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How to Prepare Your Home for Winter Weather

A woman standing outside of her winter home

With cold months swiftly approaching, it’s time to prepare your home for winter weather. Taking on a few simple maintenance tasks will protect your investment from winter damage, your household budget from unnecessary expenses, and yourself from various inconveniences regarding both. And, when the thermometer finally dips, and your home is a warm and safe haven, you’ll be glad you had taken the necessary precautions.

A man outside of his residence in winter weather
Be fully prepared for when the temperatures drop.

1. Make sure your heating systems are in good repair

 

Start preparing your abode for a long, cold season by testing your heating systems. When the cold days finally set in, the last thing you’ll want is a furnace system breakdown followed by other inconveniences such as costly remedial work, service delay due to great demand, and, on top of it all, a chilly home. Secondly, any defect or a small crack in your heating system can lead to leakage of harmful gasses and cause numerous health problems. 

Regular maintenance or an annual tune-up when the leaves start to drop is the key to keeping your heating system fully functional and efficient during the entire winter. Subsequently, your teeth won’t be chattering, your health jeopardized, or your utility bills peaking.

  • Clean or replace the furnace’s filters to maximize the performance and reduce the chance of damaging internal components. Have the heating system checked for any damaged, exposed, or loose electrical wires, gas leaks on gas units, etc. Thirdly, keep the area around the furnace clear of any flammable items.
  • Check if anything is blocking the vents or air duct registers. Inspect ductwork and seal any leaks around the house that would otherwise cause the system to work harder.
  • Bleeding the valves of your hot-water radiator will enable trapped air to escape. After turning off the heat, slightly open the valves, then close them once the water starts leaking through.
  • Given how important this equipment is for the safety of the household, you should keep your carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms clean and fully operational. Press the test button once a month, remember to replace batteries twice a year, etc. 
  • The perfect time to have your chimney swept are those pre-winter months, during your regular roof inspection or maintenance. Check for damage, debris buildups, or bird nests on the cap; make sure tree limbs are nowhere near the chimney; confirm that the flue works properly, etc.
  • Double-checking your thermostat is something you can easily do on your own. Simple switch over to heat setting. 
  • Cleaning your home’s humidifier, changing the water panel, and removing and cleaning the water reservoir will ensure that humidity levels stay balanced, and thus the indoor air quality remains healthy.
  • Reverse the direction of your ceiling fan to spin clockwise. This will help redistribute warm air evenly throughout the room by preventing its pooling at the ceiling. This might even allow for turning down your thermostat by a couple of degrees if you wish to save your energy.

2. Take steps to protect your roof

 

roof ice dams solutions

 

Grab a pair of binoculars to inspect the roof and spot any potential defects before the first snow hits. Look for any loose, broken, or missing shingles, blistering, curling, or buckling shingles, as well as rust spots and cracked caulk. Lastly, if you notice a lot of moss and lichen, the roof may be decaying underneath. Of course, keep in mind that there are various kinds of roofing materials, and each may vary regarding maintenance. 

Prevent ice dams to prepare your home for winter weather

 

Ice dams and icicle formations can take a serious toll on your property. The meltwater starts to back up, both causing external damage to your roof and flowing into your home. For this reason, preventing ice dams has become one of the key tasks among homeowners trying to make their home winter-ready. Quick fixes are not very cost-effective, as they’re not addressing the source of the problem, whereas a proper roof ice-melt system stops icicles and ice dams from ever forming in the first place.

Ice dam and icicle formation on a residential roof.
Ice dams can very quickly turn into a risk for your property.

3. Prevent the loss of heat

 

If you want to make your home a fortress and let nothing kill that cozy vibe when it’s freezing outside, consider draughtproofing your windows and doors. Reapply caulk to all gaps on your home’s entry points to keep the draught and cold air out. 

Secondly, if you haven’t yet insulated your home or the insulation you have is performing poorly, get this project underway before the arrival of this winter. By stopping the heat from escaping your home, you’ll reduce your heating costs and increase comfort inside your living space. 

Finally, inspect your ductwork. Shoddy installations, or loose seals between the pieces, may cause not only heated air to leak into unheated spaces (adding hundreds of dollars to your annual heating/cooling bills) but also poor air quality and premature failure of your heating/cooling equipment. 

4. Clean your gutters and downspouts

 

If left in rain gutters, leaves, twigs, and debris could clog drains, potentially causing damage to your home’s foundation, as well as the interior of the household. Not to mention that the additional weight they’ll have to bear when the snow comes might lead to their pulling from the house. And, lastly, don’t forget about the ice dams. Therefore, when you start to prepare your home for winter weather, save yourself the trouble of remedying drainage systems and water damage by creating a free passage for the rain and melting snow. 

 

Gutters clogged with leaves.
Clogged gutters can do damage to your home.

5. Prep the plumbing

 

plumbing for ice melt systems

Prepare the outdoors by minimizing leakages, preventing burst pipes and other damages due to freezing temperatures. Start by shutting off the water supply to your irrigation system and wrap the main shut-off valve, backflow preventers, and above-ground piping with insulation. Drain all sprinklers and pipes from water to protect the underground lines.

6. Make sure you are safe

 

Have proper insurance

 

Creating a safety plan in case of below-freezing temperatures, blizzards, and feet of snow requires your forethought as well. If any weather-related disaster strikes, you don’t want to be caught unprepared without the proper insurance coverage that will protect your family and your property. Besides adequate insurance, it’s wise to plan out where you and your family will go for the time being. This is especially important if you live in an area where extreme weather is not uncommon. Moreover, if something unforeseen occurs and you need to get your items out of the house, a storage unit is a great option. If it is climate-controlled, this can be a place to safely put away your belongings until your home is safe once again. 

Prepare your safety kits

 

Stock up on additional food supplies, such as canned or boxed foods, soups, beans, rice, as well as water bottles, in case you’re unable to reach the store. Make sure you don’t run out of sanitary products and toiletries and put candles, flashlights, batteries on your shopping list in case your power goes out. Lastly, to prepare your home for winter weather, you’ll need snow removal supplies that will help you clear the path from your entry to the street. This includes a metal snow shovel, an ice scraper, a brush to clean your car’s windows and windshields, and salt for snow removal to keep your footway and driveway free from ice. 

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