What You Need To Do Now To Save On Expensive Repairs Later
Winter is now officially here in the Washington, DC area! It's time to get your home ready for the cold weather, snow and ice that are headed your way. Not sure where to start? Follow our comprehensive checklist to prepare your home for the long winter months ahead.
1. Plumbing - Inside and Outside
Plummeting temperatures can freeze the water in your pipes. The expansion inside can cause the pipes to burst, resulting in a flood inside your home. Here are some tips to avoid this from happening to you.
- Insulate the Pipes
Add a thick layer of fiberglass or polyethylene insulation around all pipes that are against exterior walls and in unheated areas, such as in the basement or crawl spaces. Don't forget to insulate the pipes between your hot water heater and the outside wall, too.
- Open Cabinets
Leave cabinet doors open beneath your sinks that are against exterior walls to allow heat to reach the pipes when the temperature dips below freezing outside.
- Open Faucets
On extremely cold days or nights, turn on all faucets that are against exterior walls of your home so that there is a slow but steady drip of water. This can help to prevent pipes from bursting.
- Shut Off Outdoor Valves
Close the valves that lead to your outdoor faucets. Disconnect your outdoor hoses and store them. Then drain all outdoor water lines to prevent the outdoor pipes from bursting.
- Fix All Plumbing Leaks and Cracks
If you have leaky faucets in your kitchen, bathrooms or utility rooms get them repaired. Any cracks around your plumbing fixtures should be fixed and sealed, too.
- Inspect the Hot Water Heater
Have your hot water heater regularly inspected and serviced to ensure that there are no leaks and that it is in perfect working order. Ask your plumbing professional if your hot water heater needs an insulating blanket to increase its heating efficiency in the winter.
2. Windows and Doors
Heat can escape, and cold air can enter, if your home's envelope is not properly sealed. Making sure that your windows and doors are not allowing the warm air to leave your home and cold air to enter is crucial in the winter months for optimal energy efficiency.
- Weatherstrip Your Doors
Replacing or adding weatherstripping around your doors can save on your energy bills and make your home more comfortable in the cold winter months.
- Install a Door Sweep
Add a door sweep to prevent drafts from flowing into your home from under your exterior doors.
- Caulk Around Windows
Caulking can deteriorate over time and needs to be replaced periodically. Patch any holes you find and caulk around your windows to prevent warm air from escaping.
- Insulate or Upgrade Your Windows
If your windows are old, they are most likely allowing cold air to enter your home, which in turn costs you more on your heating bills. Adding storm windows or insulating film can help keep the cold air out and keep the warm air in throughout the winter. The best course of action is to install new double or triple pane windows since they are engineered to be highly energy efficient and will save you money on your heating and cooling costs in the long run.
3. Attic and Crawl Spaces
Heat rises and can be lost quickly through an inadequately insulated attic. In addition, improperly insulated crawl spaces in your home allow cold air to come inside and warm air to escape. Following these tips can help keep your home more comfortable all year long.
- Seal Openings
Check to see if there are openings that are not properly sealed in your attic or crawl spaces. Pull back the insulation to see if there are spaces or cracks around electrical wiring, pipes, lighting fixtures, vents, fans or chimneys. Caulk small cracks or gaps, and use expanding foam to seal larger openings.
- Install the Proper Insulation
Having the right types of insulation in the right places will make your home more energy efficient and comfortable. It is also a great way to lower your energy bills. Hire a professional to inspect the insulation in your attic and crawl spaces and have the proper insulation installed if what you currently have is deemed inadequate. To read an overview about the various types of insulation for different areas in your home, click here.
4. Heating System (HVAC)
Having a properly functioning heating system is critical in the cold winter months. Here are some items that you definitely need to put on your checklist.
- Inspect The System
Scheduling regular maintenance of your HVAC system should be a top priority. To save yourself plenty of aggravation, ensure that your heating system is working properly by having it inspected by a professional before the coldest days of winter arrive.
