The winter months are long and arduous, not only for yourself but for your home. Here are a few maintenance tips to do and keep in mind over the colder months.
Change Your Furnace Filters
Ventilation is crucial in winter, as we spend most of our time indoors. In frigid weather, our furnaces work harder than ever, and a clean filter can help it immensely. The filters are easily replaced but often forgotten about.
While considering furnace air circulation, check your kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans to ensure they work correctly and remove moisture from the air. An easy method to check fans is holding a tissue up to it and seeing if it gets pulled into it. If it seems amiss, clean the fan thoroughly or replace it.
Foggy Frost-Covered Windows Means Weeping Windows
If you notice your windows are accumulating condensation or even frost, there could be various reasons. It could be faulty windows, humidity or poor ventilation. Properly investigate windows with these issues because weeping windows can lead to mould and compromise the window’s structure. Purchasing a hydrometer will allow you to check the humidity throughout your home. If the humidity levels are higher in certain areas, buy a dehumidifier. If the humidity is low, invest in a humidifier. Your home’s humidity should be at 40-60%.
A simple fix to try out first is to caulk around windows and doors—remove old cracked caulking and re-apply. Replace the seals and weather stripping around all windows and doors to stop cold drafts from coming in rather than cranking up the heat.
Chimneys should need to be inspected annually, especially if there is a fireplace at the bottom. If you have furnace ventilation out the chimney, it should be through a metal pipe, and fewer issues can arise.
Inspect the chimney for creosote or soot. Both can be serious fire hazards—chimney fires can spread rapidly through your home. Also, make sure there is no damage to the chimney. A block or crack can lead to toxic fumes, such as carbon monoxide, entering your home. Even with a gas fireplace, it is essential to ensure air flow is coming in and out.
Check Your Smoke Alarms and CO Detectors
Speaking of fire hazards, check your smoke detectors often to ensure they are in proper working order. Replace the batteries or unit if needed. Check the CO detectors also. Write a reminder on the first of the month to check all units, as it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Plug In Safely
This holiday and winter, check all extension cords and power bars to ensure they are in good condition. If they are in bad shape, with exposed cords or tears, don’t tape them. Throw them away. Be wary of overloading your circuits.
Watch Out For Icicles
Icicles and ice dams should not be ignored. They usually form on the edges of your home where it’s slower to melt, preventing the water from draining off your roof. The backup meltwater can find its way into your home walls and basement. If you see an ice dam forming and cannot remove it yourself, look into hiring a professional to assist you. They can look at the eaves and inside your attic, because you need proper airflow and insulation to prevent ice from forming.
Winterize Your Pipes
Canada has extremely cold winter days. These days can wreak havoc on your pipes. When water freezes, it expands, putting pressure on pipes below insulation or through cold zones. The freezing water in the pipes can cause them to burst and flood your home. If your pipes are outside or close to the outside wall, you can wrap them with insulation. Ensure the exterior hose pipes were drained in Autumn. Invest in non-freeze hose bibs that help prevent pipes from bursting. If you plan to travel this winter, keep your furnace set to at least 18 degrees Celcius to keep your pipes warm while you are away. Call a licensed plumber to fix the problem if you end up with frozen pipes.
Clear Driveways and Walkways
Shovelling driveways and walkways is essential to not only yourself driving and walking but also to pedestrians. Apply pet-friendly de-icer if needed. If you aren’t a fan of burning your grass, apply gravel instead. Cracks in your driveway and sidewalks can be a tripping hazard. Removing snow will help expose them. Snow around the bricks of your home should be removed to prevent flaking and spalling.
Winter and upcoming Holidays mean many of us are going away to families, friends or hot destinations. Be smart about setting up your home when you are away. In addition to keeping the furnace on, also set up light sensors to come on periodically throughout the day, at different time intervals. Install security cameras or smart locks to be notified if someone enters your home. Smart locks also can let people in remotely while you are away.
Now that you have a good understanding of winter maintenance on your home. You are all set for the winter. There is nothing to do but sit back, relax and get cozy.
Making a snow person was my favourite pastime when I was a kid. I used to create families of snow people, including pets, and a home for them to live in. There is a bit of science behind the snow consistency and the success rate of building the perfect snowman.
The Right Snow
Proper snow consistency is key to making a snowman. Look for dense, wet snow that falls or is already on the ground on a warmer day. Stay away from cold days or blizzards like snow falls for snow person building—nobody wants to be out there anyways.
Location, Location, Location
Make sure you find a perfect location for your snowman to show it off. When I was a kid, I used to build my snow person in front of our living room window, so I could gaze upon it and say hello! The best spot to build a snowman for longevity is in a shaded part of your yard and/or in the center area where you roll your snowballs.
