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Winter is about to rear its cold head and now is the time to start thinking about winterizing your home. Effectively preparing your home for the upcoming snow months doesn’t have to break the bank; there are many affordable steps, many you can do yourself, to protect your family, safeguard your home from damage, lower your utility bills, and keep insurance claims at bay.
Don’t wait for the first snow to hit to stock up on much-needed items, including an ergonomic shovel, snow rake, and rock salt or a no- abrasive calcium-based ice melt to keep your entrance and driveway slip-free. Emergency preparation is also key in the event of an extended power outage caused by a howling winter storm: make sure you have flashlights and a radio that work, canned food, bottled water, gas stove, warm blankets, candles and matches, pet food, medication and a first-aid kit.
In the fall, be sure to perform all necessary tune-ups, including having your heating system serviced, according to manual instructions. The same applies to your fireplace and your chimney. The reason? Not only will your heating equipment operate more efficiently but also contribute in preventing a home fire; according to the National Fire Protection Association, 15% of all home fires and 19% of home fire deaths were caused by heating equipment between 2011 and 2015 alone.
Don’t let expensive heat escape your home. Insulate your hot water heater and hot water pipes. This reduces heat loss and can raise water temperature a few degrees hotter than uninsulated pipes, allowing you to lower your water temperature settings (hello lower electricity costs). What’s more: insulated hot water pipes are less likely to freeze and burst.
Your house may not be Fort Knox when it comes to warding off cold air coming in. Install a door sweep and weatherstripping, refresh the caulk around windows and doors, plug gaps and openings in your attic, seal your furnace ducts, and fill cracks in your siding and foundation. These are all DIY jobs that don’t require a lot of money, but that can help you boost your home energy savings.
Does this sound counter-intuitive to preparing for winter? By manually programming your thermostat to a slightly lower temperature (and simply wearing a sweater and socks) and reducing your hot water temperature, you’ll again save on energy—and surprise bills from the electric company.
Now that the warm, sunny days are over, it’s time to take care of your yard. Disconnect all the water from your outdoor hoses and store them inside. Drain the water that remains in your faucets and your sprinkler system. Clean your entire gutter system of debris, twigs, dirt and leaves. Inspect your gutters for any rust or corrosion and replace if necessary. Check your downspouts for any damage and add extensions so that water is diverted at least a few feet away from the foundation. All of these steps will mitigate potential destruction to your home.
Your roof deserves extra-special attention as you winterize the house because it is the most exposed to winter’s elements. Head up to the roof or call upon the services of a roofer to fix any loose, missing or damaged shingles and flashing. Unsure if your attic is properly insulated and ventilated? Now is the time to find out. Did you know that poor insulation and ventilation can lead to ice dams—and even your roof collapsing? As insurance costs are skyrocketing, you may want to take prevention actions for you roof.
Even if you have taken all the necessary precautions to winterizing your house, ice dams can nevertheless occur. Ice dams are thick bands of ice that form along the edge of your roof, preventing water from draining properly. As the water backs up, it can spread to underneath the shingles. The end result? Leakage in your ceiling, walls and insulation. Ice dams are easy to prevent with regular care with a roof rake.
Fall is the perfect time to prep your landscaping for the cold months ahead. Start by giving your trees a once over. If you notice any dead branches or a tree that seems to have shaky footing, it is important to take immediate action. Blustering winds can come down in a winter storm…and on your house. Rather than raking leaves, mulch them into your lawn: many studies show that dead leaves can feed your lawn come wintertime and is an excellent soil amendment. And who likes spending hours and hours raking leaves anyways? #timesaved.
Last but not least, here are two cool and totally cheap (read: $0) ways to keep you and your family warm this winter. First, draw your curtains and shades at night and when you are away during the day. This uber-quick idea helps to conserve heat when it’s chilly outside. Then, if you have a fan, change the direction of the blades for the winter: have them rotate clockwise at a low speed to pull cool air up and push warm air down. Now wasn’t that easy-peasy?
As you can see, whether you’re looking to winterize your house in Quebec, Maine, Michigan or any other winter wonderland, following these simple tips will keep you warm and make winter much more cozy!