Winter is coming (SOON!) to Anthem!
Sure, it got up to 75°F today, and our nightly lows are hovering between 50°F and 60°F, but trust me. Winter will be here before you know it. That doesn't mean snow shovels, ice boots, and sidewalk salt in our neck of the woods, but it does mean that there are some basic preparations you should make to ensure Jack Frost doesn't cause you any real hassles. Technically, we're on "frost watch" until March 19th of next year, so to be safe, don't be tempted to undo your winterization until we're past that date.
1) Insulate All Exposed Plumbing Fixtures
Anyone (and I do mean anyone) who's lived in Anthem for more than one winter has experienced a busted anti-siphon valve. It's not the end of the world, since most landscape maintenance and plumbing companies can repair it rather quickly, but it is a certain pain-in-the-backside. And, it costs anywhere from $125 to $250 to replace. So, instead of dealing with that whole mess, just call your landscape maintenance contact or plumber and ask them to make sure they insulate your outdoor plumbing fixtures next time they're out. Don't forget to cover your front and back hosebibs and exposed irrigation pipes too. It shouldn't cost more than $50 for materials and installation, and your pipes will be protected for at least a few winters. Feel free to reach out to us if you need a referral to someone who can do this for you. Or, you can go the DIY route and buy the proper insulators at Lowe's or Home Depot. Either way, make sure your pipes are covered before we get our typical couple of weeks worth of sub-freezing nightly low temps.
If you're planning to get away for an extended vacation during the coldest time of the year, you might want to get in touch with a local plumber who can complete a whole-home winterization for you. This involves flushing your home's lines and adding a little anti-freeze where necessary to ensure you don't come home to a busted water main (or worse). This service is very affordable, and is a great solution so you can keep your peace of mind while away. Once again, you can find DIY instructions online or call us for the contact info for a local plumber who can do this for you.
It's also a great idea to disconnect and drain any landscape hoses you have now so they won't burst.
2) Wrap Frost-Sensitive Plants
These can include various palm trees, citrus trees, succulents, and ornamentals. You might notice burlap covering some of your neighbors trees or shrubs, and it's a great idea to make sure you don't lose precious freeze-intolerant foliage during a winter cold spell. You can find instructions to do this all over Pinterest and other sites, and it's really simple to do. We recommend using a breathable woven landscape fabric (sold on Amazon as big bags or in large flat sheets) instead of burlap since it's easier to store and reuse for many years. It's always better to be safe than sorry, so if in doubt, just wrap it. If you need a large tree wrapped, say a 15-foot-tall queen palm, then you might want to hire a landscape maintenance crew to handle this for you. Again, we're happy to provide a referral if you need it. You can also stop into a nearby nursery to check with them about winterizing your plants.
If you have plants in containers on your porch or patio, you might want to move them closer to your home or even inside for the winter months. Super-chilled winds can be extremely damaging to tender greenery, so having them closer to the home will alleviate much of the havoc that winds can wreak. Depending upon the type of plant, you might also want to move a potted plant indoors for some or all of the winter. We do this with some small avocado trees since they're very sensitive to cold. Just be sure to place them in the coolest, sunniest spot in your home. Most "outdoor" plants don't take kindly to being stuck in front of an HVAC vent since the regular hot, dry air dehydrates and overheats them. Another option is to move them into a garage. We do this with our medium-sized lemon and lime trees typically for a few of the coldest weeks of the winter just to make sure they're not left out in the cold. If you don't have any large windows in your garage, you'll need to open the garage door pretty much every day to make sure they get some sunlight.
3) Get a Furnace Check-Up
It's always a good idea to have your furnace and HVAC system looked at before it gets too cold. Once the temps really drop, most HVAC repair companies start getting flooded with calls, so this way you can beat the rush and know your system's in good shape for the winter. We know of a handful of companies that offer a quick system check for $100 to $200, so it's not going to cost you an arm or a leg. This is also a good time to have your home's duct system cleaned. Since we tend to spend more time indoors during the winter months, and cold and flu bugs and viruses abound, having clean ducts can minimize your exposure to toxins, allergens, and dust throughout the coming months. Whether you get your ducts cleaned or not, make sure your HVAC filters are replaced or cleaned once a month. Let us know if you need a referral, or contact your regular HVAC repair company to see if they offer a one-time or annual service like this. It's also helpful to do the same thing in April or May every year before you need your A/C.
4) Change Your Thermostat(s) Settings
This tips one of the easiest and least expensive (it's free!) on our list. And it can save you tons of money. First, make sure your thermostats are all set to a minimum indoor temperature of 60°F or 65°F. If you go on vacation during Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years, you can safely leave your thermostats set at this temp while you're gone. Anything below this temperature could cause some odd expansion-contraction issues with the materials used to build your home. Next, program your thermostats to heat your home only when (or an hour or so before) someone is home. Since most days are nice and sunny even in the middle of winter, we set our furnace to turn on around 5:00pm, and heat through the early morning hours. The rest of the time, it's just not necessary to keep our home toasty warm.
