Updated: Jan 24
Winter is a wonderful time of year, and sitting next to the fire on a chilly evening is something I truly enjoy.
One of the many perks of mountain living is experiencing winter. In the San Diego mountains, the winters are fairly mild compared to other high-altitude regions. The temperature hardly drops below the low teens. Nevertheless, there’s still a lot to do to get ready for the winter season.
Winter preparation begins long before the crisp air moves in. The items on this list may take time to arrange, so I definitely suggest being proactive.
When you live in a four-season climate, you must have a heating source. There are multiple options when it comes to heat sources, and I highly recommend both primary and secondary sources. Do not wait until cold weather arrives to determine how you will heat your home.
Hallmark does a fantastic job of portraying the ambiance of a cozy winter night, sitting by a wood-burning fire. Do not be fooled. There is a lot of work that goes into making those cozy nights a reality. To have a wood fire, you must have firewood — and lots of it. The wood must be seasoned (cut and dried for a long period of time), split, stacked and stored in a dry place until you are ready to bring it into the house. The amount of wood you will need depends on the efficiency of your fireplace or woodstove and the square footage of the residence. Each year, my family goes through about three cords of wood for a roughly 1,200-square-foot home. All the hard work really makes you appreciate a warm house. If you live in a fire-prone area, please do not use your wood-burning fireplace until after the first rain.
A few popular alternative heat sources are propane fireplaces or heaters, pellet stoves and electric heaters. Using propane to heat your house can rack up a bill quickly! Electric heaters can also get pretty pricey if they’re used as a primary source of heat. As for pellet stoves, I have had many people tell me that they got tired of lugging around the heavy bags of pellets. I encourage you to look into all heating options to determine what is best for you.
In my household, we use wood from our property as our primary source of heat. In our bedrooms and bathrooms, we have portable electric oil heaters to keep the chill out of the air. I recently got a heated blanket, and I will never go back! I turn it on just long enough to warm up my bed, and I stay comfortable all night.
Depending on how recently your home was built, you may need to add a few home improvements to your list of winter preparations.
First, no matter what heat source you will be using, it is important to take safety measures. At a minimum, every house should have working smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and a fire extinguisher.
Next, I highly encourage you to take steps to protect your pipes from freezing. Any exposed pipes are at risk. By simply leaving a faucet trickling on nights below 32 degrees, you can prevent frozen pipes. Draining your water lines is a good precautionary measure. For those who have irrigation pipes in the yard, don’t forget about them! They are at risk of freezing, too.
It’s important to ensure that your roof and siding will be able to withstand the weather. To improve your home’s heating efficiency, double-pane windows and insulation are very effective. For those using a wood-burning fireplace, you will need an ash bin with a lid and a spark arrestor on your chimney. Trim all tree branches away from the chimney and have the chimney cleaned yearly. There should be fire-resistant surfaces around your fireplace and no flammables nearby. Don’t dump your hot ashes outside. Every year, smoldering ashes start a fire in the Julian area.
Whether you live in a climate that receives a lot of snow or occasional snow, you must have a vehicle that you can rely on. Initially, it can be hard to bite the bullet to buy an all-weather vehicle, but it’s worth it in the long run. Every time it snows in my community, there are many frantic residents who are snowed in with somewhere to be. Avoid this hassle by being proactive. You should have at least one vehicle that is an all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The vehicle should be outfitted with all-weather tires and have a set of snow chains that fit the vehicle. Put your chains on your vehicle prior to a storm to make sure you know how to do it and they fit. Driving in snow and icy conditions is a skill. I highly encourage residents to learn how to safely drive in winter conditions. That being said recommend that you only drive during winter storms if you have to. Being that Julian is a tourist town and one of the only places to experience snow in San Diego, the Region is packed with visitors who do not know who to drive in the snow.
It is highly encouraged that you fill your gas tank when a storm is predicted. In the case that you need to go somewhere, you may have to sit in traffic for an extended period of time. Additionally, before a snowstorm, if you don’t live on a county-maintained road, you may want to park your car in a location where you can access the road. If you do this, DO NOT block the road. Please park your car off the road and in a location that is not in the way of the snowplow.
I like to keep a blanket, water, a flashlight, and a few snacks in my car. Keeping a snow shovel in your trunk isn’t a bad idea either.
P.S. Don’t forget to buy new windshield wipers before the first rainstorm!
Waterproof clothing is another must. Just a few steps in the snow and your fabric clothing will be soaked. For each member of your household, I recommend having a pair of snow boots, waterproof gloves, snow pants, and a waterproof jacket. Having a few extra of these items is even better. I have had great luck in finding these things at local stores, yard sales, and thrift stores.
Sheltering in Place
A perfect storm may cause you to have to shelter in place. Similar to preparing for a wildfire, I highly encourage you to keep a stock of non-perishable foods, have emergency supplies, and water. (Yes, water, in case your pipes freeze.) Winter storms can cause power outages. Lastly, here are some resources that provide you with emergency information.
I know it all may seem a little overwhelming, but there’s good news! Because we live in a place that experiences a true winter, some of these improvements may have been taken care of by a previous homeowner. If not, you can tackle them at your own pace as you get established.
I assure you that preparing for the winter will make your life easier.
*This article was featured in the December 2020 issue of the Julian Journal.