For many seniors, getting the house ready for winter means making sure the heating system works — an important start. But there is a lot more older adults need to do to make sure their home is prepared for cold, wet weather. You can facilitate this process by being cognizant of what a fully winterized home means.
With the growth in renewables, it’s becoming easier and more affordable for homeowners to make their homes energy efficient. This video explains how a home energy auditor determines where a home may be leaking energy. Your HECM clients might actually end up saving money!
Here are half a dozen ways a senior can winterize inside:
- Test the heating system. This is so basic, many homeowners fail to think of it. Make sure filters and furnace are clean to help prevent fires — and lower energy costs. Close heating vents in any rooms not in use. Remind homeowners that a permanent heat source is required to underwrite a reverse mortgage; seniors who live in rural areas where the primary source of heat is often a woodstove will not qualify, unless they have an additional heating method. Space heaters don’t qualify.
- Add insulation. Consider adding storm windows, as well as extra ceiling or attic insulation. Install weather stripping around leaky doors and windows.
- Check carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. Be sure all units are functioning properly, with fresh batteries.
- Install a programmable thermostat that can be set to the senior’s comfort level — and locked if the elder is forgetful or has memory problems.
- Prepare for contingencies. Power often goes out during storms. This is when sealed, portable propane space heaters can be invaluable. Remember to keep portable heaters a safe distance from flammable objects such as bedding and curtains.
- Bundle up! Encourage seniors to keep extra sweaters, thick socks, long johns and blankets readily accessible in case of a power failure or excessive cold snap. Place outerwear (hats, gloves, scarves, jackets) near the front and back doors so it’s easy to evacuate in the event of an emergency, such as the recent California wildfires.
And half a dozen ways to winterize outside. A local handyperson/home services professional may be the best choice here:
- Inspect the roof for loose shingles, cracks and other potential repairs needed.
- Clean rain gutters. Water flows where it can, and if the proper channels are clogged, it may pour over the roof and rot out the home’s foundation.
- Check storm drains. Grass, leaves and other yard waste clogs the drainage system and pollutes downstream waterways, all of which flow directly into local creeks and rivers.
- Trim tree branches that appear loose or are hanging heavily over structures. Consider staking young trees.
- Ask the city to repair uneven sidewalks and walkways. Irregular pavement poses a risk in normal weather conditions, and is amplified exponentially in the presence of rain, snow or ice.
- Plan ahead for de-icing and snow removal. Icy sidewalks and driveways pose one of the greatest hazards to seniors living at home. Create a plan for keeping the sidewalk de-iced: purchase a supply of melting salt and post the phone numbers of winter snow removal specialists on the refrigerator door, where they’re easy to find.
One LO advises: “There is absolutely nothing wrong with a senior using HECM proceeds to winterize their homes even through initial HECM funding. Also it would be a good idea for HECM originators to seek out contractors and handymen who specialize in this kind of work to help seniors afford the work they need.”
Now that your clients’ homes are well insulated, warm, dry, and safe, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!