Now’s the time to get ready for winter

Summer’s growing old. High school teams across Lassen County are playing football. The first traces of morning frost cling to windshields and rooftops. It won’t be long before the cold winds of winter blow, and now is the time to prepare for our wintry environment in our little corner of Northeastern California.

Many homes in our region are heated with wood. If creosote and soot build up in a chimney or flue, the result could be a chimney fire. These fires are preventable through routine maintenance and keeping your chimney or flue clean. Many homeowners may not realize a chimney is not designed to handle the high temperatures of open flame — your chimney is simply part of an exhaust system, and to be safe, the open flame should remain in your hearth or stove.

Homeowners may detect a chimney fire by its common symptoms — loud cracking or popping noises, a lot of dense smoke and an intense, hot smell. Some homeowners also report hearing a low rumbling sound. The best way to prevent a chimney fire is have a qualified chimney sweep inspect or clean your chimney. Here’s the important take away: Clean chimneys don’t catch fire.

Here are some tips on keeping your house warm during the winter.

Check your windows and doors for leaks. Look for crevice cracks in the exterior and exposed areas around pipes. Seal them.

If needed, use weatherstripping around doors and caulk your windows. Take the time to clean any debris from your gutters.

Don’t forget to reverse the direction of ceiling fans to push hot air downward and close off any rooms that are being used.

What about your motor vehicle?
Those of us who live here know driving in the winter weather can be both a challenge and a hazard. Make sure you have an emergency kit in your car with items you might need to help you stay warm — hat and gloves, a coat or a blanket, a little water and maybe a snack or two just in case you’re stuck on the side of the road waiting for help to arrive.

Make sure you have a flashlight and an ice scraper. Flares, extra engine oil and coolant are a good idea, too. Keep your windshield wipers in good condition — if the wipers don’t keep your windows clean, you’re courting trouble. Make sure you keep your wiper fluid full.

Check to see your battery and electrical system are in good repair. It’s also a good idea to check your hoses and belts. It’s also a good idea to keep your gas tank as full as possible.

Of course, four-wheel drive helps with traction in inclement weather, but don’t forget 4WD doesn’t improve your tires’ grip when breaking. Your tires are important, especially in the winter. Make sure you check the air pressure in each tire as deflated tires lose traction. Of course, snow tires are a good idea in our region. And if you find yourself skidding, don’t apply the brakes! Take your foot off the gas and turn into the skid.

Ensure your heater and defrost system are in good working order. The heater can keep you warm, and the defroster can repel any condensation on the windshield that may hamper your visibility. Make sure the antifreeze mixture in your radiator is correct. Check your oil level, and make sure your oil is the correct viscosity for winter weather.

As Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”