Have you taken time to give your home a winter-prep review? If you get to these projects before the weather gets nasty, you will enjoy the work more and help extend the life of your home’s components and make your property safer as well. Here are a few suggestions.
- Heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems are first on the list. If you’re using a fireplace or wood burning stove, inspect the firebox and flue system to ensure they’re clean of soot, creosote and free of cracks or mortar voids that could be a fire hazard. If you have a gas or electric furnace, give it a run through before the temperature changes to catch any problems before you need to turn on the heat. Change the air filters to provide maximum efficiency and improve indoor air quality. Clean the whole house humidifier and replace the evaporator pad. Get a programmable thermostat and set it to click on every time the daytime temperature drops below your desired room temperature. By arranging your thermostat to come on only when you are home, you’ll save money on your heating bill. Arrange furniture so that nothing is within three feet of heat ducts, space heaters or radiators. They block heat and can also be a fire hazard. Change batteries on smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Remove window air conditioners or cover them with insulated liners to prevent drafts. Make sure ceiling fans are moving in a clockwise direction to push warm air down. To prevent costly, damaging leaks to the bricks on your chimney. seal it every five years with a water proofer. Check exposed duct work in attic, basement and crawl spaces. Use a sealant to plug any leaks. Check all the weather stripping around windows and doors for drafts. Replace it as needed. Caulk any gaps. If you are not using the fireplace, block it off so warm air can’t escape. Cardboard and foam sealant will work. Use a pretty fireplace screen in front of it and no one will see. Do you have an alternative heating system should the electricity fail? Service and test generator.
- Gutter, roof and drains should be examined next. Look for missing, damaged or warped shingles and replace before they begin to leak. Check the flashing around chimney, walls, vent pipes and skylights for deterioration. Seal joints where water could leak in with roofing cement and a caulking gun. Also check for moss and algae growth on your roof. This growth keeps the roof area below them permanently wet and causes rot. If you see any, make a mixture of 5 parts water, 1 part bleach and heaping tablespoon of trisodium phosphate. Spray it on the moss to kill it.Check the gutters and downspout fasteners and secure if they’re loose. Gutter covers help keep out debris. Clean your gutters if you don’t have them. Make sure downspouts extend away from your foundation to prevent flooding and water damage. Cover all vents and openings to prevent insects, birds, rodents or other vermin from getting inside to make a warm nest for the winter.
- Outdoor plumbing parts are susceptible to freezing during cold weather. Burst pipes can cause some of the most expensive repairs in your home. Insulate any exposed water or drain piping in any uninsulated space (like crawl space, attic, or outside walls) with electrical heating tape or foam insulation. Turn off the water supply to any exterior faucets and drain them. Adding an insulated cover can help, too. Disconnect and drain all garden hoses. If you are shutting down a seasonal property, be sure to turn off the water supply and drain the plumbing system.
- Outdoor Furnishings should be put away. Remove cushions, wash with dish-washing soap and allow to thoroughly dry, and store all inside. Use a car wash solution mixed with warm water to scrub outdoor furniture with a soft brush. Rinse with water and let air-dry. Rub off rust with a scouring pad. Hardwood furniture can stay outside, but soft woods, light weight aluminum and plastic or wicker need to be stored indoors. Do the same for any outside toys, like boats, RV, jet skis, motorcycles and lawnmowers. Do not drain them. Fill the tank if it is metal and add a gas stabilizer. Run them to get stabilizer into carburetors. Cover anything that’s staying outdoors with a breathable cover made of Gore-Tex-like fabric.
- Daylight hours are shorter during winter months. Be sure to check the bulbs on your outdoor lights to make sure they are working. Using CFL or LED flood lights will provide light and save money on your energy bill. ENERGY STAR makes these lights to withstand snow and rain. Lighting units that have daylight shut-off and motion sensors are also available.
Billie Nicholson, Editor
updated November 2017