Is Your Home Ready for Cold Weather? An Overview
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, homeowners should start preparing for cold weather right away. As Christmas music starts to fill the air, snow and freezing weather can’t be far behind. Are you ready for bone-chilling weather? More importantly, is your house?
Following are some tips to make sure everything will go as well as possible when the temperatures really dip this year.
The heat is on
You’ve avoided turning on the heat as long as you can to save some dollars. Now spend a few of them before you start using it this winter. Here are some key investments you should make.
- Have your furnace or heating system checked by a professional HVAC specialist.
- If you haven’t already, change the filters on your heating system. It’s a good idea to do this every month.
- Don’t use the fireplace until you have it cleaned and checked by a chimney sweep. Otherwise, cracks in the chimney and the buildup of creosote put you at risk for a damaging chimney fire.
- If you use a fireplace or wood-burning stove, remember to store firewood away from the home. Otherwise, the pile could attract termites and other pests to your house.
You’ll likely spend most of the winter inside, riding out the cold weather from the comfort of your home, especially since you took the steps above to make sure your heating system is safe. But there are a few things you should do outside before the temperatures drop too drastically:
- Break out the ladder. You’ll need it for two reasons. First, you should clean your gutters; otherwise water can build up in some places and freeze. That can potentially damage your roof as well as the gutters. While you’re cleaning, you should also check the roof for missing or broken shingles. They should be replaced as soon as possible, whether you do the job or hire a professional.
- Look around the yard. Move things you won’t use, such as patio tables and umbrellas, chairs, and your gas grill inside for the winter. Detach the tank from the grill first. You also should cover your air conditioning unit to protect it from snow and ice.
- Disconnect your garden hose and drain it to keep it from freezing. A frozen hose that’s still connected to the house can cause pressure that could burst pipes inside the house.
- Stow your lawnmower. You won’t be using it, so take it inside. It’s important, however, to drain the gasoline first. The gas can break down over the winter, possibly damaging the carburetor.
There are also things you can do inside the house to stay safer and more comfortable during the winter.
- Dress warmer, so you can turn down the heat. Experts say you can save up to 3% on your heating bill for every degree you turn down the thermostat. Along these lines, consider a programmable thermostat, which you can use to turn down the heat when no one’s home but have things toasty when they return.
- Ask your utility to conduct an energy audit of your home; it will tell you where heat is escaping. The U.S. Energy Department estimates that drafts cost homeowners as much as 30% of their energy use.
- Once you know where you leak air (and heat), take steps to correct it. Weather stripping and caulk can help. For that matter, you can place a rolled up towel at the foot of a drafty door to keep cold air out and warm air in.
- Switch the direction of the blades on your ceiling fan. If they run clockwise, warm air that pools near the ceiling will circulate to the lower parts of the room –and you can cut heating costs by up to 10%.
- Wrap the pipes. No one wants to make that call to the plumber to repair burst pipes. If yours are in danger of freezing, wrap them with insulation fastened with duct tape.
- The laundry room. Inspect your washing machine hoses for signs of wear. Make sure the dryer exhaust vent is free of lint and that the system is working properly.
- Change the batteries in your smoke detectors and check the alarms. You should have at least one on every floor and in every bedroom.
- Emergency kit. There’s always the chance of an extended power outage. Make sure you’ve got food, water, flashlights, batteries, blankets, medicine, and other supplies handy in case it happens.
Winter may not be your idea of a wonderland, but by taking a few preparations ahead of time, you can be safer and warmer throughout the season.
More tips: Come back next Monday when we’ll dive deeper into these tips and how you can winterize your home.