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Winterizing a Home - Are You Doing These 8 Things?

Heavy snowfall and cold temperatures can create an array of challenges for homeowners if you do not prepare in advance. With harsh winter conditions come drafty doors and windows, an overworked furnace and of course—rising energy costs.

Taking the time to run through some pre-winter preparation now can save you from costly and difficult repairs during the winter months. From general furnace maintenance to caulking windows, most winter home prepping can be accomplished in a single weekend. Consider these home maintenance tips to help you get a jump-start on winterizing your home.

Inspect the furnace

During winter, it’s not uncommon for heating systems to run constantly throughout the season. Have a qualified heating technician inspect your furnace and perform any required maintenance before you turn on your heat for the first time this winter. Remember to clean your filters monthly to help your furnace run more efficiently and improve airflow, which can save you energy and a hefty heating bill.

Check for air leaks

Incoming drafts can waste 5% - 30% of your energy use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Cold air can seep in around windows and underneath doors, allowing warm air to escape. For this reason, it is important to check your home for any air leaks before the winter chill comes knocking at your door. Caulk where needed, install weather stripping around doors and windows, ensure door sweeps seal properly and consider adding storm doors and windows. 

Storm windows are highly effective against wintery breezes, but they're not always available. Shrink-wrap insulating kits are inexpensive and easy to apply with nothing more than a pair of scissors, some double-stick tape and a hair dryer. Even placing a sheet of bubble wrap in the window will help cure drafts. Wet the window with a light spritz of water and press the bubble wrap against it. Shrink-wrap kits and bubble wrap are good alternatives for anyone who can't or doesn't want to access their windows from the outside.

Clean your gutters

If your gutters are clogged with leaves and debris from fall, standing water can freeze in cold temperatures and eventually force its way up under the roof shingles and into your house. Take a few hours this fall to clean out your gutters, and prevent the need for unnecessary and expensive roof repairs down the road.

Protect your pipes

Allow faucets to drain and remember to unhook all outdoor hoses to prevent your plumbing pipes from freezing.  Similarly, insulate water pipes by wrapping them in a blanket of foam insulation.  This includes pipes in areas of the home that are not heated, such as the basement or attic. This will help minimize the possibility of water freezing, causing the pipes to burst and potentially flood your home.

All Wrapped Up

You put on an extra layer of warmth in the winter, so should your home. Wrap water pipes in insulating tape, and make sure the attic has adequate insulation. A minimum of 12 inches of attic insulation is suggested no matter what region you live in. A general rule is that if the ceiling joists are visible there's not enough insulation because joists typically measure about 10 inches.

Reverse ceiling fan rotation

Many of us think of fans only when we want to stay cool in the summer, but reversing your ceiling fan is actually a simple way to prep your home for winter. Counter-clockwise fan rotation results in cooler air being pushed down in the warmer seasons, while clock-wise rotation channels warmer air downward in the winter.

Service your chimney

Don’t put off your chimney maintenance before using your wood-burning fireplace. Blockages and buildup can lead to dangerous conditions such as insufficient ventilation and fires. Call a qualified chimney sweep to inspect and clean your chimney. Yearly maintenance will ensure your unit works safely and efficiently throughout the winter. 

Winter can be hard on both your wallet and your home. Prepare now for cold months ahead and eliminate costly, winter surprises. 

Clean the fireplace chimney to remove creosote. Creosote is the flammable residue that sticks to the walls of a chimney pipe. If ignited, creosote can start a dangerous chimney fire, throwing sparks onto your roof or nearby branches. Depending on the amount of use, a wood-burning fireplace may need to be cleaned more than once a year. Check the pipe regularly and have it swept each time you detect ¼ inch of creosote buildup.

Have a trained technician check the connections on a gas fireplace to make sure there are no leaks and that the unit is in proper working order for the season.

Battery Check List

One of the most important steps in winterizing your home is also one of the easiest: Put fresh batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. Test smoke alarms by actually wafting a bit of smoke past them, not just pressing the "test" button, and remember that detecting devices should be replaced every ten years.

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