An Arctic blast, polar vortex, cold snap, or whatever describes the winter these days is heading for most of the US this week and it’s time to prepare your home. We’ve listed a few simple steps to help winterize your home and save on heating costs below:
Before it turns cold, test your furnace by setting and running it on a high degree to determine if it’s working properly. You can do some maintenance yourself by changing the air filter, making sure there is a sufficient fuel supply, cleaning out the vents and checking for carbon monoxide leaks with an alarm. Consider hiring a technician to perform the yearly maintenance or if there seems to be an issue with the furnace when testing.
If you have a gas furnace make sure to test the pilot light. The flame should be blue, clear and steady. If it is sluggish or goes out, call your utility company, but don’t turn the furnace off, because the technician will need to look at the flame to see how it is functioning. The pro will clean and relight.
Chimney and Fireplace
The chimney and fireplace can be a major source of cold air. To prevent drafts, it is best to perform annual maintenance. First, check for bird or squirrel nests with a powerful flashlight. You should also check the flue and the open and close switch to make sure this is properly functioning. An easy way to check if there is an obstruction that isn’t visible in the chimney is lighting a few pieces of newspaper on fire to see if the smoke goes up and out through the chimney. If it doesn’t, you will need to clean the chimney, which is probably best if left to a professional.
Plumbing is especially susceptible to cold weather and freezing. Pipes can burst from freezing temperatures, causing very expensive repairs. To prevent this from happening, insulate exposed piping (crawlspace, attic, outside walls, etc.) with electrical heating tape and wrapping in a foam insulation.
For outdoor plumbing, use hose bibs or sill-cocks to winterize exterior faucets. In order to do this, you need to turn off the water supply inside the house and drain the water from it by opening up the exterior faucet.
In the case you are shutting down a vacant property for several months, you should always shut off the water supply and drain the plumbing system before winter.
Windows and Doors
One of the easiest ways to winterize your house and cut back on heating costs is to shrink-wrap the windows or use rope caulk to close gaps in the windows. If you have just moved you can also use bubble wrap as insulation on the windows. To winterize gaps on the bottom of a door, use weather stripping on the bottom to prevent drafty air.
Check the roof for missing or damaged shingles. Make sure gutters and downspouts are clean with no leaves. When leaves remain in the gutters they tend to add significant weight and volume causing damage.
Cover patio furniture and consider giving your deck a fresh coat of sealer before winter. Drain gas from the mower or just let the mower run until it runs out of gas. Drain any water fountains and unplug the pumps for the winter months.
The most overlooked step of winterizing is protecting your outdoor conditioner/condensing unit from wet leaves and debris which can cause freezing and rusting of internal components. A simple waterproof cover goes a long way in extending its life, especially in the winter months.