton sheets or other blankets.
  • Electric blankets can heat up the bed before you get in and then turned off once you get warmed up.
  • Choose flannel sheets for extra warmth.
  • Purchase cold weather sleeping bags (one per person) for emergencies (or winter camping or really chilly bedrooms).
  • Down comforters trap insulating pockets of air, keeping you warm without adding a ton of extra weight.

See “No More Cold Feet in Bed” for more tips for toasty toes.

Targeting heating. Use chemical hand warmers in gloves, footwear or pockets – but be careful because they may be too warm to place directly against the skin. These warmers can be purchased almost anywhere. They are inexpensive and work fast. The heat can really make a difference for comfort and keep you from getting frostbite. Many boots, gloves and mittens have a pouch for the warmers.

door snow pile

What other preps do you make for cold weather? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Don't forget to check out our other Cold Weather Preparedness posts.

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5 Comments

  1. I cannot stress the importance of having a fire extinguisher enough. We have supplement heated with kerosene for years (we also have Mr Buddy propane heaters). A week or so ago, I was multitasking after a long day of work. Lit the kerosene heater, got distracted, and turned the wick UP rather than down. Did you know when the wick is turned all the way up (at least on older models) it ‘locks’ the wick? We ended up removing the chimney, covered the wick with a pot lid, which did not extinguish the flame. Carried the unit outside to the driveway and had to hit it with the extinguisher to put it out. (Figured out after the fact that pushing in on the knob would allow the wick to be lowered, allowing the mechanism to close and extinguish the flame) Mind you, we’ve supplemented with kerosene for almost 20 years. Never ever had an issue. Always adjusted wick height without having to push the knob in. In hindsight, it was a stupid mistake. We did not panic, but never thought to push the knob in to re-engage the wick adjuster.

    Takeaways:

    Always have a fire extinguisher on hand. Period. Make sure it is ABC ‘rated/graded’ to cover ANY type of fire,

    Don’t get complacent about your supplemental heat sources. Keep up with regular maintenance. Check them before you need them to ensure they are working properly. Refresh yourself on proper use before the cold sets in.

    Sorry this was so long. If you got a chuckle out if it, that’s okay. I can laugh and facepalm myself about it now. But if anything, I hope you learn the importance of being prepared for the ‘stupid’ stuff that might happen too.

  2. After my parent’s got us a Keurig for Christmas one year (very nice gift that rarely gets used), I decided to ask for more practical gifts. Last year, it was warm stuff. Two things I will reccomend here. I have no affiliation with either brand, these were gifted to me. You can google them or look for them on Amazon (use Laurie’s affiliate link if you’d like).

    MukLuk slippers: Mine have a semihard thick plastic sole. They are ‘fleece’ lined and come above the ankle. I often wear them outside when it’s not too wet or the snow is well packed.

    Heat Holder socks: They are Thick! (at least the style Mom got us). And MAN are they warm! I can’t wear them with my regular shoes but they fit perfect with the pair of cowboy boots I have that are a half size too big. ( if i am not mistaken, they do gloves and other items)

    DH also got me a less expensive pair of Great Northwest slippers, they have a firmer sole than the MukLuk’s, and are just as warm and both pairs see regular use.

    Hope this information is helpful!

    1. I think I need to hunt down some of those MukLuk slippers in my size (I have big feet, so will likely need to get men’s slippers). My current slippers are warm, but they don’t come up the ankle. My pants ride up when I sit down, and then my ankles are cold.

  3. My number one item is my down comforter. It’s so warm we usually have to kick it off even on cold nights.
    In the winter I wear my wool socks around the house and my feet never get cold.
    Another tip is to close the flue if you aren’t using the fireplace. This will keep your warm air from escaping up the chimney.

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