The real estate market is hot, but the weather outside is getting colder. That means it’s time to prepare your home for winter, keeping it warm and trouble-free all season long. We’re sharing our best winterization tips with you below.
Why You Should Prepare Your Home for Winter
Home winterization is essential for homeowners. Preparing your house for the colder months can help prevent major disasters, save you money on energy costs, and keep you and your family safe and healthy.
Without proper winterization, you could face expensive and potentially harmful consequences, such as:
- Frozen pipes
- Backed up and broken gutters
- Fire hazards
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Tree and power line damage
- Potential injuries from slips, falls, and falling debris
Winterization can also help you lower your energy costs and increase your efficiency throughout the winter and spring. An energy-efficient home not only saves you money on your monthly bills but can also improve your resale value in the future. Plus, you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint and helping keep the planet healthy, too.
Winterization Tips for Homeowners
Prevent wintertime mishaps caused by ice, wind, and weather by performing a few simple checks throughout your home. While some of these winterization tips require financial investment, it’s well worth the cost. Many of these inspections can identify much larger problems, which could have even more expensive or disastrous consequences if not addressed.
Whether you own a new build or live in an older home, these winterization tips will keep your house running smoothly all winter long.
Check Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are vitally important. While you should ideally check and replace batteries every six months, it’s a good idea to give them a once-over during the holidays as well. Your furnace will soon be working overtime, which can lead to carbon monoxide leaks in a failed system.
Carbon monoxide is released any time you burn natural fuel. Household appliances like gas fireplaces, stoves, ovens, and furnaces or water heaters can emit carbon monoxide. As the gas builds up, it can poison those in the home – and often, no one will realize what’s happening until it’s too late.
Carbon monoxide is tasteless and odorless, but it can be deadly. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include dizziness, headache, weakness, upset stomach, chest pain, and confusion, and ultimately can lead to death if not addressed immediately.
Because this gas is odorless and colorless, the only way to monitor carbon monoxide in your home is through a carbon monoxide detector. This device can be ceiling or wall-mounted or plugged in through a standard outlet. Many states require new homes and rental units to have a working monitor. However, regardless of your home’s age, you should have a carbon monoxide detector. Maintaining and inspecting your appliances can also help reduce the risk of carbon monoxide exposure.
Similarly, you should have several working smoke detectors throughout your home. Each state has different laws regarding smoke detectors, but at the very least, make sure you have one on each level and in each bedroom. When winterizing your home, ensure these detectors are working correctly. Replace batteries where needed.
Check Fireplace and Chimney
Improper fireplace maintenance is the leading factor in home fires. Over time, wood fireplaces build up a tar-like substance called creosote. As creosote accumulates, it becomes more and more flammable, leading to devastating chimney and house fires if not addressed. You can reduce the amount of creosote buildup in your chimney by using properly dried wood and avoiding high-resin woods like pine, spruce, and fir.
However, if you have a wood fireplace in your home, there is no way to prevent creosote buildup completely. Therefore, it’s essential to hire a licensed fireplace expert to inspect your fireplace and chimney every year. Fireplace professionals can remove creosote deposits, giving you a safe and effective fireplace that you can burn safely all winter long.
Wood fireplaces aren’t the only sources of fire danger. Gas fireplaces can also cause injury or illness if not properly maintained. As we mentioned above, gas fireplaces can emit carbon monoxide and lead to dangerous or deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. Therefore, gas fireplaces should also be inspected regularly to prevent any risk.
Before using your fireplace for the season, consult your local fireplace expert to schedule an inspection and cleaning.
Mature trees add character and charm to a home. But they can also be a liability come winter. Icy branches can turn a winter wonderland into a frozen nightmare in a hurry. Snapped limbs can cause damage to your home or cars and can even fall on power lines, causing outages or fires.
Your winterization process should include surveying the trees on your property for any damage or potential trouble. Consider trimming back large branches that hang over your home, driveway, or fence line. Cut back limbs that are close to power lines or other utility equipment.
Spending a few hours and a few dollars trimming your trees could save you thousands in potential repairs later in the season.
Now that the last leaves have fallen, it’s time to clean those gutters before the first freeze arrives. Backed up gutters can wreak havoc on your home, causing damage to your roof, siding, home interior, and even the gutters themselves.
Debris in your gutters can prevent water from draining properly. Instead, the water builds up in “dams” inside your gutters. Then, this water either backs up inside your roof shingles – and eventually ends up in your home – or it freezes in the gutter. Both options are bad for your home and your pocketbook. Water under your shingles can cause rot, mold, and other unwelcome side effects. Ice in your gutters might look pretty, but it can weigh down your gutters, ultimately leading to broken gutters, siding, or windows.
Additionally, those large icicles are a hazard for anyone walking under them. Prevent future headaches (both literally and figuratively) by clearing those gutters before the water freezes.
Outdoor Pipe and Water Feature Winterization
Nothing kills a cozy winter evening faster than a broken pipe. On those below-freezing nights, your pipes are vulnerable to cracking, because water expands as it freezes.
To prevent such mishaps, winterize your pipes and any outdoor water features now. Turn off and blow out your sprinkler system, disconnect hoses from outdoor spigots, and perform all recommended winter maintenance on pools or outdoor spas. Underground and internal water pipe damage can be costly, so don’t neglect this important step when preparing your home for winter.
Finally, know where you can find your emergency water shutoff, just in case your winterization doesn’t prevent a leak.
Check Windows and Doors for Insulation
Up to 30% of your home’s total heat loss comes through poorly-insulated windows and doors. If you don’t want to spend the money to upgrade every window and door in your home (and we’re guessing you don’t), you can make some improvements to the existing windows and doors.
Start by conducting a “draft audit.” On a cold, breezy day, stand near each window and door in your home. Notice which rooms feel drafty and which rooms seem to hold heat well. Then, address the drafty rooms with some energy-saving solutions:
- Caulk or weatherstrip cracks in window seals or doorframes
- Add thick window coverings to keep heat from escaping through windows
- Install window insulation film, found in any hardware or home repair store
- Allow sunlight in during the day, then cover windows at night to trap in heat
Inspect and Service Heating System
Inspecting and servicing your heating system is a critical component of the winterization process. Gas furnaces can release dangerous carbon monoxide if not properly maintained. Additionally, a poorly-maintained system will likely mean higher heating bills.
A furnace and heating specialist can inspect, clean, and service your furnace and duct system, ensuring proper performance. This can prevent dangerous carbon monoxide problems and increase your energy efficiency, saving you money all winter long. Be sure to replace furnace filters as part of your winterization process as well.
A few simple tips can help you prepare your home for winter, keeping your family safe and warm all season long.