As the temperature drops, it’s time to unpack your sweaters and use your spare change for an extra latte here and there. It’s also time to think about preparing your home for colder weather. Below you’ll find a few tips to help you get started.
What you should do in all climates —
- Check on your heat and A/C systems. Clean and cover your A/C unit until the weather warms back up. Turn on the heater during a cooler summer night (just for about 10 minutes). If it’s not working correctly, call a professional for assistance. It’s a good idea to change all the air filters in your home at this time as well.
- Clean out your fireplace and chimney. Even if you only use your fireplace occasionally, it’s still a good idea to clean it at least once a year. If you have a gas fireplace, you should inspect and clean out the flue to make sure it’s clear of any debris and cracks. The best way to accomplish this task is to hire a certified chimney sweep.
- Reverse your ceiling fans. Once you turn on the heat in your home, click the reverse switch on your ceiling fans (if available) to run them clockwise — doing so will reverse airflow and push down warm air. You can then keep your thermostat a little lower throughout the winter months (which may help you save money).
- Seal air leaks. Inspect all your windows, doors, baseboards, and vents to check for any drafts. Seal larger cracks with caulk and use weather stripping to help seal air leaks in windows or doors. Some people also cover their windows with plastic wrap for even more protection. If you have a wood-burning chimney, close the damper to keep cold air from entering your home. If you can prevent air leaks in your home, you may be able to reduce your energy bills this winter.
- Clean out your gutters. Remove any debris from your gutters. Clogged gutters can cause water to back up against your home and damage roofing, siding, and wood trim. It might also cause leaks and ice damage.
- Trim your trees. Strong winds and snow may break susceptible tree branches, potentially causing damage to your house, your neighbor’s house, or power lines. If you have tree branches that hang over your house, sidewalk, or driveway, you should cable, brace, or prune them before cold weather stress causes breakage. And if branches are dead, diseased, or unsafe, it may be best to remove them before the first winter storm hits. You should call a professional to remove branches that are on or near power lines.
For those living in freezing climates —
- Insulate your pipes. When a pipe freezes, the water inside expands, and the pipe may crack or rupture. Unfortunately, a cracked or broken pipe can lead to expensive repairs. Protect your pipes by wrapping them with heat tape or pipe insulation, and check on them regularly. Pay special attention to pipes located in unheated (or poorly heated) areas of your home, such as a utility room or basement. Plus, if any indoor faucet is located on exterior walls that aren’t adequately insulated, set your faucets to a slow drip (using both hot and cold water) whenever temperatures dip below freezing. You may also consider leaving your cabinet doors open so your home’s heating system can warm your pipes.
- Turn off and drain outdoor faucets and sprinklers. Drain all your outdoor open faucets and your sprinkler system to keep your pipes from freezing. Also, disconnect and store your outdoor hoses and turn off your outdoor water supply.
- Care for your lawn equipment. If you live in an area with snow or ice, you should clean all your lawn equipment after you cut your grass for the last time before winter. Additionally, empty the gas tank, because it can develop condensation over time and damage your equipment.
Preventive maintenance can help protect your home from winter weather. By spending some time and money upfront to prepare your home for colder weather, you may also lower your monthly energy bill, saving you money each month.