When temperatures drop and winter threatens, there is no better haven from the cold than a cozy, warm house. However, winter weather can take its toll on a home, causing expensive damages and high utility bills. Winterizing your home can help prevent unexpected surprises, such as busted pipes, and will help with energy costs. This simple checklist will help ensure that your home is ready for winter:
Gutters and Roof
- Leaves, dirt, and debris should be removed from the roof (a broom works well for this), and the roof should be checked for missing or damaged shingles or other repair issues. Hire a professional to repair any damage.
- Clean the gutters surrounding your roof, removing leaves and debris well before cold weather arrives. Clogged gutters can allow water to pool on the roof and ice to form, causing leaks and roof damage.
Fireplace & Chimney
- Check your wood-burning fireplace or stove to make sure that it is working properly before winter. Loose bricks or missing mortar should be replaced or repaired to prevent fire from spreading into the wall behind the fireplace.
- Test the flue damper to ensure that it is operating properly.
- Check your chimney for obstructions, and make sure that it is clean, hiring a professional if needed. You can test the chimney draft by lighting some newspaper and checking to see if the smoke rises properly.
- Test your heating system/furnace BEFORE the weather turns cold, ideally no later than October. It is best to have your system inspected before use to evaluate it for safety and efficiency. To test your system, turn the thermostat to HEAT and allow it to complete a full heating cycle, from turning on and blowing hot air through the vents to shutting off the blower again.
- Inspect ductwork for mold, dirt, debris, holes and loose connections. Contact a service technician for any repairs.
- Be sure to properly maintain your heating system, replacing air filters regularly (according to the recommended schedule) and checking for carbon monoxide leaks. If your thermostat is old, replace it with a newer model that may be programmed to lower the temperature when you are not at home or asleep.
Air Conditioning System
The cooling system, no longer needed during the winter, is easily neglected during the colder months. Taking steps to winterize it may extend the life of your air conditioning system.
- Remove window units and store them for winter, or cover permanently installed units.
- To winterize an outdoor air conditioning condenser, clean the fan blades and coils with a pressure washer or hose, and then cover the cleaned unit with a waterproof (but breathable) cover made for this purpose. You might want to have a professional open the unit and turn off the disconnect switch first, which will prevent the unit from accidental use during the winter.
Pipes are very susceptible to freezing, and repairs can be extremely expensive.
- Learn how to shut off water valves in case a pipe burst.
- Turn off the water supply to exterior faucets and drain them in preparation for winter.
- Exposed pipes in uninsulated spaces such as attics and crawlspaces should be wrapped with electrical heating tape and insulated with foam insulation.
**If you are leaving your home unoccupied for a season, you should shut off the water supply and drain the pipes. A water leak in an unoccupied home can cause catastrophic damage.
Efficient insulation can save a great deal on utility bills.
- If you are unsure whether or not you have sufficient insulation, schedule an energy audit. Your utility company might provide complimentary audits.
- Exterior outlets may be insulated with foam sealing gaskets.
- Insulate exposed ductwork.
- Cover your water heater with blanket insulation or a cover, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Doors & Windows
A great deal of heat may be lost through drafty doors and windows, and can contribute to high utility bills.
- Inspect window glass to make sure it is whole and secure in its frame, and inspect doors for stability, replacing and repairing when needed.
- Before cold weather arrives, check for gaps around windows and doors. Gaps are easiest to see at night when there is light on one side and dark on the other. Fill gaps with silicone caulk or spray foam insulation designed for windows and doors.
- Install new weather stripping under entry doors and around windows and, when possible, replace screens with storm windows and doors.
- Reverse your ceiling fans to circulate the warm air that rises and gathers near the ceiling. This pushes the warm air down to heat the lower areas.
- Change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and test each detector to make sure it operates properly. This is crucial for winter safety, as heating units and fireplaces can be potential hazards.
- Open your heating vents, and replace damaged or loose vents.
Finally, you want to prepare the outside of your home for winter as well.
- Winterize your sprinkler system by turning off the water supply and then blowing compressed air through the lines to clear them of water and prevent them from freezing.
- Drain the gas from your lawn mower or run it until it runs out of gas.
- Cover patio and outdoor furniture and seal decks and porches, when needed.
- Rake leaves away from your home’s foundation, and remove debris from window wells.
- Apply caulk or foam insulation to gaps and holes in your exterior walls, particularly around pipes or wires.
- Trim branches, particularly those overhanging your home or electrical wires.
- Store wood at least 20 feet from your home and cover with a plastic tarp.
- Disconnect garden hoses and drain them before storing for the winter.
Winter Weather Preparedness Kit
Putting together an emergency kit will ensure that you have everything you need in case of a storm or extensive power outage. Some suggestions are:
- Flashlights & batteries
- Candles & Matches
- Battery-powered radio (2-way radio is preferred)
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Bottled water
- A week’s worth of non-perishable food
- Can opener
- First aid kit and necessary medications
- Shovel, road salt, ice scraper
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