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winter_houseWinter is here. Freezing temperatures, cold air, ice and snow make the warmth inside your house cozy and inviting, but winterizing your house isn’t only about staying warm. Failing to winterize your house will consume more energy; progressively cost more money on top of repair headaches for busted pipes, invading pests or furnaces that suddenly fail to function. Save more, worry less and stay comfortable by systematically checking your home’s condition and performing simple tasks around the property to ensure it is winter-ready.

Servicing Furnaces and Ductwork

Check the house thermostat to ensure it works properly. Replace old thermostats with newer, programmable models that allow you to set a lower temperature while you are away or asleep and raise the temperature only when you need it. According to the Department of Energy, lowering the temperature about 10 degrees for eight hours a day may save you up to 10 percent a year.

Change your furnace filter. Depending on the furnace and filter type, the changing schedule may vary from monthly to perhaps every six months.

Check the furnace pilot light to see if it is lit. Turn on the furnace and blower to ensure the furnace ignites and completes a full cycle, from warming up to blowing heat and shutting off the blower again. Hire a professional to evaluate the furnace and determine if it operates safely and efficiently.

Inspect the heating ductwork. Look for holes and loose connections, tightening, taping or replacing pieces as necessary. Problem areas often occur where ducts meet the floor, ceiling or go through the wall. Insulate ductwork that runs under your house or through unheated areas. Special blanket insulation makes insulating around the ducts easy, simple work.

Inspecting Fireplaces, Wood Stoves and Chimneys

Inspect the chimney if you have a fireplace or wood stove. Look for obstructions such as bird nests or leaves blocking the flue. Place screen and a chimney cap over the top of the chimney to prevent future problems. Clean the chimney to remove any buildup and scrape the ashes and creosote out of the fireplace or wood stove when finished. Check the fireplace or wood stove to ensure it operates properly. Hire a professional to assess the equipment if preferred. Test the interior portion of the wood stove flue, between the stove and the wall where it exits. Make sure the connections are secure and the pipe is sound.

Cleaning Your Gutters and Roof

Clean the roof completely to remove the year’s accumulation of dirt, debris and leaves. Especially in areas with deep snow accumulations, the excess weight may stress the roof. Inspect the roof during the cleaning to identify areas where shingles are missing, damaged or otherwise in need of repair. Look for other problems such as soft areas, chimney or vent damage and separating gutters. Clean the gutters surrounding the roof. Move to the downspouts and ensure they are clear and in good repair.

Weatherproofing Your House Exterior

Rake away leaves and rotting vegetation from your house foundation. Trim tree branches hanging over your house, electrical wires or outbuildings. Remove dead and damaged trees and branches. Check window wells surrounding basement windows. Remove debris and ensure the window is safe from potential damage. Drain garden hoses and insulate exposed water pipes as applicable. Blow out or drain sprinkler systems.

Cover central air units with heavy protective material to block snow and ice. Have a professional open the unit cover and turn off the disconnect switch first to prevent accidental use in winter. Clean the outside of the unit, removing dirt and leaves, and allow it to dry before covering. Remove window air conditioner units or cover permanently installed units.

Preparing Your Windows and Doors

Inspect windows to ensure the glass is in good condition and secure in the window frame. Check doors for structural stability. Replace or repair windows and doors as necessary. Upgrading old windows with newer, energy-efficient models will boost your utility savings.

Replace or install weather stripping under entry doors and around windows. You may also hang plastic over windows or use shrink-wrap. Large windows, in particular, lose a tremendous amount of heat, especially older windows.

Winterizing With Insulation

If your house is fairly new, the insulation level is likely sufficient for your climate. If you own an older home, the easiest, most reliable method to ensure your insulation is up to keeping you warm is to have an energy audit performed. Some utility companies offer courtesy energy audits, or you can hire a professional. Checking the insulation level in the attic is likely the easiest place for the DIYer to start, and one of the most important places since heat rises.

Interior Weatherization and Safety

Open any register vents or air returns inside your house. Vents may be wall mounted, in the floor or in the ceiling. Repair or replace damaged or loose vents. Feel the wall around electrical outlets, pipes or wires leading to the outside. Seal and insulate as appropriate. Expanding foam insulation for windows and doors provides the benefits of both.

Reverse your ceiling fans to help circulate warm air that gathers near the ceiling. When the fan blades rotate clockwise, they push the warm air down to “reheat” the lower areas. Also check your smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries or install and test them. During the winter season, heating appliances may emit carbon monoxide.

survival kit bug-out bagA Winter Weather Survival Kit

If all else fails and you lose power, the sturdiest house won’t keep out the cold. Keeping emergency supplies on hand to help you through a storm and power outage will help keep you safe. Gather a kit containing:

  • Flashlights
  • Candles
  • Matches
  • A battery-powered radio, especially a NOAA radio or two-way device
  • Two or three blankets
  • Bottled water
  • Seven days of non-perishable food and a can opener if needed