Tips to Prep your Home for the Winter

Fall is officially upon us and we all know what’s coming next. The highly dreaded time of year is creeping up fast, and it’s time to prep your home. Take the steps to keep you and your family safe and warm this winter, while minimizing weather related expenses! Whether you’re a first time home buyer or a seasoned home owner, these tasks can feel overwhelming so D&B came up with a few places to start!

Snow Removal

Our How-to Guide to Winterizing your Home:

1.) Check Your Furnace

Inspect your furnace to ensure it’s clean and filters are in good condition to keep your heating system operating properly and performing at max capacity. Many people undermine the importance of replacing filters but a dirty HVAC filter can not only cause your furnace to run poorly but also drive up heating costs. It’s an easy, pocket-friendly way to add to your home’s heat efficiency and improve the air quality of your home. Best practice is replacing your filters every 2 – 3 months, and much more often during high usage months.

Second, check your vents, including your chimney’s, for proper ventilation! Make sure vents are free of dust, debris, and nests that may have moved in. Poor ventilation of your heating source or fireplace can result in carbon monoxide poisoning. During 2010–2015, a total of 2,244 deaths resulted from carbon monoxide poisoning, with the highest number of deaths occurring in winter months. The National Fire Administration suggests installing a carbon monoxide detector on each floor of your home and replacing batteries on smoke alarms routinely. Replacing any CO detectors older than five years is also recommended. D&B says purchasing a CO & Smoke Combination Detector  isn’t a bad idea!

It’s fair to say proper maintenance of your heating unit makes financial sense but fixing issues before winter is vital. Nothing worse than realizing something is wrong with your heat source in the dead of winter!  Schedule repairs now before HVAC professionals are too busy and you’re left on the waiting list.

Image result for cozy fireplace

2.) Inspect the Roof

The roof is a major part of your home so it’s reasonable to inspect yours before the winter rolls in. When inspecting your roof look for a few key things: first and foremost, roof leaks and ice dams caused by melting and refreezing of ice and snow. These two have potential to cause significant structural damage to walls and ceilings. They can also result in wet insulation, which causes a drop in the insulation’s ability to keep heat in. Second, check for loose, missing, or damaged shingles that may leak during a storm or when snows begins to melt. It’s easier and safer to take care of those now than in the winter months, and with the right tools you can get this done yourself!

Image result for old roof

3.) Caulk all Air Leaks

Although fairly tedious, it’s definitely worth taking the time to ensure doors and windows aren’t letting out that precious, costly heat. The Energy Information Administration says as much as one third of the average home’s heat loss occurs through windows and doors- one third, my friends. Look for any gaps in door frames or windows, feel for drafts coming through, and apply caulking as needed. Most professionals recommend using silicone caulking to create an airtight seal that withstands all weather elements. You can find everything you need at your local hardware store or save yourself the trip and buy online. 🤷‍♀️

4.) Clean the Gutters

Given the time of year, chances are your gutters are due for cleaning very soon. Your gutters keep water from falling towards your home, into siding, wood trim, and ultimately the foundation of your home. In fact it is suggested extensions be added to downspouts so water drains 3 – 4 feet away from the foundation to avoid flooding. Clogged gutters prevent water from passing through the drainage system causing roof leaks, rotted eaves, and ice dams, especially when frozen. Keeping your gutters clean and free of leaves and debris is absolutely crucial to their function. Considering how easy it is to get this done, there’s really no excuse not to. And while you’re at it, rake leaves and pine needles off the roof as they hold moisture that can cause water damage, too.

5.) Prevent Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes are a leading cause of home insurance claims in the U.S according to Zillow, and most of the country experiences below freezing temps. D&B threw a few helpful tips at me that can prevent any sort of frozen, bursting pipe nightmare. Start by insulating any pipes exposed to the cold in the basement and those in crawl-spaces. During cold snaps opening the cabinets to let warm air flow around pipes can help. Second, outdoor taps and irrigation systems, like automatic sprinklers, should be flushed out completely prior to the first freeze. This will help avoid freezing, which leads to bursting as the ice expands. If you’re especially worried about freezing pipes, let a slow drip of water run through them to prevent pressure build up. Don’t fall victim to frozen pipes this winter by being proactive!

6.) Handle Yard Chores

Tackling yard work feels like an endless battle but ignoring it before winter can lead to devastating damage. D&B said look at trees, branches, and shrubs with a critical eye.  Trim any branches hovering too closely over the roof, as they can damage your house or become so heavy with ice and snow, they snap. Shrubs, like trees, can get in the way of your heating units so clear those to prevent any interference. Lastly, clear the yard of leaves. While it is an absolute drag, you’ll prevent suffocating your lawn and keeping mold at bay. D&B suggests raking up most of the yard, setting leaves down as mulch, and mowing the rest if it’s dry to nourish the grass over the winter. For heftier jobs consider hiring a professional to do the job for you!

7.) Reverse your Ceiling Fans

Here’s one easy way to get the most out of your heater or reduce your thermostat temp- reverse your fans! As you all know, heat rises. Rotating the fan’s blades clockwise at a low speed will create an updraft of cool air. Warm air near the ceiling will then mix with the cooler air, spread downward, and circulate throughout your home. Easy enough and worth a try!

Seems like an endless list and somewhat stressful but take the time to get it done and you’ll prevent damage and save yourself some money!