- Change or Clean the Filters
Dirty filters reduce the performance of your HVAC system and lower the air quality inside your home. Filters should be changed or cleaned every 3 months. Check out subscription services that will send you new filters on a regular basis so you don't have to remember to buy them.
- Clean the Humidifier
Clean your whole-house humidifier and change the evaporator pad. A properly working humidifier will mitigate too much dryness in the air and keep your home comfortable.
- Install a Programmable Thermostat
A programmable thermostat can save you a considerable amount on your energy bills throughout the year. Program it to automatically raise the temperature at predetermined times when you want your home to be toasty warm. And, set the temperature to be lowered during the day when you are away at work and again at night while you are sleeping for maximum cost savings.
5. Ductwork and Vents
Having properly sealed and cleaned ductwork and venting will help to make your home more energy efficient.
- Seal and Insulate Around the Ductwork and Vents
Check to see that your ductwork is tightly sealed and insulated so that warm air is not leaking out. This is especially important where the ductwork meets exterior walls.
- Clean the Vents and Ductwork
Have your ductwork and vents professionally cleaned to remove all debris that may prevent your heating system from working at maximum efficiency. Cleaning the ductwork and vents will also improve the air quality in your home.
6. Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Make sure that you have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home. Check the batteries at the beginning of each season to see if they need to be replaced.
7. Fireplace and Chimney
Have your masonry fireplace and chimney regularly inspected and cleaned by a professional. If you have a gas fireplace, have the venting inspected.
- Debris Removal
If you have a masonry fireplace and chimney, all build-up and debris that could be a fire hazard should be removed on an annual basis by a professional chimney sweep.
- Check the Damper or Venting
Whether you have a masonry or gas fireplace, the damper and venting should be regularly inspected. A warped or damaged damper or vent could allow smoke to back-up into your home or cold air to flow down the chimney if it is not in proper working order.
- Chimney Cap
Make sure that you have a chimney cap in place that is in good condition so that critters looking for a warm place cannot enter your home.
8. Exterior of Your Home
Check the exterior of your home as the cold weather sets in to make sure you won't have unexpected problems that could arise during the winter.
- Seal Cracks and Joints
Inspect the entire exterior of your home. Seal all holes and openings that you find where warm air could escape from your home or water could penetrate inside. Make sure there are no places where rodents, insects or birds can get inside and form a nest.
- Inspect the Roof
Have your roof inspected for any damage or loose shingles before you have a leak.
- Inspect and Seal the Skylights
Skylights should be regularly inspected for damage or leaks, and should be caulked or sealed as necessary.
- Protect Your Outdoor Furniture
Cover your outdoor furniture or place it in your garage or shed so that the winter weather does not damage it.
- Extend the Downspouts
Make sure the downspouts extend away from your house by at least 5 feet. That way, when the snow melts the water will not flow into the foundation of your home.
- Clean and Inspect the Gutters and Drains
Clean all the debris out of your gutters and drains and make sure nothing is loose or in poor condition. If clogged, ice dams can form in the gutters and that will prevent your draining system from working as it should. Ice dams can lead to water leaking inside your home which can cause significant and costly damage.
9. Check Your Trees
Check to make sure that all of the trees on your property are healthy.
Trim all branches that are within 3 feet of your home to prevent damage if they become laden with ice and fall during a storm.
- Dead Trees
Have any dead trees that could be a hazard removed by a professional.
10. Tools and Machinery
Before the first big snowfall arrives, make sure you have the following on hand:
- Snow Blower
Replace the oil in your snow blower and make sure you have fuel.
- Ice Melt
Buy pet-safe ice melt to ensure that your steps, walkways and driveway are not slippery.
- Shovels and Ice Choppers
Have sturdy shovels and ice choppers stored in a convenient place and ready to use.
After you've followed our checklist carefully, you can enjoy the long, cold winter months from inside your toasty, comfortable home!