News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Ready for winter?

If you have put off winterizing, you might be on borrowed time, experts say. With nearly 25 days of sub-freezing temperatures already under Sisters' belt, those pesky winterizing chores are calling, and you must go.

And it's not just the yard and garden. There are the crawl space vents, screen removal, animal feeders, hose removal, chimney sweeping, and perhaps more. Of course not removing screens will have no bearing on your heating bills; it's mostly a cosmetic ritual. But not "blowing" your drip lines can result in costly repairs next spring.

If you didn't deal with those perennial weeds, expect many more in the spring. Didn't get the needles out of the gutters yet? Then don't be surprised with clogged downspouts and a heightened chance of water backing up and getting under the roof shingles.

Even if you don't have gutters, it's a good idea to get needles and leaves off the roof. Both are often acidic and can be hard on or stain surfaces.

Then there's the furnace. You'll want to stay on top of that.

Where to begin? Start with what can cause the most damage. Water damage can be as costly as fire damage. Broken pipes can cause thousands of dollars in losses in a matter of a few hours. But fire can be catastrophic. So addressing the fireplace is a good place to start.

Animal nests or creosote buildup in your wood-burning fireplace can be hazardous. Get or make an annual inspection before building your first fire of the season. Soot and other debris build up in the chimney. Call a chimney sweep to clean the chimney before your first winter use. Vacuum or sweep out any accumulated ash from the firebox.

Folks in Sisters Country are apt to barbecue year-round, scraping snow off the grill as if it were nothing at all. If you stop grilling in winter and you have a gas grill with a propane tank, close the tank valve and disconnect the tank. Store it outside. It's a good time to inspect and deep-clean your grill and cover it before putting it away for the season.

Your furnace will function more efficiently with a clean filter. A dirty filter with trapped lint, pollen, dust, etc., obstructs airflow and makes your furnace run longer to heat your home. Replace filters at least every three months. If you're already doing this, great!

One of the most obvious but not easiest winterizing jobs is the irrigation system. The folks at "This Old House "explain. Turn off the water to the system with a main valve that's usually found near your water meter. If your system has valves to prevent backflow, shut these off too. There are usually two of these valves that lead into the backflow device; be sure to shut them both off. If your system doesn't use potable water, it might not have a backflow preventer.

Turn off the timer

If your system runs on an automatic timer, make sure you shut that off too. Some systems have a "rain mode" that allows you to essentially power down the timer without losing any programmed information or settings. Allowing the system to run in rain mode throughout the winter is usually safe and shouldn't run up your energy costs. In the spring, you can turn the rain mode off, and the timer should resume working normally.

Drain the water

It's not enough just to keep water from flowing into the system; you also need to drain out the water that's already in there. This is the biggest and most time-consuming step in the process, but it's absolutely vital. There are three main methods of drainage depending on what type of sprinkler system you have.

There are three techniques: manual, automatic, blow out. If in doubt, get help. There are a number of businesses in Sisters that can handle the task and in the long run it may be best to bite the bullet and pay for the service. Or pay for it come spring when you replace broken heads and split lines.

Insulate above-ground components

Finally, make sure that all the above-ground parts of the sprinkler system are properly insulated from the weather. The main shut-off valve, plus any exposed pipes or backflow preventers, should be wrapped in foam covers or insulation tape. On the backflow preventers, make sure not to block any air vents or drain outlets.

Don't let Old Man Winter get too far ahead of you.


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