Build your snow person like a “pyramid” with a large ball at the bottom. Medium-sized for the tummy and a smaller one for the head! The smaller the snowman, the more structure it will have. As you increase the size, it becomes less stable. Once in a while I would make a 6ft snowman with the help of my dad or grandpa to add the finishing touches.
Rolling it Up
Start by making a larger-than-average snow ball (you know, the kind you throw at someone)…then start rolling it around in the snow and watch it magically become larger. Roll it around until you can’t physically push it anymore or until you are happy with the size. Once the main snowball is ready, pack snow around the base to make it extra secure to the ground.
Flatten Each Ball
While rolling each ball, make sure you stop from time to time to pack it down and ensure it’s a solid ball. Remember to do this for building the actual snow person—pat down a flat area between each ball to strengthen the structure.
The Perfect Accessories
My mom always had an old box of too-small hats and gloves for us to use for our snow person. That way, if they blew away or someone needed it, we wouldn’t be sad to let them go. We also had a gravel driveway that provided many rocks for the snowman’s eyes, nose, and buttons—and a garden for a carrot for the nose. Deer would often come into the yard and eat the nose!
If you are going for a certain aesthetic, try matching the snow person to the scheme of your home or outside decor. Try an ugly sweater on it or an old jacket for an extra bit of whimsy. Don’t forget to add branches for the arms!
Building a snow person or a snow family is a lot of fun for the whole family or alone. Plus, being outside is a great way to boost your mood and get active.
Here in Saskatchewan, winter is a drag, the snow, the ice, and the overall coldness. It is hard to leave your house, and being cozy is the ultimate goal. However, here is a helpful list of fighting off winter blues that can boost your mood and improve your mental health.
What is Seasonal Affective Disorder?
Often referred to as seasonal depression, it’s a type of depression related to the change of seasons—mainly in the colder, darker months, like winter. Some symptoms include:
- Low Energy Levels
- Mood Changes and Social Problems
- Changes in Sleep Patterns
- Changes in Appetite or Weight
If you already experience depression year-round, these symptoms tend to worsen in winter.
What can you do?
There are a few key things you can do to help curb seasonal depression and improve your mental health during the long winter months. Even if seasonal depression doesn’t affect you, the suggestions below will boost anyone’s mood.
Get a Light Therapy Lamp
Light therapy, also known as phototherapy, can be a great way to stave off winter blues. If you are working at a desk or need a few minutes of stress relief, try buying a bright light lamp that imitates natural sunlight.
There is a proper combination of light therapy based on timing, light intensity, and duration. Consult a doctor or the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure you don’t hurt your eyes and have the best results. It is most effective early in the morning for at least 30 minutes—keep a light schedule to have the most impact.
Exercise releases endorphins and is an excellent way to boost energy. Even moving your body 20-30 minutes daily can have tremendous benefits.
Taking up a winter hobby might be nice to get outdoors and get a little fresh air. This season I bought a complete winter gear kit to do winter walks and try snowboarding. If you want to try snowboarding, I recommend Optimist Hill, right in Saskatoon! Walking down the Meewasin trail amongst all the birds and trees is a surefire way to enjoy the outdoors. Having a friend to do these activities with is also a great way to get a chat in and boost your mood.
Pick one winter activity that you love or at least can tolerate, and try to do it a few times or more this winter season! If you feel like -20C is too cold, prioritize activities on good weather days. Sometimes it can be hard to take advantage of these if you work full-time, but if they fall on a weekend, there’s no better time to get outside!
Prioritize Social Activities
Staying inside all winter sounds like the best course of action but remember to prioritize socialization. The roads might be bad sometimes, but plan fun activities with friends and family when it’s safe. Having a close social group and having connections with various people will enrich your life in ways you can’t imagine. My favourite winter activities with friends are going to a cozy cafe, going to the art gallery, walking outside, and skating at a rink near my house.
Remember to Get Enough Vitamin D
We have already touched on the Light Therapy lamp. Still, real vitamin D is also required to regulate the amount of calcium, Magnesium and phosphate in your body, which is vital for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. The research on vitamin D and your health is limited, but it can’t hurt to try to get more in regularly.
Low sunshine throughout the winter months means less vitamin D from the sun, and luckily there are supplemental vitamins. Food can also be a great source of vitamin D, such as juices, milk alternatives, oily fish, red meat and eggs.
If you can, taking a vacation to a warm climate can be a nice break from winter blues and an excellent way to gain more vitamin D!
Be sure not to let winter halt your life entirely, and try something new this year to keep yourself active and healthy. These tips will hopefully get you out of that slump and encourage you to get out there.