Winterizing your home is important to prevent costly damage, and reduce your heating costs over the winter.
Its seems like yesterday we had the A/C on and the windows open, in fact I think that WAS yesterday! In Utah winter temperatures can hit fast and hit hard. There are some things you can do yourself to winterize your home in preparation of winter temperatures. For others things it might be better to have a professional.
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If you are thinking of selling your home this winter there are some things you should do now to prevent problems later on. One thing is having a professional winterize your property. When your home sells the buyer may ask for proof that the property was winterized, otherwise they’d be stuck with the bill for frozen sprinkler pipes or other damage. If you have a professional winterize your home you can provide proof that the property is winterized and help sell your home. Also, make sure you get a professional photographer to take photos of your home now before it becomes shrouded in snow.
Not selling your home this winter? There are still benefits to winterizing your home. Here are a few tips that you can do yourself.
Winterize the Interior:
- Furnace inspection – It is a good idea to get your furnace inspected now by a licensed heating professional to make sure it is working. You want this done before you need it for warmth. You also want to make sure it will continue to work through the winter months. Cleaning heating ducts and furnace equipment will improve the efficiency of the furnace, increasing air flow, and help decrease your utility bills. At a minimum you should inspect your furnace filter and make sure all of your vents are clear.
- Stock up on fuel: If you use propane or some other fuel to heat your home, make sure you re-fill the storage tank now. If you rely on a generator make sure you have enough fuel stored in an accessible and safe location.
- Chimneys: If you have a fireplace, make sure your dampers are closed tight to keep warm air from escaping. If you plan to use the fireplace for heat, keep the chimney clean and free of obstructions. It is best to have a professional chimney sweep clean your fireplace and chimney to reduce the risk of starting a fire.
- Update thermostat: Install a programmable thermostat to regulate the furnace operation throughout the day. This can have a large impact on your utility bill. Some heating systems use zone heating which can be used to regulate temperatures in different parts of the house based on their frequency of use and time of day. There are other devices that remember what temperatures you like and turn the furnace down automatically when you’re away.
- Protect plumbing: If you have problems in the past with plumbing fixtures, protect them now by installing heating tape or extra insulation.
- Check emergency supplies: It is also a good time to check and replace your emergency supplies. Make sure you have fire extinguishers, batteries, candles, flashlights as well as propane lanterns or heaters.
Winterize the Exterior:
- Insulate attic and walls: Heat escaping through the roof and exterior walls of your home accounts for most of your heating loss. Insulation will reduce the amount of heat lost. Because heat rises, a properly insulated attic is the most effective way to keep heat in your home.
- Prevent Escaping Air: Warm air escaping through windows and exterior doors also causes a lot of lost heat. You can use weather stripping, insulating spray foam, preformed insulation, and caulk to keep in the heat. Focus around door and window openings and cracks/openings in exterior walls. Here are two DIY techniques to help you detect escaping air in your home:
Shut a door or window on a dollar bill. If you can pull the dollar bill out without it dragging, you’re losing energy.
Basic building pressurization test – best when done on a cold and windy day
- Turn OFF all combustion appliances (gas burning furnaces and water heaters)
- Shut all windows, exterior doors, and fireplace flues
- Turn ON all exhaust fans that blow air outside (clothes dryer, bathroom fans, stove vents). You can also use a large window fan to suck the air out of the room.
- Light an incense stick and pass it around the edges of common leak sites. Where the smoke wavers (is sucked our or blown into the room) you have an air leak.
- If you don’t have an incense stick you can also get your hand wet to find leaks. Drafts will feel cool to your hand as you pass it by common leak sites.
- Energy-Efficient appliances: If you need a new water heater, furnace or another appliance, purchase an energy-efficient model. There are even some opportunities for rebates when you install approved appliances. Click here for details.
- Energy-Efficient windows & doors: There are also energy efficient models for replacing windows and exterior doors which can help reduce heating costs and improve the value of the home. These also have rebates available with proper installation.
- Insulate water heater: You can improve the efficiency of water heaters and hot water pipes by wrapping them in insulation. This is especially important if the pipes are exposed to cold temperatures.
- Re-install storm doors: Did you remove any of your storm doors or windows during the warm weather? Make sure to re-install them now while the weather is still warm.
Prep your Yard for Winter
- Clear debris from walkways, decks, and steps: When the snow hits you don’t want to be shoveling up leaves, toys, or tools.
- Mulch leaves for your lawn: Instead of raking up the leaves and putting them in plastic bags, try mowing them into mulch instead. Leaves provide nutrients for the soil during the winter to help your lawn next spring.
- Trim Tree limbs: snow can be heavy and trees close to your house can pose a threat if they aren’t properly maintained. Make sure you trim branches that are close to or touch your house.
- Clear rain gutters: they can get clogged throughout the year and especially with fall leaves. Clogged gutters won’t be able to drain properly and can cause excessive ice. While this can create some exciting icicles, it could also cause damage to your roof.
- Point Downspouts away from house: When snow melts and ice forms, downspouts can become ice-sculptures. Keep downspouts directed away from the house so you don’t end up with an ice-skating rink on your driveway.
- Inspect Roof: Before it is covered in snow check the roof for leaks and faulty shingles.
- Winterize equipment: we love our power tools, but its time to put them away for the winter. Winterize them properly so they’ll start up for you next spring.
- Winterize Irrigation and Sprinkler systems: make sure your systems are off and drained. Frozen pipes, hoses, and evaporative coolers can burst and cause damage.
- Store outdoor items such as lawn furniture and water hoses in a dry place.
- Prepare for snow removal: Get out the snow blower, shovels, and ice scrapers now. Make sure they are in good working order. This includes fuel and ice melt. Keep them in an easily accessible location.