Experts give advice for warm homes, healthy animals

To say it has been chilly in the Lower Valley might be stating it mildly. When the temperatures dip below freezing it’s always wise to take precautions, protecting your home and pets.

DeLeesa Restucci of Axcess Internet and Dr. Sherrie Hockett of Pet Health Clinic in Sunnyside have a few useful tips for winterizing homes and pets this season.

Protecting your pets

Hockett said acclimation for pets is important.

“Indoor pets have more difficulty when temperatures dip,” she said, stating indoor pets can go outdoors, but it is wise to purchase a coat for them. A coat will give them a bit of protection from the cold that they haven’t naturally developed as they would have if they were outdoor pets.

Outdoor pets, said Hockett, build up a thicker fur during the fall months that better protect them during the winter.

“It’s also critical to make sure animals have protection from the winds,” Hockett said, remembering the wind chill factor on Dec. 6 was particularly dangerous.

She said a shelter for pets will keep them protected from biting winds. That is also important because animals will go in search of shelter and if they cannot find it at home, they may wander.

That’s why Hockett advises pet owners to put a collar and pet tag on animals.

Also imperative is making sure your pet has plenty of water. Hockett said checking animal water dishes regularly to ensure they remain hydrated is important “…especially with how dry it has been lately.”

She said there are now heated bowls that can be purchased to ensure water doesn’t freeze.

“I have also seen some pets with burns recently,” said Hockett, stating heating pads used for humans are harmful to pets.

She said there are currently heating pads designed for keeping pets warm during the winter that are safer to use.

Hockett urges people not to use space heaters for keeping animals warm. “Pets can get too close to them or knock them over.”

Home weatherization

Restucci, too, said space heaters can be dangerous if not used properly. There are a number of space heaters on the market that have an automatic shut-off that is activated if they are tipped over.

She had advice for household appliances and electronics, as well. Restucci said there are times when appliances or electronics have been out in the cold.

“People purchase a computer or a new appliance, exposing them to the outside temperatures,” she said.

Restucci said it is important that the household items have an opportunity to warm to room temperature before trying to operate them.

Insulating one’s home doesn’t have to be expensive. “Some people can’t afford to replace their windows,” she said.

Restucci said shrink wrap, double-sided tape and a blow dryer can be used to insulate windows. “Caulking is also an inexpensive method for blocking out drafts,” she said.

Insulating light switches and outlets on exterior walls also will keep the warmth in and the cold out. Restucci said, “They are pennies on the dollar and can be found at Ace or any hardware store.”

Outlet covers used for child safety will also prevent drafts through the sockets, according to Restucci.

“An idea for keeping cold air from getting in under doors is to use a homemade door sweeper,” she said.

Door sweepers can be made using a sock. Restucci said the sock can be filled with rice or beans.

She said local utility companies have other cost-effective ways for saving energy and keeping a home warm in the winter.

Restucci has ideas for keeping the plumbing working, as well.

She said common measures include foam insulators that can be wrapped around pipes. “Swim noodles work, too,” she said.

To keep the pipes under sinks from freezing, Restucci and other experts suggest cracking open cabinet doors.

“That allows the warmth from the home to reach the pipes,” she said.

These are just a few ways to keep homes safe and healthy during the cold weather months.

Restucci said other useful tips can be found online or by contacting experts, including the local fire department, plumbers or electricians.

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