Winter has hit across much of the country and the days and weeks ahead are likely filled with colder temps and blustery winds. Whether you dread the cold, or you’re looking forward to fluffy snowflakes, preparing now for the winter months will help you sleep easier knowing you and your family and your home are fully prepared. So how do you go about getting your home ready for winter?
Winter Home Maintenance Checklist
Winter preparation for your home can begin in late autumn. Before the cold weather hits, be sure to check items off this list.
1. Maintain and repair tools
Be sure that blowers are properly maintained with fresh oil, gasoline, and new spark plugs. Purchase a sufficient supply of ice melt for sidewalks and driveways.
Be sure to protect and stow all seasonal tools such as lawn mowers and inspect snow blowers and shovels for functionality.
2. Weatherize your home’s exterior and interior
Inspect and weatherize your windows for winter. Consider investing in weather stripping for windows and entry ways and anywhere air could be escaping or penetrating. This includes sealing air vents and foundation cracks. If you have any concerns about how well your home is sealed, you may consider consulting a professional or your local energy company.
SEE ALSO: HOW TO WINTERIZE WINDOWS
3. Insulate pipes to help prevent freezing
Frozen pipes can burst and lead to expensive repairs. Pay special attention to pipes in unheated, or poorly heated, areas of your home such as the basement or utility room. Be sure to disconnect outside water hoses. Keep areas with pipes at a minimum of 55 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent freezing. If the pipe is in an especially cold area, consider a slow drip to avoid freezing. If your pipes do freeze, thaw carefully with a steady, warm air flow. Use heat sources, such as space heaters or hair dryers cautiously. Furthermore, should you discover a frozen pipe, check all water sources as it’s likely there are other frozen pipes as well.
4. Clean your fireplace and chimneys
Regular maintenance is essential to energy efficiency, but a poorly maintained fireplace can also be a safety hazard. Debris or residue in your chimney can lead to fire and poor ventilation.
5. Hire a professional to inspect your HVAC system
Prepare your home for winter with regular HVAC maintenance. Aside from extending the life of your HVAC unit, proper maintenance could also improve heating efficiency – and keep your home warm. If your HVAC system is in need of repair, the increased usage during winter months could cause your system to break down when you need it the most.
6. Check your roof for damages
Replace missing or damaged shingles before winter to help avoid a leaky roof. While you’re at it, repair or replace deteriorated flashing around gutters, skylights, and chimneys. Use roofing cement to seal leaks where air or water could penetrate. Consider purchasing a roof rake to clear snow from your roof to avoid excess weight.
7. Clean and repair gutters and drains
Cleaning your gutters helps prevent blockages. Remove any leaves, sticks or other debris so water and snowmelt doesn't overflow the guttering. Make sure downspouts are secure and extend at least five feet away from your foundation to help prevent damage from melting snow. Extra water weight can loosen guttering and downspouts so be sure these are fastened properly. Lastly, ensure that openings are covered to help prevent nesting from rodents, birds, or insects in need of shelter.
8. Trim trees and prune bushes
The extra weight of snow can increase the burden on tree limbs, potentially increasing the possibility of breakage. Depending on the size of the limb and proximity to your house, this can be dangerous. Take extra precautions by brushing the snow off of tree limbs and bushes after each snowfall as soon as weather permits. A better solution would be to get your home ready for winter by trimming trees in the fall.
Preparing Your Home for Extreme Cold
Some areas of the country can experience bouts of extreme cold over the winter months. These “cold snaps” can be taxing on homes that are not outfitted to withstand certain temperatures. When extreme cold is forecast, be sure to prepare with these tips:
1. Purchase or replace your emergency supplies
Winter storms create the possibility for power outages and other emergency situations. Take the better-safe-than-sorry approach by stocking up on necessities should a winter emergency arise. Keep an inventory of bottled water, flashlights, batteries, non-perishable food items, and first-aid supplies. As recommended by the American Red Cross, your emergency supplies should include a three-day supply of food and water and seven days’ worth of first-aid supplies for every family member. You should also stock extra blankets, winter clothing, and wood or fuel for alternative heating. Prepare your car with emergency supplies as well. Your vehicle's winter survival kit should include warm clothes, boots, blankets, flashlight with extra batteries, and food.
2. Minimize exposure to outside temps
When the temps drop outside, make sure that all doors and windows are securely closed and locked. Try to minimize the time your door is open when you enter and leave the home, and keep your garage doors closed. Keep blinds and curtains closed unless direct sunlight is hitting your window.
3. Circulate warm air inside your home
Set your thermostat 2 to 4 degrees above your normal setting, and take programmable thermostats out of their regular routine to set on permanent hold. Make sure that all of the air vents and radiators in your home are unblocked so that the warm air has an unobstructed path into your home. You can also set ceiling fans to a clockwise direction to circulate the air within the home.
4. Keep pipes from freezing
Be sure to keep all areas with pipes heated to at least 20 degrees Fahrenheit. If you plan to be away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
Cold winter months can be taxing on your family and your home, not to mention your pocketbook. But if you take the time to prepare, you and your family can spend more time drinking cocoa and egg nog without any unwanted anxiety.