Winter is right around the corner, and there’s no better time than right now to start preparing your home for the cold months ahead. There are several things you can do to prepare yourself, including common steps like weather-stripping your home, adding insulation, or wrapping pipes, and lesser known steps like cleaning your gutters and turning on your ceiling fan. That’s right, even ceiling fans have a winter application.
- Cleaning Gutters — During the autumn months, the trees shed their leaves, scattering them across your yard and clogging up your gutters. If you don’t clean out these leaves, you face the risk of ice dams, which is when snow melts and rain blocks your gutters further, potentially spilling out over the edges. This can lead to water getting into your home and really messing things up. Be sure to patch up any leaky gutters and ensure that the draining water gets as far away from the house as possible.
- Air Leaks — Weather-stripping your home by covering obvious gaps with caulk or rubber seals will go a long way toward making your home more energy efficient and comfortable. Plugging these gaps will not only help you in the winter, but they will also be helpful for summer by keeping your home cooler and reducing the amount of time your air conditioning needs to run.
- Insulation — Every home should have about 12 inches of insulation in the attic, according to Danny Lipford of the television show “Today’s Homeowner.” This insulation cuts way down on radiant heat loss and gain during the winter and summer months, respectively. Avoid using insulation with paper backings, as these tend to develop moisture problems with your insulation, making them ineffective.
- Furnace — Before it even starts to get cold, fire up your furnace and let it run for a bit. If you notice a smell right after it starts, just open some windows to let it dissipate. This is normal when starting it up after an extended period, but if the smell continues for several days, get it checked. Be sure to check filters monthly and replace them as needed. A clogged filter will reduce airflow and negatively impact the performance of your furnace.
- Ductwork — Homes with central air and heating are notorious for air leaks before the conditioned air even reaches the designated room. Ducts should be inspected every year to ensure they are properly aligned and have not developed any cracks or breaks. Up to 60% of heat loss can be expected from poorly insulated and misaligned ducts. Be sure also to close vents in any unused rooms, as this will prevent any wasted heat from entering them.
- Windows — Some windows or storm doors have a screen for summer and a glass pane for winter. Installing these extra glass panes can save you from losing heat, especially if your windows are particularly old. If you are having issues with your windows being drafty, it may be time to consider replacing them. As replacing windows is a costly endeavor, it is best to replace a couple at a time, starting with the ones prone to drafts. For the rest of the windows, a DIY window insulator kit may do the trick, if only for the current winter. The kit allows you to seal up each window at a cost of about $4 per window. The sealant can be removed in the spring time and is very effective, if a bit unsightly.
- Chimneys — Most people believe that your chimney should be swept once per year. While it isn’t true that it needs to be done that often, it still should be inspected every year. As creosote builds up in your chimney or wood stove exhausts, it can damage the lining of the chimney and also present a fire hazard. Any time you find at least a quarter inch of creosote buildup, you should get the chimney swept. If you do plan to sweep your chimney, the earlier you do it, the better. Springtime is ideal as not many calls will be going out for sweeps.
- Ceiling Fans — Most people don’t even think about starting up their ceiling fans during the winter, but by turning it on low and in reverse, you will actively circulate the warm air and prevent it from lingering up near your ceiling.
- Pipes — Insulating water pipes will keep warm water warm from heater to spigot, and it will prevent all your pipes from bursting during a particularly cold winter. If you don’t have your pipes insulated and temperatures are getting to the freezing level, shut off your water lines and drain the lines inside your home. This will prevent a catastrophic line burst.
- Alarms — Check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms and ensure they are working properly. For smoke alarms, test them with a small amount of smoke from a burning match or incense stick. Smoke detectors should also be replaced every 10 years to ensure they will work properly.
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