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Christmas cactus

Well, winter is here. And frankly, it came all too soon for me. There are things I wish I’d done (in the yard and outside) before the snow started, but where I live, that time has passed.

Of course, there are a lot of things you can do to make your house safer and more efficient in the winter. Here are a few:

  • Beware of bursting water pipes. If the temperature outside is likely to get very cold, you can hopefully save yourself from an expensive repair by letting the cold water drip from the outside faucets. Even just a bit of water running through the pipes can help keep them from freezing. Also, if you are going to be gone from home for a few days or longer, you will probably be tempted to turn the heater off in your house to save energy. Bad idea. Not only are your pipes more likely to burst, but your houseplants won’t like the cold, either. I learned this on my Thanksgiving trip away from home. Poor plants! They did not like the house so cold…and neither did we when we returned. If you keep the house temperature even just at a cool 55 degrees, that can make a huge difference.  (And remember that any sensitive potted plants that are outside still should be moved to a warmer location, either indoors or at least more sheltered. I moved mine inside, where they will stay until spring.)
  • Reverse your ceiling fan. A lot of us only think to use our ceiling fans in the summer to cool us down with a breeze. But they are actually very effective during the winter, too, and all you have to do is flip a switch. Then the warmer air is pulled upward and circulated back out over the room. For almost all ceiling fans, you will want the fan to move in a clockwise direction as you look straight up at it, and there is generally a switch on the side of the fan or on the wall. You will also stay warmer and keep your heater from working overtime by dressing warmer. This is the time to pull out your long-sleeved sweaters – adding one will help you feel a few degrees warmer so you can keep the heat a little lower without being uncomfortable. Even ugly sweaters can help you stay warmer!
  • Don’t be a fire statistic. Every year we hear of tragedies related to dry brittle Christmas trees and lights, or to home room heaters. Don’t let it happen to your family. Make sure your smoke detector has fresh batteries and test it with smoke (not just the “test” button), and if your smoke detector is older than ten years, it’s time to replace it. Also, make sure your fire extinguisher is where it used to be, and that it still works.
  • Prepare ahead for weather-related emergencies. In the winter, because of the cold weather and winter storms it is much more likely that we will have power outages. Ice and snow can really change people’s plans – just look at the recent ice storm in Dallas, where schools and businesses were closed, the ice made it dangerous to drive, and people were advised to not drive anywhere if they didn’t have it. In southern Utah last week, they had so much snow that churches were closed and people told to stay home if possible. Some cities have no snow plows (they rarely get snow, and when they do, it melts quickly), and the snow inconvenienced the community for at least a few days. Fortunately, these weather-related emergencies only lasted a short while, but they were still a challenge for everyone. When something like this happens (not “if”), you’ll be grateful you prepared ahead with an emergency kit. Be sure you have a form of lighting (a lantern or flashlights are much safer than candles, though provide less ambiance), the phone number for your utility company, a surge protector on your computer (and maybe a battery backup), bottled water and food for a few days, blankets to keep your family warm, and a first aid kit. All these items should be kept in a place that is easily accessible.

With winter here for a few months, do what you can to stay prepared. Use blankets and sweaters, be careful of fire dangers in the home and have emergency supplies on hand for when they are needed.

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