We all saw the scary reality of a winter freeze last week in the Midwest. When a cold front rolls through your area, your homestead, livestock and equipment are all at risk. As temperatures drop and snow piles up, you might feel powerless — but luckily, some preventive maintenance for winter can go a long way.
A proactive approach is always preferable, and as long as you get ahead of the storm, you can leave your worries behind you. It’s easy if you know the right precautions to take.
1. Build a Livestock Shelter
With more than 40 years’ experience serving as a large-animal country vet, Dr. John Mettler Jr. has practical advice to keep livestock healthy in subzero temperatures. Cattle and horses will have the safety and security they need beneath a three-sided, shed-type livestock shelter open to the east or south.
While most hardy livestock animals are capable of holding up against the cold, freezing rain can lead to respiratory problems like pneumonia. It’s essential to give these animals a place where they can rest if the weather takes a turn, and you should visit them every so often to check for signs of discomfort.
2. Use Window Insulation Film
Even if the appearance of window insulation film isn’t necessarily appealing, it’s usefulness is inarguable. In fact, standard insulation film can keep 70 percent of heat from leaking out your windows, at only $5 to $15 per kit. It’s a cost-effective and convenient way to manage your energy bills in cold weather.
If you have old wooden or single-pane windows in your homestead, this product is no doubt attractive. You’ll remain warm and comfortable indoors with less than 10 minutes of work. Beyond painted and varnished wood, insulation film also functions just as well on metal and vinyl-clad frames.
3. Empty and Store Your Diesel Exhaust Fluid
Diesel exhaust fluid freezes at 12 degrees, expanding by 7 percent, and you could run into trouble if you don’t store it in the original container before temperatures drop. Frozen exhaust fluid can damage your diesel-powered equipment, harming the pump, plumbing and tank, unless you take the proper precautionary measures.
To empty the tank on a transport tote, start by topping off the equipment. Let the nozzle run dry for at least 30 seconds, set the valve to fill, turn on the pump and squeeze the nozzle for another 30 seconds. Remove any remaining fluid in the coupler, then test the nozzle to see if there’s any left in the system.
4. Check Your HVAC System
An efficient HVAC system will minimize the amount of money you have to spend to keep your homestead warm. You have many methods of maintaining your system, and each one of them will help you cut costs and preserve your comfort. More than that, many of them are simple and easy to do on your own.
Start by rearranging your furniture to remove any obstructions blocking your vents. Make sure your system’s airflow is free of dirt and debris, and change or clean your filters. While technical experience isn’t necessary, you should still consult a professional if you come across a problem you can’t handle.
5. Clear Your Gutters of Debris
With a sturdy ladder, gloves and a trowel, you can clear your gutters in an afternoon. If you have a smaller homestead, it might only take you an hour, and you don’t need any specialized equipment or experience to get the job done. It’s only important that you do it, and avoid putting off this crucial responsibility.
In the event of a snowstorm, blockage allows ice dams to form, which can trap water on your roof. This leads to a whole host of costly issues, like stains, rot and water damage. While it might seem like a chore — and it admittedly is — clearing your gutters of debris will save you far more time than it takes.
Preventive Maintenance for Winter
As long as you know which areas of your homestead need attention, preventive maintenance is straightforward. You can protect your property with very little effort, and it doesn’t take much more than a day to get everything in order. Just take the initiative, and prepare far in advance of a blizzard.
I’m sure the freeze we saw recently isn’t going to be the only one in our future. Luckily, drastic times only have to call for non-drastic measures if you’re planning ahead.