Making Sure Your Home is Ready for Winter's Arrival
Here are 10 tips to prepare your home for winter:
Clean your gutters and remove any leaves and debris that may have collected; spray down the gutters and downspouts to make sure they are all clear and that water is draining properly. Doing this will ensure that rain and melting ice will have a place to go and avoid creating an "ice dam" in freezing temperatures. An ice dam can form when water from melting snow re-freezes at the edge of your roofline. The ice dam may grow large enough to prevent water from draining off the roof. The water can then back up underneath the roof shingles and make its way inside your home, causing damage. Wet leaves and debris can also get heavy in the gutters and increase the chances of damage.
Check your roof for any missing, damaged or lifted shingles. Replace or reseal. Check all flashings and penetrations (around pipe jacks, vents, etc.). These are most often the source of leaks or potential leaks. Reseal around all penetrations.
Have your attic inspected to make sure you have the proper amount of insulation. Regardless of where you live in the U.S., you need at least 12 inches of insulation in your attic. If you can see the ceiling joists in the attic then you most likely do not have enough insulation because ceiling joists are at most 10 or 11 inches. Hot air is aggressive and is constantly seeking out cooler air. Therefore in the winter, the warm air in your home will be seeking the colder air outside and in the summer the warmer air outside will be trying to find a way to get to the colder air inside. Proper insulation can help you keep your home at the appropriate temperature year round and also help you save on your electric bill.
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4. Furnace and Heating System
Have your heating system checked and tuned up by a qualified professional each year. Check your filters and change them. If you have a gas furnace, you should have it checked every year for carbon monoxide leaks and consider installing a Carbon Monoxide detector in your home. Install a programmable thermostat. The Department of Energy says you can save as much as 1% on your energy bill for ever degree you lower your home's temperature during the winter. By installing a programmable thermostat, you can control the temperature while you are not at home during the day or during extended periods while on vacation. Some electricity providers have programs where they will even provide you with a free thermostat.
5. Reverse Your Ceiling Fans
Many of us forget this one small thing, but reversing the direction of your ceiling fans will help to push the warm air from the ceiling down towards the floor. When looking up at the moving fan, it should be moving in a clockwise motion (counter clockwise for summer).
6. Fireplace & Chimney
While it may not be necessary to have your chimney swept every year, it should be inspected for foreign objects, wildlife, creosote or soot buildup and to make sure your damper is working properly. If you see any missing mortar between bricks or in the joints, it should be fixed immediately as a fire can spread through these openings into the stud wall. Consider installing a chimney cap or screen to keep foreign objects and wildlife out of your chimney.
7. Flush Your Waterheater
Sediment can collect over time in the bottom of your water heater and affect its efficiency. Flush the water through the drain valve to clear out any particles and help keep your heater working its best.
8. Eliminate Drafts
Check and seal any gaps around your windows, doors, ducts, electrical outlets by using weather stripping, foam sealant or caulking. Use draft dodgers at the bottoms of your doors. There are some you can buy that are two sided and slip underneath the door. According to EarthWorks Group, the average American home has leaks that add up to a nine square foot hole in the wall!
9. Pipes and Plumbing
If you have ever had your pipes freeze or burst, you know, it is not a fun thing to deal with! Know where your water main is should you need to shut off your water in an emergency. Drain and disconnect all unused water hoses. Insulate all exposed plumbing pipes and spigots. If you have an automatic water sprinkler, consider installing a freeze sensor. (Some cities have an ordinance requiring this device. Check with your local municipality if you are unsure.)
10. Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Now is a good time to check to make sure all of your alarms and detectors are in good working order and replace all the batteries.
Please note these tips are for homes that are occupied. Homes that are vacant should undergo a more advanced winterizing that includes draining the plumbing, etc.