Tips to Prepare Your House for Winter
1. Trim Trees
Take a stroll around your yard and examine your trees closely. Do you see any limbs that could possibly knock out power to your home? Do you see limbs that could hit your car if they broke off during a winter snow storm?
Take time now to trim any weak branches that look as if they could cause problems during winter storms. Trimming the trees during mild weather is much easier than trying to do it when it’s frigid outside.
2. Check Your Snow Blower and Stock Up
If you live in a particularly snowy climate, it is likely that you have a snow blower. Fill it up with gas, and start it up to make sure it works. Also make sure that your shovel is still in good condition; if not, pick up another one, along with salt or sand for your driveway. People often wait until the first big snowfall to buy these crucial supplies, and stores often run out, especially if a big storm is on the way.
3. Check for Leaks
Now that the nights have cooled down, you can probably locate drafts coming into your home. Find those leaks and seal them up before winter. Walk around your home on a chilly night and, using bare hands and feet, feel around your doors, windows, lights, and switch plates for cold air.
If you detect cold air leaking in, this means that your warm air is going outside. You need to either add insulation to these areas, or seal them using weather-stripping, caulk, or spray foam. I know this can seem like an annoying chore – after all, these tiny leaks can’t make that much of a difference, right?
Well, it all adds up. Energy Star estimates that sealing the leaks around your home can help you shave as much as 20% off your heating and cooling costs, thus making your home more energy efficient.
4. Check Your Furnace Filter
Before you start running your furnace, check the filter – it may need to be replaced. If your furnace filter looks dirty, then definitely replace it. During the winter months, I change my furnace filter every 4 to 6 weeks.
Having a clean filter helps your furnace run more efficiently, which can save you energy and money. According to Planet Green, a clean filter can save you 5% to 15% on your heating bill.
Additionally, if you haven’t done so already, consider upgrading your thermostat to a programmable thermostat. Installation is easy, and the ability to program your thermostat to only work when you need it can save more money on heating during the long winter months. This is just one of many green energy technologies that you can utilize for home improvement.
5. Insulate Pipes and Hot Water Heater
Have you insulated your water pipes and hot water heater? If you haven’t, this relatively easy project can help trim your water heating costs this winter, especially if your water pipes run through a chilly or unheated basement.
According to the Department of Energy (DOE), insulating your hot water pipes can help raise the temperature 2 to 4 degrees. This can allow you to get piping hot water on a lower setting, saving you both energy and money. The DOE also states that insulating your hot water heater trims 4% to 9% off your water heating costs.
6. Add Insulation
The DOE states that adding insulation is one of the best ways to save energy all year round. During the winter months, that extra insulation makes your home feel warmer. The best news? Adding insulation to your attic is quite simple.
I’m not great at home improvement, yet I completed a winter home improvement project two years ago that went off without a hitch. Adding insulation really paid off – my heat kicked on less frequently, which helped me save energy all winter long. Best of all, this home improvement project increases value.
How do you know if you have enough insulation, or if you need more? Use the DOE’s Insulation Fact Sheet; it tells you how much insulation you need (the R-value) based on your zip code. Most homes require 12 to 15 inches of insulation in their attic.
7. Get Your Chimney Cleaned
You probably haven’t used your fireplace since last winter. Before you use it on the first chilly night, you need to have your chimney cleaned by a professional.
In addition to increasing the heating efficiency of your fireplace, an annual cleaning also helps to ensure your family’s safety during the winter months. Chimney fires, a build-up of deposits, and animals nesting in your chimney make it unsafe to use. Having the chimney cleaned every year helps to eliminate these risks for fire in your home.
Chimney cleaners are busy during the fall and winter months, so call early before the temperature really starts to drop. That way you won’t have to wait to start your first cozy fire of the season.
7. Also before winter gets into full swing homeowners have the opportunity to act now to help prevent ice dams and costly water damage to ceilings and walls. The problem? Ice dams are primarily caused by the presence of warm air in the attic, combined with snow on the roof and the right weather conditions, with outside air temperatures near freezing.
The thought of doing fall home improvement can make you groan. The fall season is exceptionally busy for many people, and it’s tempting to spend your free time enjoying the last few warm, sunny afternoons out in the backyard.
However, you can easily do most of these projects, and they’re more than worth the effort. In fact, not doing these projects in fall means you’ll likely have to bundle up and take care of them after the snow starts flying, when the cold and wind can make the tasks that much more difficult and unpleasant to do.
Have you completed winterizing your home? What other fall projects would you add to the list to prepare for cold weather? I hope this information is helpful to you as we will soon be hitting those below zero temperatures very soon.