Well, it’s that time of year again. In comes the patio furniture and out go the snow shovels. But before that snow and cold weather hits us there are some great things we can do to the house to increase its winter efficiency or just simply protect it from potential damage through the cold months. Of course there’s the comfort factor as well, because there’s nothing like climbing into a cold bed at the end of a long day or sitting down on the couch and there’s a cold draft flowing over your toes! The fall is a great time of year to start preparing your home for winter, because as temperatures begin to cool off, your home will require maintenance to keep it in tip-top shape through the winter.
Every house has its own unique features that need attention as the winter approaches. Here are some tips to help you prepare for winter:
Inspect The Furnace
Don’t wait for the temperature to drop before checking your furnace. When you turn it on for the first time after summer dormancy you sometimes get an odd musty smell but that’s normal so don’t fret. However, if it continues for a long period of time it’s a wise to consult a professional. It’s always a good idea to have an annual tune-up by a professional and it may cost you $100-$150 for the comfort of knowing everything is in good working order. Depending on your furnaces requirements you should make sure you are changing your filters regularly whether it requires monthly or quarterly, make sure you know what your furnace recommends. A clogged filter is going to affect its operating efficiency and make it work harder to get your home to the desired temperature. In extreme cases there is a risk of fire. Lastly, make sure all flammable material is removed from the area around your furnace.
Get the Fireplace Ready
If you use a natural fireplace during the winter months then its time for your annual inspection to make sure it’s sate and ready to use. You don’t need to have the chimney swept every year but its a good idea to have it inspected to ensure it’s ready. Get a Level 1 Inspection which involves checking accessible venting systems, the flue, and making sure the general condition of the chimney is safe for use.
Don’t put the firewood up against the exterior of the house as its a good place for water to get trapped and cause damage to your siding and/or foundation. A woodpile is also a great attraction for insects and rodents, something you don’t want to invite into your home. It’s wise to keep wood stacks 4-10 feet from the house.
Check the Exterior, Doors and Windows
When checking the exterior you are looking for any cracks or exposed areas around pipes as it’s important to seal them to prevent any cold air penetrating your house. Not only will that air contribute to a colder house but that air may also affect the pipes and cause freezing within them leading to burst pipes, you don’t want that to happen, especially if you are away on vacation!.
If you find there are some drafts coming from around your doors then get some weather-stripping to seal off the area and prevent the cold air from entering the home. Adding door sweeps to the bottom of the exterior doors helps to close off any open spaces.
There are plenty of fixes for windows depending on the age and their condition. For any windows make sure they have enough caulking so that they prevent any moisture or air penetration. For older single pane windows consider adding plastic shields to increase their insulation factor and stop incoming drafts. Sure they aren’t very attractive but for only a few bucks you can save a lot on heating costs. All you do is apply the plastic with double sided tape and then use a hair dryer to shrink the plastic. If you have storm windows then you should install those.
Inspect Roof, Gutters & Downspouts
Check your gutters and make sure to remove any leaves or other debris so that water and rain can drain properly. Once the gutters are clean be sure to use a hose and spray water down the downspouts to ensure all debris has been removed. If gutters are not properly cleaned ice formation can back up onto the roof and cause further damage. Make sure all downspouts are properly draining away from the foundation. If they aren’t you can get extenders for your downspouts that take care of this issue.
For the roof, do a quick inspection and have any damaged or missing shingles replaced. Also check the flashing and make sure water cannot enter the home.
Drain Exterior Pipes
It’s important to make sure your exterior faucets are drained as winter approaches. Doing this will help prevent the pipes from freezing and bursting, lets keep the swimming pools outside! Most exterior faucets have a turn off valve inside your home. Turn off the valve so water won’t flow then go outside and turn on the faucet. This will drain any remaining water in the pipe and keep the pipe empty as it extends to the exterior of the home.
Install Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Smoke detectors should be replaced roughly every 10 years. If you are reaching that time then replace them. It’s always good to check the batteries regularly so make this time of the year the time to replace the batteries and keep your smoke detectors operational. It’s also important to have a carbon monoxide detector on every floor of the home and near the furnace if possible. Some smoke detectors manufactured now include carbon monoxide detection, but if yours doesn’t then be sure to pick some up.
Reverse Ceiling Fans
If you use your ceiling fan in the winter make sure you reverse it so that the fan pushes the warm air downwards and recirculates it. This will balance the temperature in the house and make it more comfortable. How do you know it’s right? As you look up at the fan the blades should be turning clockwise.
Check The Ducts
Remove your heat vents and vacuum out any dust or debris present so the air flows efficiently. Most ducts have a damper present so you can regulate the flow of air entering the room. Usually you can reach down the duct once you remove the vent and adjust the damper. If you find one room is always cooler than others this may be the issue. It may take time to get it all figured out but will be extremely useful in achieving maximum efficiency and keep your home comfortable and cozy.