Protecting your home this winter requires some work but can save you thousands. Proper preparation greatly reduces energy expenses and helps prevent catastrophic damages. These 16 life saving tips could be the difference between a warm winter and a cold disaster.
1. Ready the Heater
Freezing pipes can be a costly disaster and damage over 250,000 homes on average every year. Making sure your plumbing stays above freezing temperatures can save you thousands in repairs. Ensuring your heating system is up to par for the winter is a great way to protect yourself from this catastrophe. Some heating systems have a winter/summer setting that controls ventilation and the dehumidifier if you have one installed.
2. Reverse Ceiling Fans
Most ceiling fans come with a switch to reverse the direction. Running your fan clockwise to produce an updraft will push down the heat that has risen to the ceiling (Remember, hot air rises). Energy Star recommends this and says it could even allow you to turn the heat down by a few degrees.
3. Inspect the Roof
Look over your roof closely yourself or by hiring an expert to identify loose or damaged shingles that could leak during the winter. Inspect the flashing and other possible areas of your roof that could be susceptible to melting snow and winter storms. If you have a flat surfaced roof make sure to rake or blow off leaves, branches and other accumulated items. Those leaves and debris can trap in moisture further damaging your home.
4. Prevent & Stop Ice Damming
A lot of icicles on your home or business are a good indication that you are leaking heat and worse, you could suffer from ice dams. Ice dams cause meltwater to backup into your house causing catastrophic water damage. Identifying probable air leaks and adequately insulating your home could save you hundreds in water/ice damage repairs.
5. Seal Windows & Doors
Check your windows and doors for gaps that could allow heat to escape and leave your home open to winter hazards. Using exterior caulk or plastic to seal your house could prevent winter damages and help you greatly reduce your heating costs. A good rule of thumb is to seal gaps larger than the width of a nickel and make sure no daylight can be seen through them.
6. Clean the Gutters
If your gutters are full of debris or leaves, water can back up into the house. This can cause damage to your roofing, siding, or trim. Backed up water is also able to cause leaks and ice dams, which discussed earlier are bad news for your home or business. Make sure to keep your gutters clean and possibly consider shielding them to prevent buildup.
7. Direct Water Away
Add extensions to your downspouts to direct water further away from your home to prevent it from entering the lower levels of your house. Typically you should divert water 3 – 6 feet away from your home to ensure it doesn’t reenter. You can pick up extensions for your gutter downspouts for under $10.
8. Test & Winterize the Sump Pump
Not everyone may have one of these pumps but if you do make sure that it functions properly before the approaching winter. Add water to the pump pit and ensure that it turns on. If you have an exterior drainage line make sure that it is properly drained before a cold spell to protect your pipes from freezing. You can always check the owner’s manual for manufactures’ suggestions of proper testing and protection.
9. Shut Off Exterior Faucets
Freezing pipes caused un-drained water to expand and burst. Make sure to disconnect and drain garden hoses and outside lines, removing all remaining water that could freeze in the cold. You can find frost-proof faucets but it’s still safe practice to shut off outside lines during the winter if you don’t plan to use them.
10. Drain Outside Sprinkler Systems
Remove any water from outside lines to prevent freezing and leaks. A professional can do this for you and typically costs under $100. You should also turn the shut off valve to prevent more water from entering the system.
11. Stock Up Winter Necessities
Save yourself some money and don’t wait till winter to hit before getting your essentials like salt, ice melt, shovels etc. Make sure your winter tools are functioning and ready to go for that first snowfall. Retailers know most people wait till the last minute to stock up and make sure to charge a bit extra.
12. Plant Control
This is the time to prune your bushes and plant that grass seed. This will prevent shrubs and bushes from getting damaged in the snow and give your plants a head start on the next spring. Believe it or not, it’s a good idea to water your plants up until the first frost, because they will dry out.
13. Mulch Leaves Instead of Raking
Studies conducted by the University of Michigan say to mulch your leaves opposed to raking them. This allows you to reduce waste and nourish your lawn over the winter also reducing your cleanup when spring returns. Be sure to mulch leaves while they are dry to properly shred them making your job easier.
14. Check the Chimney
It’s also a good time to inspect and if need be clean your chimney. Most people don’t heavily use their wood burner or fireplace until the cold winter and having a build up inside could lead to a chimney fire. Get them cleaned out and inspected by an expert.
15. Winterize Yard Equipment
Add fuel stabilizer to your lawn motor and other gas powered tools to prevent deterioration. The cold causes your fuel to decompose making it difficult to start and is problematic for the carburetor. After adding stabilizer run the engine for a few minutes to allow it to fully circulate through the engine.
16. Cover Wood Flooring
A wood floor, although aesthetically appealing, can contribute up to 10% loss of your homes heat. Considering rugs or carpet for the winter can trap in that desirable heat and save you on energy costs. Not to mention a rug can make a room a little cozier.
So with proper preparation and a little elbow grease you can save yourself a great deal of money in preventable disasters. As an added bonus you can also get a leg up on the spring cleaning. Remember, just as a car needs a tune up your home needs a thorough inspection to have a safe and enjoyable winter.
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