PROPERTY NEWS - Winter is not just about cold weather - it can damage parts of your home. You might think that South African winters are so mild that you don't really need to prepare your home. But anyone who has had frozen pipes burst, problems with insulation or even mould growth will tell you this isn't the case.
Here are a number of steps to prepare your home for winter:
Get those pipes ready
It turns out you don't just have to hold thumbs and hope your pipes don't freeze and burst. There are a few things you can try to protect them from really bad cold fronts. The simplest way to do this is to use heat tape on problem pipes. Despite the name, heat tape is more than just an adhesive material. According to ElectroFlex.co.za, heat tape is made up of an electrical element or cable which runs along your pipe. You then wrap it in adhesive insulation to keep the heat from escaping. It is more of a kit than a single product.
Luckily it is relatively easy to install and will keep your pipes at a safe temperature. You just need a grounded electrical outlet to give it power. HGTV.com also suggests switching the water off for your outdoor sprinklers and taps, draining any water left in them.
You should also detach and empty any of your garden hoses and store them away. In case the worst happens and your pipes do explode, make sure everyone in the house is aware of how to switch off the water mains to avoid flooding and high water loss.
Plug those leaks and seal those cracks
If you live in the Western Cape, you'll know that winter comes with rain. In fact, you can have days and days of rain. You should, therefore, make sure that any leaks in your ceiling and roof are sealed so that you don't end up with water damage.
Repairing and waterproofing during the winter season is difficult when the weather just won't clear up.
There is also value in sealing up cracks and openings in your roof for those who experience dry winters. These exposed spots will let heat out of your home - which will raise your electricity bill if you're using heaters. Dry winters also come with cold winds, so sealing up any exposed areas will help keep the house insulated. Even just using caulk or silicone gel around your window frames can help keep them more sealed and secure.
Wet winter? Prepare for storms
If you live in a place that has a rainy winter, make sure you also storm-proof your home. Cleaning gutters, making sure your land has sufficient drainage and possibly even getting storm guards for doors and windows are some of the options. You should also check whether your home insurance policy covers storm damage so that you aren't hit with any unexpected costs.
Using a fireplace? Do chimney maintenance
To save on electricity, many people are opting to use fireplaces. This is especially common in older homes. However, before winter sets in, you should make sure you do some chimney maintenance. Your chimney will need to be cleaned and cleared of any blockages. You will also need to have your chimney checked for any damage. Make sure it has proper air flow. Having smoke fill your home due to a blocked chimney will not only leave your eyes burning and your furniture smelling, you will also need to open your doors and windows to let the smoke out - while letting all the cold winter air in.
Protect your garden
Plants usually go into hibernation during winter, but this doesn't mean they're protected from damage.
Many places across the country are all too familiar with the damage frost can do to your plants. To protect your plants (including indoor plants), don't water them late in the day. This can lead to the water in the soil freezing overnight and killing your plants. You can use a variety of simple ways to protect your plants from frost.
This includes placing buckets over vulnerable young plants overnight. You can also place plastic sheets over certain plants to insulate them and prevent frost from making contact.
Humidify/dehumidify your home
Depending on the type of winter you have (wet or dry), you will want to take steps to either humidify or dehumidify your home. In Cape Town, for example, winter comes with rain and cold humidity.
This makes mould a very real problem for many homeowners. You should, therefore, use a dehumidifier in problem rooms. Dehumidifiers are usually quite cheap plastic containers with absorbent materials inside - a cost-effective solution.
One of the most affordable units can cost you around R349. You can also use anti-mould paint and waterproofing solutions to prevent the growth of fungus. If you have a dry winter, you will know the lack of humidity can wreak havoc on your skin and sinuses.
This is especially true in polluted cities like Johannesburg, where dust and pollution get particularly bad in winter due to the lack of rain. Humidifiers are unfortunately not as cheap as dehumidifiers, but they can greatly increase your comfort if you suffer from the dryness.
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