Note: This blog was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated.
As the days get shorter and the temperatures go down, the threat of winter storms and rising gas and electric bills become real. In order to make sure that your home is protected during a storm and is efficiently using energy, take some time to prepare for the winter months ahead. Here are a few easy ways to maximize your comfort and budget as the mercury falls.
One of the most important winterizing tasks you can do is to have an HVAC professional come in to inspect your furnace and clean your ducts. This is an excellent way to prevent having a furnace emergency in the middle of the winter.
Make sure to change your furnace filters once every three months as well, in order to maintain good airflow and air quality in your home.
If you have hot water radiators in your home, be sure to bleed them before turning on your furnace. You can do this by turning on the water valve and then turning it back off when the water starts to flow.
Programmable thermostats are an excellent way to control your home’s energy use when you’re not there. If you haven’t already made the switch, think about doing it this year—your money will come back to you in energy bill savings.
Tip: When leaving your home for an extended period, make sure to keep the thermostat set at 55° F or above to prevent pipes from freezing.
Although it doesn’t have to be cleaned every year, it’s a good idea to call a Chimney sweep to clean and inspect your chimney. Make sure that you have your chimney top capped or screened to make sure that animals and debris can’t get in.
Ensure that your fireplace damper is in good working condition and is closed when the fireplace is not in use to prevent heat loss.
Buy or chop plenty of firewood and be sure to store it in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.
Roof & Gutter
Make sure to clean your gutters of leaves and debris that have accumulated during the autumn season. Also check that your downspouts are clear so water can easily flow away from your house.
Adding extra insulation to your attic will keep the roof warm and prevent ice dams.
Be sure to replace any worn shingles or tiles on your roof as well.
Exterior & Foundations
Rake away debris and edible vegetation from your home. Inspect the foundation for any crevices, cracks, and exposed entry points. Seal any cracks that you might find. This will keep out wildlife and rodents as well as retain warm air inside your home. If you have a window well in your basement, protect it with a plastic shield to keep water out.
Windows and Doors
To effectively inspect your windows, moisten your hand with water and run it along the edges of the interior side of all windows and door trim, and at the top of baseboards along exterior walls. Caulk any areas where you feel air coming in.
Remove any window-mounted air conditioning units. If you have a permanent wall-mounted air conditioning unit, purchase a cover for it and make sure it is sealed with weatherstripping.
Replace all screen windows with storm windows to add an extra insulation layer. When not open, make sure to keep your windows locked—this creates a seal between the panels. If any glass windows are cracked, have them replaced.
If you know you’re not going to be opening your windows for a while, cover them with window film. This is an inexpensive way to increase insulation and decrease the potential for drafts.
Use weatherstripping around doors and install doorsweeps if needed. A good way to check your door’s insulation potential is to close a dollar bill in the door—if it easily slides out, adding weatherstripping will provide a tighter seal.
Seal the entrance to your attic to prevent heat from getting in—if you have a door, attach a doorsweep to the bottom of it. If your attic has a hatch entrance, line the perimeter of it with weatherstripping.
Pipes, Water Heater, and Air Conditioner Maintenance
Check the thermostat on your water heater—if it is set to above 120°F, turn it down. Insolate the water lines around the hot water heater if they are warm to the touch.
Drain and turn off all hoses, sprinklers, and outdoor irrigation systems. Also, drain any hoses and pipes coming from your air conditioning unit. Vacuum any pools of water that are in the drain pool.
Landscaping & Outdoor Areas
Trim any tree branches that are close to your home or electrical wires. Seal concrete driveways, brick patios, and wood decks to prevent cold weather damage. Clean and store summer gardening tools and move any potted plants indoors.
Also make sure to drain gas from your lawnmower before storing and make sure your snow shovel and/or snowblower is in good working order.
Reversing the direction of ceiling fans will force warm air down and ensure proper circulation. The blades should be rotating clockwise in the winter and counterclockwise in the summer.
By completing these simple tasks you will ensure that your home is ready for whatever the cold, winter months may bring. Now is also a great time to change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. When you’re done, be sure to cozy up in a big sweater and enjoy a warm beverage in the comfort of your dry, energy efficient home.