Tips on Preparing Your House for Winter
Nov 04, 2013 11:12PM
● By Erin Frisch
With the fall weather turning chillier, you’ve probably swapped out summer clothes for scarves, sweaters, and jackets. While you’re preparing your wardrobe for the winter weather that’s soon to arrive, why not begin buttoning up your house too? Winter’s deep cold, heavy snows, and biting winds can wreak havoc on unprepared homes—both in large heating costs and in damages that will need repair in spring if not sooner. Check out our tips so your house is ready for whatever Mother Nature has in store!
Save on heat by winterizing your windows. Take down your screens and put up storm windows to seal warmth inside your home, especially if you have older, single-pane windows. If your windows are leaky, they should be replaced eventually. It’s a pricey renovation, but it will save you money in the long run and keep you comfy too. You can budget to replace windows a couple at a time, but until then, there are products for sealing your windows inexpensively. Check your local hardware store for window-sealing kits. These are basically plastic wraps that you attach to your window pane on the inside with double-sided tape. Then you use a hairdryer to stretch the plastic taut. These work surprisingly well and can cost less than $5 a window.
Reverse your ceiling fan blades. This is a quick and simple strategy that many of us simply forget about because we aren’t thinking about our fans once summer is over. Most ceiling fans have a switch on them to reverse the way the blades spin from counterclockwise to clockwise. When the fan is spinning clockwise, the fans recirculate the warm air that has risen to your ceiling by pushing it back down toward the floor.
Clean out your gutters. Set up your ladder and scoop any leaves and debris out of your gutters. Even if you have leaf guards on your gutters, dirt, seeds, and other debris can still collect in them. The matter that has collected in your gutters is subject to rain and snow turning it into an icy block of gunk that can weigh down your gutters and compromise them as well as causing water to seep into the house. Once you get the gutters clear, flush them out with a strong stream of water. Then check your downspouts to make sure they aren’t clogged either.
Call the chimney sweep. If you have a wood-burning stove or fireplace, have it cleaned and inspected before winter starts. Most sweeps include a Level 1 inspection that includes an inspection of readily accessible parts of your chimney and stove pipes as well as a cleaning. Burning wood can release volatile chemicals that build up in your chimney and lead to creosote, which can cause your chimney to rot (depending on what it is made of) and can also contribute to a chimney fire. If you don’t have a protective cap for your chimney, it’s a good idea to have one added. It will help keep out birds and other critters, leaves and sticks, and even precipitation that could damage your chimney over time.
Check your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. Batteries should be replaced in smoke alarms twice a year; many people do it when they set their clocks back and then again in the spring. In addition, fire officials recommend replacing the alarms entirely every 5 to 10 years. If you don’t have a carbon monoxide detector, this is a great time to get one. These should be placed high on the wall (carbon monoxide rises) on every level of the home, especially near bedrooms. Keep your family safe from this silent and invisible threat!
Prepare your furnace. Have an HVAC professional inspect and clean your furnace. He or she will check the blower, oil the bearings, replace the filter, and clean out any debris. It may seem like a pricey thing to do every year, but it can increase your furnace’s efficiency, lengthen its life, and even prevent a fire from starting in your furnace. Once you know what kind of filter your furnace takes, stock up with enough to change it monthly throughout the winter. As filters become clogged with dust, the furnace becomes less efficient and can result in increases in your energy bill. By changing the filter monthly, you can ensure the best airflow and save some money.
Protect pipes from freezing. Look for any pipes in your house that run through uninsulated spaces (like garages and basements). Measure them, then go to your local hardware store and pick up some pre-molded foam wrapping insulation. When the insulation is around the pipes, seal it with duct tape if the edges aren’t self-sealing. Nobody wants to deal with a burst pipe, especially in winter!
Insulate. Get up in your attic or overhead crawlspace and check out the insulation in the ceiling and walls. No matter what climate you live in, experts recommend at least 12 inches of insulation. Most ceiling joists are 10 to 16 inches long, so if you can still see them, there is a good chance that you don’t have enough insulation. It may be a little costly to install, but in the long run, the return on your investment is significant. If you don’t want to use traditional fiberglass insulation, a company called Bonded Logic makes natural fiber insulation from post-consumer recycled denim. It is treated to prevent mold and mildew growth and retard fire, and is not made with any potentially irritating chemicals.
How do you winterize your home? Please share your tips. Post them in the comments!