Even though it seems like summer has yet to relinquish its grip on the United States, Old Man Winter is just around the corner, waiting with glee. With winter comes snow, ice, and cold, all designed to make your home creak and shudder. And with the colder temperatures comes higher heating bills. There are things you can do, however, to make your home run more efficiently and save that hit to your checking account. Here are five key things you need to do to winterize your home.
Check Your Roof and Gutters
One of the quintessential sights of winter is a row of sparkling icicles hanging from the eaves of a roof. It may look gorgeous, but in reality, if you have icicles hanging from your gutters or eaves, you have a problem. Water has seeped back under your eaves and slowly frozen, forming an ice dam, which then leads to the icicles, or your gutters are clogged and overflowing, causing the icicles. Both are not good, as the excess weight of the frozen water can cause a lot of damage to your roof and gutters.
So how do you prevent this ice dam situation? First, make sure your gutters are clear. After the leaves have all fallen, get a sturdy ladder and a pair of gloves and clean them out. If you can’t stand the thought of going up that high, hire someone to do it. The $100 it costs to hire someone to clean your gutters is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of replacing them. While you’re at it, inspect the fasteners for the gutters and downspouts. If they’re loose, replace them. Winter winds, ice, and snow can rip a loose gutter from your house in a snap.
Secondly, inspect your roof edges. Look at the flashing at the edge and make sure that it’s in good condition. Don’t just stop at the edges; look at the chimney, the plumbing vent and any other breaks in your shingles. If you see any lifting, use roofing cement and a caulk gun to plug the holes before they become full-fledged leaks. While you’re up there, look at your shingles and make sure that none of them are warped, lifting, or even missing. If they are, replace them before you get a leak.
Check Your HVAC System
If you have a split AC, invest in a cover. Do an end of season cleaning of the outside AC unit, making sure to disconnect the power first. Once you’ve cleaned it, install a cover, but make sure that there’s at least a foot of clearance at the bottom so that air can circulate. This will prevent any trapped moisture from growing mold. If you don’t have a cover, you can also strap a piece of plywood on top of it. This will keep debris from falling inside and damaging the unit. As winter progresses, make sure that your unit is kept clear of snow and ice, which can cause fatigue damage.
On the inside of your home, change the air filter in your system. This is something you should do regularly and will improve both the performance of your furnace and your overall air quality.
Change your fan directions to blow air downward. You want them to spin clockwise, which will help force warm air from your ceilings to the floor, improving energy efficiency.
If you have a fireplace, have the chimney inspected by a qualified chimney sweep at least once per year. You might not use your fireplace that much, but water damage can occur inside away from your eyes. Additionally, a cleaning will get rid of any creosote buildup that can present a fire hazard. If you aren’t going to use your fireplace, get a chimney balloon to block the flue. This device inflates and helps seal the flue of your fireplace to prevent warm air from leaking out.
Deal With the Landscape
If you have trees on your property, it’s worth your while to hire a certified arborist to inspect them. They can make recommendations about any tree limbs that need to be removed or even any trees that should be cut down. That could save you big time the next time an ice storm rages through your part of the world, sending weakened branches crashing down.
If you have a winter-mix of grass, now is the time to aerate the lawn, reseed and apply fertilizer. This will help your grass make it through the winter and shine come spring. If you have outdoor hoses, remove them from the spigots and bring them inside. That will help keep them from getting cracked in the cold. Wrap your external faucets to protect them from water damage as well.
Bring in your patio furniture for the winter. If you don’t have storage space inside of a shed or garage, stack it neatly and then cover it with a heavy tarp.
There’s nothing worse than listening to your warm air go whistling out of a crack in your front door’s weather stripping. Inspect the gaskets and seals around all of your doors and windows. Make sure to replace anything that’s cracked or excessively worn to prevent heat loss.
If your windows aren’t double or triple-glazed and you still have screens, make sure that the storm windows are in place. The same goes for any screen doors you have. Replace them with the winter storm doors to help seal in the heat.
If you feel cold spots near your windows, check the caulking. It’s inevitable that it will split and get older; if you see any trouble spots, reapply caulk where it’s needed. If your windows are exceptionally drafty, consider the plastic sheets that you can shrink wrap your windows with. While they only last one season, they can greatly improve your window’s insulation, keeping heat in and money in your pocket.
Check the insulation in your attic or roof crawlspace. Use an insulation ruler to see if you should replace a few batts. Adding new insulation only takes an afternoon but can do a ton when it comes to insulating your home.