How to winterize your home
A long list of winterization tasks may look daunting at first, but you can do most of them yourself. Some, however, are best left to the pros.
Drain outdoor water supplies
It’s a good idea to drain all the water supply lines supplying your pool, spa, sprinkler system, and water meter. Also, remove garden hoses and turn off the water to any outdoor hose bibs. The American Red Cross recommends keeping outdoor bib valves open to allow for the expansion of any remaining water if it freezes.
Check your roof and gutters
The American Society of Home Inspectors recommends checking your roof and gutters regularly to make sure snow and rain haven’t accumulated and frozen there. This accumulation can result in ice dams that can seriously damage your home. A properly insulated and vented attic will help keep ice dams from forming.
Check Out: Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Roof Leaks?
Insulate vulnerable water pipes
Plumbing pipes in cold areas — like an attic, crawl space, unheated basement, and your garage — are all vulnerable to freezing. Insulate them using heat tape or pipe sleeves. Several layers of newspaper can provide short-term protection in a pinch.
Shore up unheated areas of your home
Installing or adding insulation to your attic, basement, garage, and other unheated areas of your home will help protect against pipe freezing. Also, consider closing foundation vents if you can do so without risking moisture buildup.
Air can leak into your home anywhere two different building materials meet, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Outdoor culprits include the corners of your home, outdoor faucets, and the areas where your foundation meets the brick or siding.
Cracks and gaps in the following indoor areas can also let air leak in:
Check these areas for drafts. If you find any, seal them up with weather stripping and caulk.
Have your heating system serviced
A professional furnace or heat pump inspection will ensure that your heating unit is ready to go when the weather turns cold. An annual cleaning is also important if you have a furnace. The American Society of Home Inspectors notes that regular cleanings reduce dust and mold buildup while keeping your furnace running properly.
Get your chimney cleaned
Fireplaces can be dangerous if they’re not properly maintained. Most chimney fires start during the winter and are caused by a buildup of a substance called creosote. Having the creosote cleaned out by a professional reduces the risk of a fire starting in your chimney, as well as the likelihood of CO2 poisoning.After the chimney has been cleaned, you can keep it clean longer by keeping the fireplace doors and damper open as much as possible and using only well-seasoned firewood.
Read More: 20 Best Fireplace Safety Tips for Homeowners
Encourage air circulation
Your heating system needs ample circulation to perform efficiently. Make sure your vents are open (partway if you don’t use the room) and keep interior doors open as well. A ceiling fan can also help in spaces with eight-foot ceilings or higher. Make sure they’re set to blow air downward to keep warm air from rising.
Perform a safety check
Winter is a good time to check your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. All homes should have a smoke detector on every level of the home, outside of each sleeping area, and inside each bedroom.
You also need carbon monoxide detectors if you have a heat source or appliance that uses combustible fuel, such as a washer, dryer, hot water heater, or furnace. Check with your local fire department for specific requirements in your jurisdiction.
Program your thermostat
If you have a programmable thermostat, set it to lower temperatures when no one is home and during the night when you’re sleeping. Even if you don’t have a programmable unit, you can save up to 10% on heating and cooling each year by turning the thermostat back seven to 10 degrees eight hours per day, according to the Iowa Utilities Board.
Perform routine maintenance
Cleaning or replacing your air filters on time helps your heating system operate more efficiently and also keeps your air clean. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) also recommends cleaning heat registers, baseboard heaters, and radiators, and making sure they’re a safe distance from curtains, furniture, and carpeting.
Another important task is to release trapped air from hot-water radiators at least once each season. You can get the most out of your radiator’s heat by putting a heat-resistant reflector between the unit and the wall, according to the DOE.
Cover your windows
Homes lose about 30% of their heat through windows, according to the DOE, but covering the windows with energy-efficient treatments can keep a lot of that heat inside. Consider cellular or pleated shades, storm-window panels, curtains or drapes, and window film for inside your home. Film can also be used outside. Awnings, shutters, solar screens, and storm windows protect against heat loss, too. Make sure to keep curtains and shades open during the day so the sun can help heat your home.
Purchase a safe alternative heat source
UL-listed electric space heaters are safe to use if they have tip-over safety switches and can be positioned at least three feet from flammable materials. Plug them into wall outlets, extension cords, or strip outlets.
Good to know
UL Listing means that UL Solutions has tested representative samples of a product and determined that the product meets specific, defined requirements.
UL-listed kerosene heaters are a viable option for well-ventilated spaces. Only use clear K-1 kerosene and never overfill the heater or refill it inside your home. The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension recommends contacting your homeowners insurance company to make sure it covers fires resulting from the use of a kerosene heater.
A generator can be an excellent emergency tool, but it can also be dangerous. Position it in a dry area at least 25 feet from your house and point the exhaust away from vents, windows, and doors to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Make sure the cord is in good condition and has all three prongs.
Prepare for an emergency
Winterizing your home reduces the risk of many winter perils, but it can’t eliminate it entirely. However, you’ll have an easier time dealing with emergencies if you can take immediate action.
Label your home’s main water valve so you can find it in an emergency, or direct a family member to it if a broken pipe or other plumbing emergency necessitates turning off the water.
Label the breakers in your breaker box to make it easy to shut power off to an appliance or an area of your home.
Create a home inventory you can use to file a claim if your home is damaged or destroyed in a fire or other emergency.
Put together an emergency kit with essentials
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security suggests keeping an emergency kit that includes medications, pet care products, radios, flashlights, batteries, and water in case you lose heat or power during a winter weather event. Nonperishable food, a first-aid kit, and USB power banks are also useful during an outage.
Create an emergency kit for your car, too, in case you get stuck on the road in frigid weather. Include jumper cables, sand to give your tires traction, a flashlight, warm clothing, blankets, water, and snacks.
Build an emergency fund
Setting money aside for emergency repairs can be especially helpful during the winter months when time is of the essence for issues like a faulty heater. A savings account is best — never keep a large stash of cash in your home, where it could be stolen or lost in a fire or other emergency.
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