Get your home in working order before temperatures start to drop.
Oh, winter. You really do have a habit of showing up each year. But it’s not just those of us who deal with constantly brisk temperatures (think Fairbanks, AK, or Fargo, ND) who should consider winterizing their homes. Even those of us in warmer spots could stand to boost our home’s ability to withstand the cold.
Regardless of your location, cold temperatures and increased precipitation can bring about a whole host of problems, such as burst pipes, and sky-high utility bills — if you haven’t properly prepared for the season. Before the really harsh weather hits, take the following steps to protect your abode. Then you can relax by the fire with a warm beverage and enjoy the coziness of the colder months, worry-free.
1. Have your boiler serviced
You don’t want to realize there’s a problem with your heating system when it stops working — on the coldest night of the year. “When you have your boiler cleaned, any accumulated soot gets removed, which allows the boiler to absorb more heat and run more efficiently,” says Bob Horstmann, owner of Marlande Heating Group in New York, NY. Before you hire a service company, check your local gas or oil associations to make sure they’re properly licensed. Your state’s government website will often have links to this information.
2. Reset your ceiling fans to rotate clockwise
According to a study done by AM Conservation Group, a supplier of professional-grade energy-saving products in Charleston, SC, clockwise-spinning fans will help trap heat inside rooms and reduce the work of your heating unit. This will save you money, since the average ceiling fan uses only about 75 watts of energy, a fraction of the thousands of watts it takes to fully run the heat.
3. Protect your pipes
According to Energy.gov, insulating your pipes can raise water temperatures by 2 to 4 degrees, allowing you to lower your water temperature setting and your heating bill. For tips on how to do this, check out DIYZ, a free mobile app featuring how-to videos on a variety of home projects. Additionally, be sure to turn off all outdoor faucets and disconnect and drain your hoses.
4. Clean your gutters
Leaves and other debris left in gutters can cause leaks and ice dams, the latter of which can cause water to backflow into your house. Also, add extensions to your downspouts, which will divert water runoff away from your home.
5. Hire a home energy auditor
If icicles or the aforementioned ice dams were a problem last winter, it might be worth it to hire an expert who can find and fix your home’s air leaks or insulation issues. “A good local engineer will often do that type of work or recommend someone who can,” says Horstmann.
6. Upgrade your garage door opener
More than 70% of U.S. households use the garage door as the main entry point to their homes, according to the Door & Access Systems Manufacturers Association. “Snow, ice, and windstorms frequently disrupt electrical service, which can impact opening the garage door,” says Michael Welk, a senior marketing manager at Chamberlain, a manufacturer of garage door openers. “A simple solution is installing a garage door opener with battery backup, which provides peace of mind and vital access to the garage even when the power is out.” And, be sure your garage door opener has a motor with 1¼ horsepower, which will provide enough capacity to lift the door when snow has piled up against it.
7. Winterize your AC window units
“Air conditioners have ducted openings, which allow air to flow through,” says Horstmann. This is fantastic in the summer, but not so much in the winter when you’re trying to keep the hot air indoors. If you leave your units in year-round, remove any debris from the unit, then cover it with burlap or a tarp or purchase a cover (for both the outdoor and indoor parts of the unit). While you’re at it, break out the caulking gun and tackle any drafty doors or windows.
8. Stock up on winter-weather essentials
Make sure you have enough shovels (within easy access, not in the back of your storage unit or hidden in your garage), a working snowblower, if necessary, and salt or ice melt. Pro tip: Get this done before the first snowfall.