So far this year, we have experienced excessively cold temperatures. So much so that it’s been all over the news! In New York, many of us have felt seriously unprepared for the early onset of the winter temperatures. That’s understandable, considering that on average, November temperatures range from a max. of 54°F, and a min. of 42°F, but yesterday, November 24th, was a blustery 26°F! With the cold spell that we’re stuck in, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to address preparing your home for winter.
It’s important to make sure that you do all you can when preparing your home for winter, even if you’re aren’t ready for it yourself, because there are a number of problems that can arise due to insufficient weather planning. These problems can cause instances that require you to file claims through your homeowner’s insurance, and it’s always best to avoid this whenever possible. Here are some tips on things to do to prevent weather-related damage to your house!
Preparing Your Home for Winter
- Now that you’re going to start turning the heat on, so you don’t have to walk around your house in a parka, you should have your furnace or heating system assessed by a professional HVAC specialist. Having a technician come in to give your system a look and make sure it’s working properly as you’re preparing your home for winter is really important. If they find any damage that’s occurred while the system’s been out of use, fixing it now can help avoid costly repairs in the coming months. Plus, the last thing you want is for your system to stop working during the coldest part of the winter, and then you’re stuck waiting for a repairman to come thaw you out. Also, be sure to change the filters on your heating system once a month to keep everything running smoothly!
- We know you’re anxious to get a fire going, because there’s nothing better than getting family together during the holidays around the fireplace, but take the time to perform the necessary maintenance before you ignite. Being sure to have your chimney cleaned and inspected is incredibly important, because if your chimney has any cracks or buildup inside it, you could be at risk for serious fire damage to your home. Also, there could be some little critters that have built nests in your chimney that you’re completely unaware of, and you don’t want to roast any unexpected visitors up there.
- As we mentioned in our post about pests trying to make their way into your home, if you use a wood-burning stove or fireplace, be sure to store your firewood a safe distance from your home, so that you don’t attract any animals near your house. Also, thoroughly check your firewood before bringing it inside to make sure you don’t have any stowaways between pieces of kindling.
- Before it gets unbearably cold outside (though it seems that time is unfortunately already upon us!), make sure you have access to a ladder. You may need it throughout the season, so take the time to find it now, while you’re preparing your home for winter; you don’t want to have to spend more time than necessary out in the cold if you have to dig it out of your shed later.
- Clean out your gutters, because you don’t want any buildup of leaves or other debris to block water drainage, as it may wind up freezing when the temperature drops. Not only can ice damage your gutter, but it can also damage your roof! While you’re up there cleaning out the gutters, check your roof for any missing or broken shingles that may have been damaged throughout the year. If you find anything that needs to be repaired, do it as soon as you’re able.
- Pack away the items in your yard that aren’t suitable for wintertime. These things include patio furniture, umbrellas, and your barbeque grill. Don’t forget to detach the gas tank from your grill before putting it away! Covering your air conditioning units to protect them from the elements is another important step in preparing your home for winter. Also, you won’t be using your lawnmower anytime soon, so store that as well. If your lawnmower is gas-powered, be sure to drain the gasoline from the tank before stowing it. Gasoline can break down over time, and can cause serious damage to your mower’s carburetor.
- Disconnect your garden hose from the spigot, and drain any water that may remain inside it. If there’s any water left in it when you store it, you run the risk of the water freezing and damaging the hose. If you don’t disconnect your house, and it freezes while it’s still connected to your house, the extreme temperatures may cause the pipes inside your house to burst! Not only is that a huge pain, but it can also be quite costly to repair.
- Once you’ve finished up preparing your home for winter outside, you’ll want nothing more than to get inside and crank the heat (now that you’ve had your systems checked and they’re good to go!). As much as you may want to set the thermostat to 85°F because you’ve completely lost feeling in your toes while you were outside, don’t be too hasty. According to heating experts, you can save up to 3% on your heating bill for every degree that you turn your thermostat down. So instead of turning your house into a sauna, consider wearing some heavier layers so that you can keep the heat down without turning into a popsicle. Having a programmable thermostat, which can be set to automatically adjust the temperature in your home, to lower it when no one’s home and to warm back up in preparation for your family’s return, can save you a ton of money on your utilities.
- Speaking of your utilities, ask your provider to perform an energy audit on your home, which identify any points within your house that allow heat to escape. According to the US Energy Department, homeowners spend up to 30% of their overall energy consumption on drafts—what a waste! Once you’ve located the areas that leak, patch them up pronto. Using caulk or weather stripping is one way to lock your heat in, but even a rolled up towel can suffice in front of a drafty door to keep the cold air from coming in, and the warm air from getting out.
- Ceiling fans aren’t only useful to keep you cool in the summer—they’re great for distributing heat during the winter! Thinking back to high school chemistry class: heat rises. If you switch the direction of the blades on your ceiling fan so that they run clockwise, the warm air that collects near the ceiling will be forced down to the lower areas in the room. This can cut your heating bill by as much as 10%!
- As we mentioned earlier, the last thing you want to deal with in the winter is a burst pipe. They make a mess, they’re super inconvenient, and you have to wait on a repairman to come out and fix the problem. If you wrap your pipes with insulation and fasten them off with duct tape while preparing your home for winter, you can prevent them from freezing. This is a great idea if you have particular pipes that are often vulnerable to freezing, due to their location or any other reason.
- Check the hoses on your washing machine for any damage. Also make sure that your dryer exhaust doesn’t have any lint built up inside it, and that the whole system is in working order. Winter isn’t the time to be hang drying any of your clothes, so you definitely don’t want your dryer to break down now!
- We’ve talked about setting up a regular schedule for changing the batteries in your smoke detector, and making sure your alarms are in working order, but it’s important to reinforce it again. As you go about preparing your home for winter, think about whether or not you checked your smoke detector over the summer, and if you haven’t, change the batteries and test it to make sure it’s working. There are plenty of ways that fires can start during the winter, so functioning smoke detectors are crucial for keeping your family safe. Have at least one on every floor and in every bedroom, to make sure that everyone in your family is as safe as possible in the event of a fire. Plus, fire alarms can lower your insurance premiums, too!
- In the last few years, New Yorkers have become well acquainted with extended power outages during our experiences with Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and the number of other natural disasters we’ve faced. Wintertime also runs a risk for power loss and other disaster circumstances, so it’s important to have an emergency kit prepared for such an event. In addition to food, water, flashlights, batteries, blankets, medicine, and the other standard emergency supplies you’d usually account for, keep the winter weather in mind while you prepare. It would be wise to pack extra warm clothing and blankets in your emergency kit, because a power outage will likely mean that it’ll get pretty cold quite quickly, so you’ll need supplies to keep you warm.
Winter isn’t everyone’s favorite season, but by taking these steps while preparing your home for winter, you’ll be able to get through it while you wait for the sun to return!