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Prepare Your Home for Winter

Home Protection, Furnace Maintenance, and Energy Efficiency

© 2016 by all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile

A home in snow, photo courtesy Caio Cesar

Snow-covered ground at a country home

This article was updated on 10/27/19. Happy National American Beer Day!

Where you live largely determines the severity of the winter weather you will experience. Regardless of whether it’s moderate or severe, you should hope for the best and plan for the worst. If it gets really nasty you might not even be able to get out for supplies.

With that in mind, take steps early to be sure you are prepared for the unexpected by getting your home ready for winter weather. Here are some tips to think about. After you finish, and the snow begins to fall, settle back with that perfect cup of coffee.

Trim Your Trees

Most everyone loves those first few snowfalls. For most of us it’s uplifting and nostalgic. But as winter goes on and the fluffy white stuff accumulates the weight of it can put a tremendous strain on your trees. Now is the time to trim branches that will put your home in danger if they break.

As you make your inspection, places that pose the biggest risk include ones that are dead, or are hanging over your car or roof. If you have a gazebo, pergola, or outdoor HVAC components, be sure those are clear as well.

Bring Your Furnace up to Speed

Don’t wait until it gets cold to call out your local HVAC company; do it before you crank it up for the first time you crank it up. Your service tech can check it, start it, and check for carbon monoxide.

Don’t forget about your furnace filter. It should be changed every 4 to 6 weeks during the winter. This will optimize your furnace energy efficiency, and will ensure that you are furnishing your home with the cleanest air possible. Dirty air filters will reduce airflow. This causes your furnace to work harder, and worse, in extreme cases can start fires. Of course, this all assumes that your HVAC size is correct.

Protect Your Plumbing Pipes

Your pipes contain water and water will freeze; it’s as simple as that. Pipes in your attic and crawl space can be wrapped with foam designed for this purpose. The pre-cut slit on the side makes them easy to install. Seal the slit with foil-faced duct tape.

Exterior plumbing pipes are much more exposed and need more protection. One good solution is to wrap the pipe in UL-listed outdoor-use heat cable and then wrap pipe insulation around it. Exterior faucets can be covered with a slip-on faucet protector.

In-ground irrigation pipes can be protected by first removing the water from the sprinkler system. Next, valve off the water supplying the system. Open your manual drain valves. If your particular sprinkler system is equipped with an automatic draining system, valving off your main water supply should open the drain lines automatically.

Following the removal of the water from your lines, open your drain cap on the stop-and-waste valve or the boiler drain valve. This should clear any remaining water. Be sure to open the test cocks on the back-flow device. If the system is equipped with check valves, pull the sprinkler head from the ground in order to drain the water from the body of the sprinkler.

Seal Exterior Leaks

Leaks can be one of your worst energy-wasters all year long but during the winter the drafts can really make you miserable. Before the cold really sets in, make a thorough inspection and seal as needed. Here are a few things to focus on.

  • Your doors can leak on the bottom. The best solution for this is to install an exterior door sweep. Even if you already have one it may be worn and in need of replacement.
  • Check around all your windows. If the caulk is dried out or chipped, replace it.
  • Have a look at any penetrations to your home’s exterior. Some examples are where your clothes dryer exhaust exits, plumbing pipes extend out for water faucets,

Reverse the Direction of Your Ceiling Fans

In the summer the fan should move the air down; in the winter it should move it up. Most fans have a switch on the side of the body that controls the direction. It may seem counterintuitive to have the air blow up, but since warm air rises, forcing it up causes it to roll across the ceiling and down the walls.

The bottom line? It always pays to err on the side of caution when dealing with Mother nature. Do you have any other tips on preparing your home for winter? Share them with our readers in the comment section below.

I certainly hope this how-to article on preparing your home for winter has inspired you to take the appropriate steps now! If so, I would appreciate you sharing this page with your friends. Thanks for visiting!

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation and financial and energy trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

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