One of the reasons you took the homeowner plunge with this particular house in the first place is its ideal location for awesome snowy winters. You picture sitting in front of a crackling fire, watching thick flakes swirl, safe and secure as a seasonal storm roars. Or maybe you envision cross-country skiing out the back door on a foot of freshly-fallen powder.
But now that you feel a definite bite in the air and the harsh reality of winter sets in, you begin to wonder “Is this place going to cost a fortune to heat? How can I prevent sustained storm damage? Do I need to stock up on wool socks, bottled water and emergency Ramen soup packets?”
Don’t stress. Winterizing a house can be accomplished in a single weekend by tackling just a few basic tasks. Spending a bit of time and money up front offers protection, significant savings and peace of mind. Here are nine things you’ll need to do.
Ironically, this first item only requires you to make a call. But do it early in the season. You’ll want to make sure your heating system is fully operational before temperatures plummet. First, check to see if the furnace is covered under a service contract. If so, an HVAC inspection is typically included in the price. Otherwise, ask for trusted word-of-mouth recommendations or check with a reputable hiring company such as Angie’s List.
Furnace inspection includes a carbon monoxide check, filter cleaning and — if necessary — replacement, blower testing and monitoring of the motor and fan. While your HVAC professional is on-site, make sure they check out your ductwork as well. A thorough cleaning and examination for leaks goes a long way in maintaining overall heat energy efficiency.
It’s a little-known fact, but your ceiling fan can be just as effective at keeping hot air in as it is at sweeping it out.
Just look for a reverse switch on the outer structure. Flipping it will change the blade rotation from counterclockwise to clockwise. Clockwise fanning motion pushes rising warm air back down into your living area.
Before you light that first crackling fire of the season, call a chimney sweep. As with HVAC service scheduling, it’s best to get your request in early.
The Chimney Safety Institute of America offers a wide range of valuable homeowner resources for everything from finding a registered technician to basic fireplace education and important safety tips.
Make sure yours are battery operated in case electricity is lost during a storm. A smart practice is to mark the end of Daylight Savings Time with routine battery switch-out.
While smoke detection remains a relative no-brainer, CO off-gas is colorless, odorless and extremely toxic. Keep your home and health safe with these simple, easy-to-install devices.
It’s important to keep your home sealed as tight as possible against winter elements. Systematically check the bottom of all exterior doors and block any incoming air. You don’t have to go out and buy specialty draft snakes — a rolled-up bath towel wedged firmly underneath will do the trick.
For window leaks, try caulking around each edge from the outside. Winterizing caulk and caulk guns are relatively inexpensive and can be found at your local hardware center. Make sure to store unused caulk indoors so it doesn’t freeze in the tube!
You can also seal the entire window from inside by tacking up plastic sheeting. Window insulation kits as well as window film are also easy to install yourself.
Keeping water and air hot as they travel through your pipe system is another efficient way to extend your home’s heating capacity. Pipe foam insulation tubes come pre-slit and can be slipped over exposed pipes as easily as putting on a bangle bracelet.
Don’t know which pipes to insulate? Gently touch them while your system is running. Those that give off heat are your best candidates.
Heavy snow and ice can quickly weigh trees down to the point of breakage. Make sure you remove any branches that are hanging directly over your roof.
Consider additional tree clearance around the home. High winds may uproot adjacent shrubbery and carry the damaging debris your way.
Similarly, you’ll want to protect outdoor furniture and garden accessories from winter elements. Cover lawn tables, chairs and recliners securely with plastic to keep moisture out and prevent rust. If you have a closed storage area, stow them inside.
You’ll also want to remove wind chimes and empty residual water from garden hoses and unscrew them from spigots. If you have a garden, gently tie landscape burlap over any plants that are frost sensitive.
Finally, hop up on a ladder and clear the last of fall’s leaves from your drainage system. As temperatures drop, any blockage to your home’s runoff network may result in ice damming.
Additionally, moisture allowed to seep into the structure encourages mold formation and damages framework. Maintain a watchful eye on those gutters, especially after each winter storm.
Now that you’ve successfully secured your new home against winter’s elements, consider snuggling up next to that crackling fire with some wine — and a couple of good books!