When your region’s cold season is approaching, it’s time for the annual ritual of winterizing your home. There’s quite a lot you can do to prepare for winter, and it’s mostly do-it-yourself stuff. Most of the recommended tasks don’t cost much money, and what they do cost is an investment that will save you considerably more money in the long run.
Have an HVAC professional inspect your furnace and ducts. Make sure there is no flammable material anywhere close to your furnace. Change the furnace filter and get enough filters to change it monthly. Clean all the registers in the house. If you have a hot water radiator, open the valves slightly to bleed them, closing them as soon as water appears.
* Water heater and pipes
Install a hot water heater insulating blanket. Wrap exposed pipes in pipe insulating material. Drain air conditioner pipes. Drain all garden hoses. Even if you go out of town, leave the heat set to at least 55 degrees so there is no risk of pipes freezing.
* Fire protection
Change the batteries in your smoke detectors and test them. Install a carbon monoxide detector near your furnace. Keep a fire extinguisher in the house. Check that it works.
Have a chimney sweep inspect and clean your chimney. Cap or screen the top of the chimney to protect against birds and rodents. Test the fireplace damper to verify that it still opens and closes properly. Keep the damper closed when you’re not using the fireplace. Obtain firewood and store it in a dry place.
Replace lightweight curtains with heavier drapes.
Install sufficient insulation in your attic to keep warm air from escaping.
* Doors and windows
Replace any cracked glass in windows. Take out the summer window screens. Install storm windows. Use weatherstripping and caulk to keep cold air from entering around doors and windows.
* Exterior cracks and openings
Clear away any debris from around the foundation of the house, and seal any cracks or entry points for vermin. Carefully inspect the walls of the house inside and out for any cracks. Seal leaks with caulk or masonry sealer.
Check the roof, clean away any debris, and replace any missing or damaged shingles or tiles.
Clean your gutters, using a hose to flush debris out of the downspouts. Check for any leaks. Add leaf guards to the gutters. Add extensions on the downspouts to direct the water at least ten feet away from the building.
* Landscaping and outdoor areas
Trim trees and shrubs away from windows, doors, and electrical wiring. Move indoors any potted plants that cannot survive cold weather. Clean and store away summer gardening equipment. Drain gas from the lawnmower. Make sure snow shovels and snow blower are in good repair. Clean the deck, outdoor furniture, and pool toys and accessories. Cover what needs to be covered outside.
* Emergency kit
Make sure you have candles, matches, batteries, flashlights, bottled water, and non-perishable food. Program the numbers for your utility companies into your phone. Prepare an evacuation plan for your family.
Don’t try to do everything at the last minute in one day. Give yourself enough time and spread the tasks around. Give the safety ones the highest priority, then the money saving ones.
Susan M. Keenan, “How to Winterize Your Home.” Do It Yourself.
Christopher Solomon, “10 Ways to Winterize Your Home—Now.” MSN Real Estate.
Elizabeth Weintraub, “Winterizing Your Home.” About.com.