Knowing how to prepare your home for winter is the key to avoiding damage so you can enjoy the season’s snowy fun.
Did I say “fun”? You bet I did. I absolutely adore winter: the cozy sweaters, the crackling fire at night, the way the earth is muffled as snow falls, and how clean everything looks right after that snow, too. One thing I don’t like? Realizing in mid-winter that I forgot to do some important piece of home maintenance, and now we’re going to pay through the nose to fix it. Fortunately, a few years ago I started keeping a list of winterizing tasks so I don’t forget. Now all I need to remember is where I put the list! Oh that’s right: it’s here now.
It’s best to get these tasks done before winter really sets in, so mark them down on your calendar. Ideally, you want to have these tasks tended to a couple of weeks before your first snow or hard freeze.
1. Have your furnace serviced. Annual inspections are important not only to keep your furnace running well, but for safety. Every year when the weather turns cold we all rush to our furnaces to fire them up without thinking about what could go wrong. And every year the news carries a story about a family who didn’t have a carbon monoxide detector to warn them that their furnace was leaking. Don’t be a headline: get your furnace checked for leaks! A proper inspection (which costs less than $100) will also involve changing the filter and inspecting hoses and belts for signs of wear.
2. Drain your pipes. Uninsulated outdoor pipes can freeze and crack due to the expansion of water in them. Even a tiny 1/8-inch hole can spew hundreds of gallons of water a day. As we learned one year, that doesn’t always happen at a convenient time: our pipe had leaked all night long before we discovered it, turning our back patio into an ice rink and running our water bill up three times higher than normal! If your area gets hard freezes, turn off outdoor spigots and sprinklers then be sure to drain them to prevent such problems. Then, to prevent indoor pipes from bursting, insulate pipes in your basement, crawl space or attic, and keep your home thermostat above 55F even when you’re gone. (More ways to keep pipes from freezing here.)
3. Clean the chimney. Dried leaves, deceased birds or other critters and storm debris can all build up in a chimney’s flue over the warmer months without homeowner’s ever realizing it. Unfortunately, that buildup — along with soot and creosote — can block the flue and lead to a buildup of carbon monoxide in the home as well as fires in the chimney. Whether you have a wood-burning or gas fireplace, it’s important to have your chimney professional cleaned, especially if you’ve recently had roofing work done or just bought your home. But don’t trust the job to just anyone — find a certified inspector at the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
4. Take care of your trees. Before those gorgeous autumn leaves fall, give your trees a once-over to look for any dead or broken limbs. Those need to be removed before winter snow and ice weigh them down further, possibly leading to property damage and certainly harming the tree.
5. Get your A/C ready for next year. All summer long your air-conditioner was your best friend. Don’t ignore it now just because winter’s on the way! Protect your central air unit by turning it off, emptying the pipes and drying the drain pan. Use a gentle spray of water to hose off the condenser coils and let them dry thoroughly before slipping a protector over it to keep the fan blades from rusting under winter ice. For window units, remove and drain them then store them on top of towels in a dry closet.
Those are the five biggest steps to prepare your home for winter to avoid costly damage. What other steps do you take?