A safe, warm and cost-effective winter is all about preperation

Jake Cavanaugh, 3, plays in the freshly fallen snow in Truckee, Calif., Oct. 26. The Sierra Nevada city got about a foot of the white stuff in the latest storm.

By Tova Fruchtman: CNJ staff writer

Before cars, heaters and grocery stores, fall was a season dedicated to preparing for winter, but modern conveniences haven’t eliminated the need to winterize.

Preparing cars and homes for the winter months can save people hassles and money, experts say. Taking precautions can also keep people healthy during winter — even without flu shots.

Natural gas prices will be higher than last November, according a press release from PNM.

“Throughout the country the cost of natural gas is increasing due to a higher demand and declining production,” PNM President Eddie

Padilla said in a press release. “Because this trend is expected to continue indefinitely, we recommend that customers concerned about their bills take steps to weatherize their homes. A few dollars invested now can pay dividends for years to come.”

Greg Zurzolo, a former city building inspector, said he thinks the most important items for winterizing a home are storm windows, because they provide a cushion between outside air and inside air.

The Community Action Agency of Southern New Mexico is accepting applications to help low-income, elderly and disabled residents make minor repairs on their home to help them save money during the winter months, according to a press release from their organization. Those interested can call 1-800-657-8967.

Saving on utility costs is the reason most people want to prepare their homes for winter, Zurzolo said, and he said the things people do this winter can save them money in the summer as well.

“They apply, just in reverse. You’re just trying to keep the cold in in the summer,” he said.

Winterizing automobiles can also save money. John Grim, owner of Lo Cost Auto in Clovis, said disregarding car maintenance before cold weather hits could cause the engine to crack.

“Then you have major engine problems,” he said. “We’ve had to replace engines before because of cracking.”

Grim said that can cost up to $4,000.

Car maintenance is also important for safe driving, Grim said.

When it comes to your body, the sniffle of a stuffed nose and the cooling scent of cough drops are all to familiar in the winter months. But people can reduce their chances of getting the common cold and flu.

The flu typically arrives in November and peaks from late December to early March, according a press release from the Curry County Extension Office.

Caused by various viruses, the flu typically spreads by sneezing, coughing or touching a contaminated surface like when a person with a cold touches his nose and then touches a doorknob, according to the extension office’s release.

Taking precautions like washing your hands frequently and being aware of where germs can be spread can help prevent the flu and colds from spreading.

Staying healthy in the cold season
Wash your hands frequently — Hands carry most of the germs to the body. Scrub hands vigorously with soap and water for 10-15 seconds to keep them as germ-free as possible. If you don’t have access to soap and water use a hand gel disinfectant.

Avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth — Germs can live for a long time (some for over 2 hours) on surfaces like doorknobs, desks, and tables. Although hands can’t be germ free all of the time, they are germs’ most common entryway into the body.

Cover your nose and mouth — when coughing or sneezing

Use disposable tissue — And wipe your nose in a way that keeps secretions on the tissue and doesn’t contaminate your hands.

Stay home sick — Stay home, get plenty of rest, and check with a health care provider as needed. Your employer may need a doctor’s note for an excused absence. Keeping your distance from others may protect them from getting sick.

Practice good health habits — Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.

Source: Curry County Extension Office

Winterizing your vehicle
Check your Anti-freeze level — This is the most important winterizing for your car, not enough anti-freeze can cause the engine to crack. Anti-freeze should be checked before it gets cold and changed every 30,000 miles.

Check your battery — Batteries often go bad with weather changes. Getting someone with a discharging machine to check it is ideal.

Keep good brakes — Brakes that are screeching or grinding are bad and unsafe at all time, but especially on slick icy roads.

Keep good tires — Making sure your tires aren’t bald will ensure safety when driving in winter weather.

Have an emergency kit — Keep blankets, water, flashlight and other emergency gear in your car in case of an accident or problems.

Source: Low Cost Auto

Keeping homes warm in the winter

Low-Cost Measures

Buy a programable thermostat — This can be set to raise or lower the temperature in your house automatically according to your needs.

Keep windows working — Replace or repair broken window glass.

Caulk and seal — Around all doors and windows and any cracks in exterior walls.

Purchase and use a humidifier — In winter the air inside homes in New Mexico is normally dry, a disadvantage because, to be comfortable in dry air, people require a higher temperature than they would in a humid environment.

Insulate single-pane windows — Plastic insulation kits are available at most hardware stores.

Wrap your hot-water heater— An insulation blanket will reduce heating demand on the unit.

Insulate outlets — Insert a foam insulation pad behind switch plates and outlet covers located on external walls.

Replace furnace filters — They should be replaced once a month during the heating season.

Check heating ducts — Seal air leaks with duct tape. (Tape that carries the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) logo is less likely to degrade, crack, and lose its bond with age.)

No-Cost Measures

Set your thermostat low — Each degree over 68 degrees can add up to 3 percent to the amount of energy needed to heat your home. Set your thermostat back to 60 degrees at night.

Protect thermostat — Keep thermostat is level and not exposed to direct sunlight or other direct heat sources. This is important for it to operate properly.

Don’t heat unused rooms — Close heating and return air vents or radiator valves and keep doors closed.

Fireplace dampers — Keep them tightly fitting dampers and closed when the fireplace is not in use.

Take advantage of steam — Use kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans sparingly to use steam from bathing and cooking humidify your home and make it easier to heat.

Conserve hot water —Drain a couple gallons of water from your hot-water heater annually to keep sediment from building up in the tank. Take showers rather than baths.

Clear path for vents — Make sure they are not blocked by drapes or furniture.

Use the sun — Keep draperies and shades on south-facing windows open during the day to allow sunlight to enter. Close draperies and shades at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.

Source: PNM