Winterising your home

from Hokkadio AJET

Maintenance around the house

  • Shovels: different uses call for different shovels. Two types are recommended; the big plastic ones called a “mama-san-dump” are good for moving large amounts of snow over distance, while metal ones, although being not as good at moving snow, are handier for chipping away at ice that might get attached to your house.
  • Remove the snow that piles up next to your house and on your roof, because this can be the cause of snapped roof edges. As for the method, it is probably best to ask your BoE for help first…
  • If you don’t have a chimney, make sure the vent from your heating is free from snow build-up.
  • A snow plough will come around to clear the roads in many places. If you find yourself wading through excessive snow on a regular basis, ask if it can come closer. However, you will have to look after your doorstep. Note that there may be a cost involved with the snow plough, so try to be aware of this.

Things to do inside the house

  • Use bubble-wrap and foam tape to insulate gaps in doorways and windows
  • If you have a big house, close off the rooms that you aren’t going to use. Reduced space = reduced heating bills. If you don’t have doors to close, look to curtain open spaces to close them down.
  • Kotatsu are really warm, and can help you save money on other heating.

Heating

  • Learn how to use your kerosene heater. It is going to need kerosene (toyu 灯油), and note that you can break the pump by running it on an empty fuel tank. There should be a gauge on external tanks that you can check, and make sure before you start using it because kerosene will be delivered at different times.
  • Check if your heater has a timer, it can prove super useful to get your home warm at the times you want it to. The same applies with a power-saving mode to maintain a certain temperature.
  • Be wary of the air getting really dry with having the heater on for a substantial amount of time. Combat this by putting a flat based pan/pot/kettle full of water on the heater to humidify the air. Using a kettle will provide a constant source of hot water, while you can also warm your alcohol this way if you are that way inclined.
  • Try to use electric heaters to get to necessary places that might not be reached by your regular heater.
  • Risks and danger
    • If the pan with the water runs dry while the heater is on, this can pose a fire hazard. This is especially the case with plastic, so try and use something metal, and be aware when you are running the heaters at high temperatures.
    • If you are sleeping or heading out for long periods, it is possible to leave your heater on, but low temperatures are recommended. This can help to stop your toilet freezing, and makes waking up more pleasant. But, clean your heater regularly to make sure that you aren’t going to strike any troubles with dust build-up in the vents and the likes.

Plumbing

  • Find out how to turn your water off ASAP, because in some cases you will need to do this when you go away for the night (and maybe even during the day). When you are getting instructions, get as much information as possible about things you might need to do, because you never know what might lead to trouble.
  • Use anti-freeze for your toilet when you are heading out for longish periods of time, particularly if it is separated from main rooms. Use it for both the bowl and the tank. (Also note that anti-freeze can be pretty useful for getting rid of ice build-up so that you can close your doors)
  • Note that if your toilet does freeze, it is important that the ice melts slowly—no pouring boiling water down the bowl!

Keeping your body warm

  • Uniqlo’s thermal wear comes highly recommended, and is pretty reasonably priced. G.U is Uniqlo’s cheaper brother, and could be worth checking out too.
  • You will need at least one pair of winter shoes to deal with the conditions. When you are going to buy them, think about what sort of socks you are likely to wear underneath, and take them with you to try the shoes on. You might go up a shoe size!
  • Body warmers called kairo 懐炉 are great to keep your body warm, funnily enough. They can be bought cheap, and come in all shapes and sizes, sticky and non-sticky. Don’t put them on your skin, but stick them on or in between layers of clothing to keep it warm all day.
  • Check out winter bedding options, like winter sheets with an internal foil layer!
  • Don’t be afraid to use a blanket at school/in the office too. People are pretty understanding of the cold.

Considerations for your car

  • Keep an emergency kit in your car, and make sure you have the basics like a blanket or sleeping bag, a shovel, sand or cat litter, jumper cables, a flashlight, and an ice scraper.
  • Look out for the little red cylinder—it is a flare!
  • Keep your petrol tank topped up, and be prepared for delays.

Who to contact

  • Have a neighbour’s number, just in case you have an emergency or get stuck in your house. Supervisors aren’t necessarily close by…

To maintain your general sanity

  • Enjoy winter foods like nabe, and anything that you want from home like soups and stews. Treat yourself as well with the likes of fruit. There is no point saving lots of money if you are tired and miserable all the time.
  • Be aware of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). If you aren’t getting enough sunlight and are feeling low and tired all the time then consider Vitamin D supplements. Try and make the most of the short days!
  • Don’t close yourself off, and try and stay in touch with the friends you have made in summer and fall. Get out and do a winter activity, and make the most of it!