With the fall season upon us, it's time to start winterizing your home to protect it from the freezing temperatures brought on by old man winter. Your home is one of your most valuable assets, therefore protecting it against the cold should be a top priority. The following checklist offers tips and advice to help you guard your home from the ill effects of winter cold. Not only will this help keep you comfortable during these frigid months, but it will also save you money by reducing energy bills and avoiding unnecessary repairs due to a lack of preparation.
Doors and Windows
The first order of business when winterizing your home is to eliminate any unnecessary air leaks around windows and doors. Leaks allow conditioned air to escape, increasing your energy bill, while also inviting cold air to enter your home. Windows and doors can be sealed easily with inexpensive weather stripping or caulking available at most home improvement centers and hardware stores.
- With the windows and doors closed, feel around the edges with your hands to locate any drafts. A smoldering incense stick is an ideal tool to help locate any drafts as the trail of smoke will waver or move when air or drafts contact it.
- Use the foam weather stripping to fill larger gaps around windows and doors and the caulking to fill smaller ones.
- Inspect the threshold and seal or sweep at the bottoms of exterior doors. Replace faulty sweeps and thresholds to help keep out the cold air.
- For extreme cases such as old, leaking or damaged windows and frames, you can cover the entire opening with plastic. Home improvement centers offer a plastic shrink wrap that is easy to install and allows better light filtration than typical plastic sheeting.
In some areas, your heating system means the difference between life and death during the winter months. It's imperative that it's in good working order and any repairs are made before the temperature drops.
- Turn on the power to your heating system to verify that it's running properly and producing warm air.
- Folks with oil or propane fueled systems should top off their tanks.
- Replace old air filters with new filters and clean dirty air vents and returns.
- Replace the batteries, when applicable, and verify that any smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working. If you do not have any alarms, you should strongly consider having them installed to protect both your family and your property.
- Have your system inspected by a professional. They can verify that your system is running properly, and check for air duct leaks and that it poses no danger to you or your family.
One of the most costly mistakes a homeowner can make is to fail to protect their home's plumbing system during the winter season. When a plumbing pipe freezes, it carries with it the potential to burst, which can lead to extensive damage to your home, requiring repairs that could be very costly.
- Any outside plumbing, or plumbing in uninsulated areas such as attics and crawl spaces, must be protected from the freezing temperatures. Foam pipe insulation, available at most home improvement centers in various sizes, provides max protection and is easy to install by simply slipping it over the pipes and securing with tape.
- For larger pipes, fiberglass batts wrapped around the pipe and secured with duct tape provides adequate protection from freezing temperatures.
- Seal any cracks or holes in walls near or around plumbing pipes with caulking or expanding foam to prevent cold air from reaching them.
- Do not forget to insulate exterior spigots, hose bibbs or sillcocks. Protective covers are available that are designed to insulate these devices. If possible, turn off the water supply to the exterior faucet, remove any garden hoses, and allow the fixture and hose to drain.
- Turn off the water supply to your sprinkler, irrigation systems or fountains; you will not need them during the winter months. Purge the system of any existing water left in the lines with compressed air.
Often overlooked during home winterization is the roof. Leaks, ice dams, and downed gutters are common roof problem during the winter months. Follow these tips to help prevent them from happening.
- Clean your roof by sweeping or blowing off any debris, which can hinder proper draining and lead to ice dams forming on your roof.
- Inspect the roof for missing shingles or damaged flashing around roof edges, chimneys and valleys.
- Replace any missing shingles or damaged flashing.
- Clean your gutters to remove leaves and other debris that might have accumulated during the summer months. Use a water hose to make sure the gutters drain properly and do not hold water, which can freeze and damage the gutter system.