5) Light Your Pilot
If your Anthem home has a fireplace or fire pit, it's most assuredly a gas appliance. And since it's a good idea to have any unused gas lines closed during the warmer months when these appliances aren't being used, your pilot light is probably out. Each appliance model operates differently, but it shouldn't be difficult to determine where your pilot light ignition switch is located. If you have trouble, try searching the brand of your fireplace online for instructions. Once lit, make sure to adjust the gas feed so that it's not too low for the pilot to stay lit, and not too high for your liking. Then, let that baby crackle to your heart's content.
6) Caulk & Strip
After a few winter-summer cycles in Anthem, most homes begin to develop small air leaks in various places. Now is the perfect time to make any repairs to those leaks you can find. If you suspect an air leak, but can't determine its exact source, try taking a lit candle to the area and waiting for the flame to flicker. That'll show you where the culprit is hiding. Many of these leaks can be sealed with location-specific caulk (ie: use an all-weather caulk for outdoor applications, etc.), but check around all doors for misplaced weather stripping. These may take some time to seek out and repair, but the materials are dirt-cheap, and if you've ever sat in front of a drafty window, you know these small repairs are totally worth-it!
7) Reset Your Irrigation Timer
The Henderson Water District utility imposes a 1-day-per-week watering schedule for the months of November, December, January, and February every year. You'll want to verify this in your monthly statement, but most Anthem homes are located in watering group E, for weekly watering on Fridays only. The fines are pretty hefty for violations, so ask your landscape maintenance crew to adjust this for you or run through your timer yourself. On top of that, you might want to set your timer to water in the mid- or late-morning hours so that the morning sun will prevent ice from forming on your grass and plants (not to mention the adjacent patio, sidewalk, or driveway). Nothing wakes you up early in the morning like slipping on a strip of invisible ice!
8) Bundle Up Your Pool
If you don't plan on using your pool in the winter months, there are a few things you can do to protect it when it's cold out. Most pool maintenance companies will do all of these things automatically, but it never hurts to ask just to be sure. First, your filter timer needs an adjustment. Growing up in Henderson, I leared the hard way that this had to be done. My family's pool actually froze one winter for a few days during an especially cold spell. The top was crusted with about a 3/4-inch-thick sheet of ice. Not good! If you run your pump during the coldest hours of the early morning (say, sometime between 3am and 6am), this should prevent a surface freeze. Next, you might want to adjust your chemicals since fewer microbes and bacteria can survive in colder water temperatures. You shouldn't need as much acid as you do in the summer and shoulder months, so why waste the time and money? Finally, you might want to look into a pool cover for a few reasons. Safety is one reason. The water temperature gets pretty low in the winter months unless heated, so if someone accidentally falls in, there's a strong risk of hypothermia. Cleanliness is another reason. Much of our deciduous trees begin to shed their leaves in early November in Anthem, but some leaves continue to fall well into January. To help keep the filter and the cleaner clear of leaves and debris, a cover is a great solution.
9) Cover and/or Move Outdoor Furniture
Given that Anthem is built into the McCullough Mountain range foothills, we have our fair share of wind with which to deal. Even heavy outdoor furniture can get tossed around during exceptional wind storms. So, it's not a bad idea to move all unattached furniture (this includes stand-alone BBQs and fire pits, too!) to a more protected spot: in the garage, under a patio cover, or along the wall of your home. That way, your investment is protected and every piece will be ready to set out when the weather warms in the spring.
10) Clean Out Rain Gutters and Downspouts
Most Anthem homes have partial gutters installed, but are often overlooked since we get rain so infrequently. If your gutters are backed up and the flat roof on your patio cover gets soaked in the summer months, that excess moisture will evaporate in a hurry. But, not so in the winter months. Make sure you don't increase your risk for mold and mildew by doing a quick check and clear of your gutters and downspouts. Leaves are often a main culprit, but birds like to nest in them as well. Regardless of what's stuffing them, clear it out and make sure your home's rain drainage system can work properly.
11) Stock Up Your Emergency Kit
Boy Scouts know it: Always be prepared. It never hurts to have a short, but valuable list of supplies in case of an emergency during our coldest time of the year. Here's a sample list of such supplies, that you can amend as you see fit. Keep these supplies on-hand in a place that's easy for anyone in the family to access, if need be:
- Portable generator with fresh fuel
- Bottled water
- Flashlights with extra batteries
- A complete first-aid kit
- A can opener
- Some non-perishable food items
- A radio with extra batteries
- 2 lighters or a stock of matches
- Rope or para-cord
- One large and one small knife
- Basic tools (screwdrivers, hammer, etc.)
- A survival whistle
Now, get back outside and enjoy our mid-70° highs!