If you've already pulled out your winter coat and put snow tires on your car, there's still one thing you're missing before the cold weather hits: Most people completely overlook the few simple steps needed to winterize a house.
One of the most important things to do come winter is to keep your loved ones warm. Ensure that your heaters are working. Turn the heat on and be sure that all the rooms in your home are getting enough heat through the vents. If you haven't had the heat filters cleaned, it may be time to get a professional to do so. Don't forget to cover up the air conditioner outside if needed. "Many of us think of changing our furnace filters just once or twice a year, yet experts say we should replace them every month during the heating season," says Andrea Woroch, a consumer and money-saving expert. "Better yet, switch to a permanent filter you can clean regularly."
If you have a fireplace, be sure it's ready by ensuring the chimney is clean. Get the logs ready, and while you're at it, keep marshmallows and chestnuts handy! If you don't have a fireplace but wish to have the cozy ambience, check out some faux fireplace units at your local décor store. Some of these fireplaces are designed to emit heat in addition to the "fire" display.
As the National Home Service Contract Association in the U.S. explains, letting leaves pile up in the gutter can cause big problems any time of year, and in cold weather especially. The NHSCA says, "During winter months, leaves can potentially cause melting ice and snow to backup into your attic, and even your basement. Be sure to pay particular attention to gutters that have branches directly over them. Not all trees shed their leaves at the same time so you may need to check the gutters in both the fall and early winter."
To keep warmth inside your home, inspect all windows and make sure there aren't any cracks where heat may escape. It might be wise to cover all your windows facing North with a plastic sheet. You can find these at your local hardware store and the cost far outweighs the heating saving you'll gain by covering your windows. Pella Corporation, the leading manufacturer and designer of windows, doors, blinds and shades for homes and commercial buildings, also recommends clearing windowsills of dirt and debris since pre-winter window cleaning is one task most homeowners overlook: "Debris like sand, dirt or leaves can get caught in windowsills and moving parts of windows or doors. Clean these areas with a dry paintbrush to create a tighter seal and enhance window and door performance."
If you haven't eyeballed your home's exterior in a few months or more, now's the perfect time to reassess at the start of a new season. Before that first snowfall, Pella Corporation recommends repairing or replacing damaged exterior surfaces that could expose your home's interior to the outside elements. Pella Corporation advises, "Cracked or deteriorated wood on the roof or near the foundation is typically associated with water penetration and may allow moisture or cold air to leak into your home. Look closely for signs of moisture leakage and replace damaged wood. Consult a professional to help correct any roof or drainage problems around your home."
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's also one of the easiest home winterizing tips to overlook -- because it's so simple. According to the NHSCA, "Un-drained water in pipes can freeze, which will cause pipes to burst as the ice expands." The NHSCA recommends, "Start by disconnecting all garden hoses and draining the water that remains in faucets. If you don’t have frost-proof faucets (homes more than 10 to 15 years old typically do not), turn off the shut-off valve inside your home."
Last but not least, to get your home in tip-top shape by the time the first blizzard hits, this is one time when you're going to have to spend money to make money. To keep home temperatures regulated and energy costs to a minimum, Woroch highly recommends installing a programmable thermostat to lower temperatures when the house is empty and warm it up again in the morning -- though she qualifies that it doesn't have to break the bank. Woroch says, "You can pick one up for as little as $20 and save an average of 10 percent a year on your heating and cooling bill. Since some of these are expensive, look for deals to save money on programmable thermostats and other home energy products."
Updated by Bethany Ramos on 2/4/2016
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