Winter is coming. Well, not quite yet, but the season that can be the hardest on your homes is quickly approaching. Winterizing your house may seem daunting, especially for first-time homeowners, but if you prepare with the help of some of these simple tips, you’ll be ready for winter in no time, or at least your home will be.
While the weather is still tolerable, now is the time to inspect your home and manage any repairs that might be needed or schedule appointments with professionals. Winterizing early is a smart move, especially if you need help from professional installers or before supplies become scarce.
Winterizing is also great to save money on heating and electric bills during the winter. Following these tips can help you minimize the sting of the cold and the accompanying bills.
First things first, inspect your roof. Your roof takes its’ fair share of abuse from Mother Nature, so fixing any issues with your roof, or replacing it entirely, is easier and cheaper to do in the fall than when you’re battling the elements in the dead of winter. If you think your roof is looking worse for wear, get your roof inspected by a trusted expert, not a salesperson, as soon as possible. Ask for specific suggestions about what needs to be done before winter arrives so that you have plenty of time to address it.
2. Windows, Doors, Vents
If your house feels drafty or unreasonably cold even though the heat is constantly blowing, it’s almost always because the windows, doors or air vents aren’t well-sealed and are leaking all your warm air outside while allowing cold air inside. Check the exterior of your home for any poorly sealed openings or leaks and ensure they are sealed properly.
Replacing doors and windows can be expensive, so a cost-effective alternative is caulking and weatherstripping. While it may not be as good as a replacement, it can get you through the cold winter months. Reinforcing a broken seal with caulk or weatherstripping can help keep the warm air in and prevent cold air from seeping through the cracks. Caulking or weatherstripping is a simple DIY project. If you don’t know where to start, ask your local hardware store expert for advice or watch online video tutorials.
If you’re not sure what to seal and what not to seal, i.e. exhausts, it’s best to contact a professional. A properly ventilated home is a safe, and warm, home.
Where there’s a risk of freezing, there’s a risk of frozen pipes. Water expands when it freezes, making pipes susceptible to bursting. Pipes that run along exterior walls where there is little or no insulation are the most likely to freeze. You can insulate individual pipes or add more insulation to the exterior walls. Another solution is to let faucets connected to the interior and exterior pipes run at a very slow drip, which can help prevent freezing, as the water is free-flowing and therefore cannot freeze.
If you have a sprinkler system, it’s a good idea to get it blown out with air to clear water that could freeze. Let garden houses dry before storing them.
If you’re starting the winterizing process early enough, it might be a good idea to assess your current level of insulation and beef it up if you think it’s inadequate. Depending on when your house was built and what kind of insulation was used, this can make a big difference in how warm it stays during the winter; well-insulated houses won’t let warm air escape, keeping things nice and cozy inside.
Bonus Tip: You can also get blanket insulation for your water heater that fits over the heater and will help keep the water hot for longer. If frozen pipes or lukewarm winter water are a challenge for you, insulation could be the solution.
4. Furnace Filters
When was the last time you replaced your furnace filter? Depending on how many animals you have in the house, it’s probably been too long — most furnace filters should be replaced at least twice a year, and some of them as often as six times a year. The arrival of winter is always a good time to make sure your furnace is operating at peak capacity, so it’s especially important to remember to change your filter.
If you have a chimney connected to a fireplace, then cleaning it out before winter can really improve the airflow throughout your entire home, especially if it’s a chimney for a wood fireplace.
Of course, improving the airflow might make the chimney more useful on a day-to-day basis, but it also is another way for drafts to enter your house. To prevent this, if you aren’t going to use your fireplace in the winter, use a chimney balloon to seal the leak.
Full gutters and a rain or snowstorm add up to a really great way to damage your roof. After most of the leaves have fallen off any nearby trees, but before winter really sets in, grab a ladder and spend a weekend afternoon clearing out any debris from your gutters so that rain and snowmelt will have an exit path from your roof.
You can also hire contractors that will do this job for you — and their ladders may reach higher than yours, so it’s definitely worth considering if you’re uncomfortable with heights or don’t have the equipment.
7. Water Heater
Water heaters can accumulate sediment over time, and the sediment can interfere with the heater’s operation. If you haven’t flushed your water heater, think about doing so before winter hits so that your heater is operating at peak condition once the cold is here and you really want a hot bath.
8. Ceiling Fans
Hot air rises, so take advantage of your ceiling fans and reverse their spinning direction. Reversing your ceiling fans, so that they spin in the opposite direction, will push the warm air close to your ceiling down, where you can actually feel it and enjoy it, instead of keeping it up against the ceiling and away from you, which is better during summer months.
9. Stock Up on Supplies
Before you settle in to enjoy winter, check to make sure you have everything you’ll need when it arrives. Is your snow shovel in good shape? How about snow brushes or ice scrapers for your cars? By taking an inventory of your tools before you need them, you won’t be unpleasantly surprised when you have to use salad bowl to clear a path to your car, or trying to scrape ice off your windshield with a credit card.
10. Ask Questions
Winterizing isn’t as challenging as it might seem; one of the hardest parts is figuring out what to do (and skip) for your own home. If you aren’t sure whether one of these tips is worth it, ask your real estate agent what’s typical for the area, so you don’t miss anything critical.
Because of our 15 years of experience in real estate, we have amassed an extensive network of trusted home service professionals. We can refer you to our exclusive network of local contractors, installers and professionals for any and all of the home services you may need.