Editorial: Keep winter readiness in mindNo doubt this winter has been a wimp, but it wouldn’t be unusual for the old man to try for one last hurrah late in the season.
No doubt this winter has been a wimp, but it wouldn’t be unusual for the old man to try for one last hurrah late in the season.
Cold weather region dwellers still need to be prepared for whatever nature can throw their way. That applies whether they stay close to the hearth or venture out into the elements.
At home, it’s a good time to batten down the hatches and make the house more energy efficient. Here are some tips from Clean Wisconsin for easy, economical home winterization:
—Keep the warmth in. Check around the home for leaks and cracks, and fix them with weather stripping, caulk or other sealants; at door bottoms, use a draft snake or rolled-up towel. “A good way to find leaks is by feeling around the windows with wet hands,” said a staff scientist for Clean Wisconsin. This simple step can save homeowners up to 10 percent on utility bills. If there’s a fireplace, close the chimney damper when it’s not in use and consider closing heating vents in attics, basements and other less-frequented areas.
—Be temperature smart. A programmable thermostat gives more control over the comfort of both home and pocketbook. Set the thermostat as low as comfortable—68 degrees or less when awake at home, and lower when asleep or away. For every one degree the thermostat is set back for an eight-hour period, as much as one percent can be saved on a heating bill. Check the furnace air filter as well; a clogged filter means the furnace can’t run as efficiently as possible. And don’t heat an empty house. When leaving for an extended period of time, set the temperature at a minimum level to keep pipes from freezing.
—Install storm windows and doors if available; a good storm door can decrease heat lost through the entryway by 45 percent. If there aren’t any storm windows, closing curtains can help with drafts and plastic window sheeting is an easy DIY energy-saver that can save homeowners up to $18 per window on energy costs.
—Insulate. The water heater is one of the biggest energy hogs in the house. Wrap it with an insulating blanket from the local hardware store (and maybe turn it down to a lower setting) and insulate hot water pipes to help save energy and money.
—Get informed. Explore energy-saving resources at www.focusonenergy.com, the state’s energy efficiency program. If a home is older, consider an energy audit, as this might reveal the need for more ambitious updates to the home. Then take a look at the utility bill to see if these winterizing techniques yielded savings.
The great outdoors poses its own set of challenges all winter. In the car, drivers should stay aware of changing road conditions. Wisconsin Department of Transportation traffic safety officials offer the following advice for safe driving during severe winter weather:
—Motorists planning to travel need to monitor weather and road conditions before leaving.
—Check road conditions by calling 5-1-1.
—If having a smart or web-enabled phone, go to www.511wi.gov.
—Remember, the speed limit is based on clear roads and dry pavement, so don’t drive too fast for conditions.
—Watch for slippery spots on bridges and overpasses.
—Take note of mileposts, exit numbers or crossroads in case of sliding off the road or being involved in a crash so as to be found by law enforcement officers and tow truck operators.
On the ice, warmer winter weather can cause unsafe conditions. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, reminds everyone no ice condition should ever be considered completely safe. Lakes and rivers are dynamic places with water currents, springs, water control structures, cattails, snow cover and many other factors affect the thickness of ice and how it forms. Many of these factors are hidden and are difficult to see.
If going onto the ice, keep these facts in mind:
—Ice conditions change daily.
—Talk to someone familiar with the lake about the ice conditions.
—Take ice picks or nails and a throw rope to help get out of the water if happening to fall in.
—Let someone know where the destination is and the expected time of return.
—Standing or parking in a group will require more ice than what is recommended in ice thickness guidelines (for such guidelines in Wisconsin, visit www.dnr.wi.gov).