The frigid temperatures and snow piles of winter arrive hand-in-hand with the reality of increased energy bills and heightened home safety concerns. Getting your home ready for winter is a crucial task to keep energy costs from heating your house under control and to mitigate any potential hazards. Increase the energy efficiency of your home this season and protect your family from danger by following our winter home preparation checklist.
Windows are a natural place for heat to escape your house, but insulating them is one of the easiest ways to keep the warm air from leaking out. Virtually every hardware store sells plastic indoor window insulator kits that are inexpensive and easy to install.
Among the most effective ways to winterize your home and guard it from frigid temperatures is to prevent cold air from getting in. Walk around indoors and outdoors looking for cracks or holes near any window or door. Check seals by closing a dollar between a window or door and its frame. If you can easily pull the dollar out, it’s time to replace the seal. A tube of silicone-based caulk or weather stripping can easily seal these gaps.
Hot air rises, which means you can waste a lot of money heating the ceilings and other areas above your family's heads. Reverse your ceiling fans so that they rotate clockwise, pushing hot air down to the living spaces to increase your comfort and help you keep the thermostat cranked down an extra degree or two.
Some folks feel it helps to close off a room nobody uses instead of paying to heat it. Install insulation around the windows and the inside of the door and add a draft guard to the bottom of the door to make sure the cold air inside doesn't seep into the rest of the house. Keep in mind that closing central heating vents in these rooms will actually make your central heater less energy-efficient, so stick to room heaters when using this method.
Home appliances have a large impact on your home's monthly electric bill. To cut these expenses, unplug all non-essential appliances including computers, televisions, entertainment systems, and microwaves when not in use. This will eliminate the costs associated with standby power and protect your electronics from power surges.
Your basement can really eat up a lot of energy, simply because heat naturally wants to rise and escape. For this reason alone, it's vital that the walls and windows are properly insulated, even in unfinished basements. Rolls of fiberglass insulation are the most efficient solution.
A new filter is one of the easiest ways to ensure your heating system works efficiently. Replacing a filter not only optimizes performance of your furnace, it improves the longevity, too. And at barely $10 a filter, there's no excuse not to invest in a new one.
Having a professional examine your furnace is the best way to ensure it's ready for the winter ahead. Schedule an appointment with a licensed HVAC technician ahead of time to avoid the winter rush.
To save money on your monthly bills, set your thermostat to 68F when your family is home and try a lower setting when everyone is away or sleeping. Bundle up with blankets and winter clothing to stay comfortable without using your heater. If you plan to take a winter trip, it's best to set your home's thermostat at 50F, according to Popular Mechanics. This will keep your house warm enough to prevent frozen pipes while minimizing the energy expenditure.
One of the best ways to save money on your winter heating costs without reducing your comfort levels is to purchase a smart thermostat. Devices like the Hive Active Thermostat are programmable to maintain your preferred temperature levels while you are home, while reducing the heat while you are away. The thermostats can even track your behavior and automatically make tweaks to provide you maximum efficiency.
A yearly sweep of your chimney can increase your fuel efficiency by allowing proper venting and protect your home from serious danger. If you neglect to clean the chimney, creosote will accumulate and create a fire risk, while bird nests or other debris could also cause an unexpected hazard. In addition to fire, blockages in the flue could lead to smoke or other gases backing up into your house, reducing air quality and damaging your belongings.
One of the most critical steps you can take to protect the safety of your family is to test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors regularly. This is an important task year-round, but becomes especially crucial in the winter when you are running your furnace and have increased risk of fire or fume leaks. Checking the detectors just takes a few seconds, and it could save your life.
Mowing might no longer be a concern, but you do need to prepare the yard for winter weather. Clean the gutters as this helps prevent ice dams that could cause melting snow to seep into your home instead flowing efficiently away from it. Check the foliage on your property, paying special attention to anything near your home. If a tree or any of its branches look aged or diseased, remove them. Otherwise, the weight of the snow could cause the tree or branch to fall on your home and create considerable damage.
A small amount of maintenance in the autumn can leave your garden in the best position to flourish come spring. The exact steps you need to take depend on where you are located geographically and what types of plants you grow, but in general, clipping dead stems and branches, moving plants vulnerable to freezes to an indoor location and prepping the ground with mulch to smooth out temperature fluctuations will help keep the garden healthy.
To keep a gas mower in peak condition through the winter, it’s smart to drain the fluids, remove the spark plugs and thoroughly clean it so it will be ready to go when the grass starts growing again in the spring. For certain engine types, manufacturers recommend adding a stabilizer to the gas tank instead of draining the fuel, and suggest other steps specific to the particular model – check out the instructions for your equipment to be sure. The same principles apply to other tools like weed whackers and leaf blowers – you’ll want to get them clean, dry, and safely stowed for the season.
At the same time you stow your summer yard equipment, it’s time to prepare – and purchase if you don’t have it – tools to clear the snow from your sidewalks and driveways. For some properties, a snow shovel might do the trick, but if you have a lot of square footage to deal with, a snow blower could be a wise investment. Make sure you perform a thorough inspection and perform all the recommended maintenance on the snow blower before you take it out for a spin.
Depending on what type of winter you experience and how you heat your house, a generator could be a prudent purchase to help maintain your home systems in the event you lose electricity for an extended period of time. Generators can be expensive and pose certain hazards in terms of fuel storage and fume mitigation, but could also be the difference between weathering a blackout unscathed or having a bunch of spoiled food and frozen pipes to deal with.
Before the wintertime storms hit, it’s a good idea to get up on your roof and ensure you don’t have any leaks or other potential signs of trouble. Flat roofs pose extra problems in terms of leakage because snow has more opportunity to build up instead of sliding off, and the drainage system is more likely to get blocked by ice. If you aren’t comfortable climbing up to your roof or don’t know what to look for, don’t hesitate to hire a professional to provide an expert’s eye and grant you peace of mind.
If temperatures in your region drop low enough to make a wintertime dip an unappealing prospect, you should shut down your pool for efficiency, safety, and to protect the components. Follow your manufacturer’s instructions to clean and prep the water, store the pump, filter and other parts somewhere warm, and decommission the pool itself until mild weather returns the following year.
Irrigation pipes in your yard are vulnerable to damage from cold weather freezes, so it’s important to expel all the water from your sprinkler system once you no longer need it for the season, and before winter truly settles in. Depending on the specific layout of your system, emptying the sprinklers for winter can be as simple as letting them drain, or you may need to use an air compressor to blow the water out.