Preparing your home for winter can be a race against the clock. If you get started now, you will have it made in the shade when winter weather makes its way into your neighborhood. Here are some tips to get your home WINTER CLAD!
Heating System Checklist
Turn the thermostat to heat mode and set it to 80 degrees just for testing. You should hear the furnace turn on and warm air should blow within a few minutes. If it’s running OK, turn the thermostat back to its normal setting. If it’s not running properly, you may need a qualified service technician.
Replace the Air Filter:
Put in a new clean air filter. Most filters can just slide right out. Check with your manufacturer if you are unsure of how to replace.
If you have a propane or oil furnace, make sure to have your fuel storage tank topped off and ready to go.
Clear obstacles to heating vents so air can freely flow. Make sure any caked-on dust gets removed with a vacuum brush attachment.
Check for Carbon Monoxide Leaks:
This silent killer can easily be detected with either an inexpensive test badge or battery operated alarm. Whichever way you decide, just please decide to protect your family with one of these units.
Don’t forget the exterior air-conditioner’s condenser unit. Easy prep can save you major buckage!
Clean Condensing Unit of Debris:
Take a hose with the spray head set to “jet” or the highest pressure you have and clean the fan blades and condensing coils of clear of debris and dirt.
Cover Condensing Unit:
Left unprotected the condensing unit can be damaged by wet leaves and debris that contribute to rusting and freezing of internal components. Although these units are designed for outdoor use, covering them with a breathable waterproof cover made for that purpose goes a long way to extending the life and performance of the unit. For window units, remove and store for winter if possible. If this isn’t an option; close the vents and make sure to get an air conditioning cover similar to condensing unit cover described above.
Chimney and Fireplace
Check that the chimney is clear of any nests from birds, squirrels or other animals.
Check flue damper operation. Make sure it opens and closes fully, and that it is able to be locked in the open or closed position.
Check chimney draft. Make sure the chimney will draw up the fire and smoke properly. Test this by taking several sheets of newspaper and rolling them up. Then with the fireplace damper in the open position, light the newspaper in the fireplace. The smoke should rise up the chimney. If it doesn’t, you have an obstruction and need to call a professional in to clean the chimney of creosote and ash and possible debris. *If it has been several years (or never!) since you had your fireplace chimney cleaned, consider a professional (think Mary Poppins) as it can be a messy task.
Inspect the fire brick in the fireplace. If you see any open mortar joints have them repaired immediately! A fire can spread into the stud wall behind the masonry fire brick through open mortar joints.
Plumbing is especially susceptible to cold weather and freezing. Burst pipes from freezing can cause some of the most expensive repairs in the home. So let’s go over some of the basics to make you have them covered.
Insulate Exposed Piping:
Un-insulated crawlspaces, attics, exterior walls or basements are perfect location for pipe protection. Wrap them with foam insulation at a minimum. Ideally you should wrap them with electrical heating tape first, and then use foam insulation.
Also known as hose-bibs or sill-cocks, the exterior faucet needs to have the water supply turned off from inside the house. Also remember to drain the faucets well. Consider an insulated cover for the hose-bib as an added safeguard. Disconnect garden hoses from the sill-cocks or outside faucets and drain them thoroughly.
Seasonal Shut Down:
If you are shutting down a property for several months you should always shut off the water supply and drain the plumbing system. If a leak were to occur without occupancy, the damage could be catastrophic. Consult your local plumber if you are unsure of the proper steps for draining.
We won’t get into the importance of insulating your home. You already know that. But there are some areas you can easily beef-up to help prepare for winter.
Insulate your hot water tank with an insulating blanket you can buy at the hardware store.
Insulate exterior outlets and switch plates with inexpensive foam sealing.
If you don’t use your fireplace often and it leaks air, you can cut a piece of fiberglass insulation and stuff it into the fireplace behind your glass doors to block the cold air coming down the chimney. Remember to remove before building a fire. J
Cold air leaks from around doors and windows are a significant contributor to your heating bill. An easy way to reduce your heating bill is to reduce these drafts with simple weather-stripping.
On a day when it’s windy outside, close your windows and feel for air leaks. You can use an incense stick for this too if you don’t mind the smell. Watch the smoke trail and if it becomes anything other than vertical, you have an air leak. Typically air leaks will be at the edges where the window is hinged, slides or meets another unit, such as between the two panels of a double hung window.
An easy (temporary) solution is rope caulking. Press the rope caulk into all the joints where air is leaking.
The easiest fix here is to check for weather-stripping on the side and bottoms of the doors. Install weather-stripping on any leaking doors.
Moving to the outside of the home, you should do a quick check of the roof. Either hire someone to inspect the roof if you are not comfortable safely doing this yourself, or inspect it yourself wearing solidly fastened shoes having non-skid soles.
Check roof for missing or damaged shingles and have them replaced.
Check flashing around chimneys and other roof projections which are often the source of leaks.
Make sure gutters and downspouts are clean, having no leaves. Wet leaves remaining in the gutters over winter add significant weight and volume to the gutter when frozen and increase the risk of damage.
Keep in mind that these are quick winterizing tips. By no means are these tips to be deemed as permanent solutions for existing problems with windows, siding, roofing, gutters, and entry/ patio doors. Weather Tight professionals are available to help you evaluate the current energy efficiency of your home’s exterior before Jack Frost makes his way into town. www.weathertightcorp.com