It’s not too late! Here are 8 things that you can still do to winterize your home – and save money in the process!
#1 – Protect Your Outdoor Faucets and Pipes from Freezing
A little frozen water can cause a lot of damage! For example, an inch of water in a basement can cost up to $15,000 to pump out and repair the damage. This risk can be prevented, particularly if you winterize outdoor faucets which are the most susceptible to freezing temperatures.
To winterize faucets and pipes, remove your garden hoses from your outdoor faucets and drain them. Then add a faucet protector to keep cold air from getting into your pipes where water can freeze. Faucet covers are inexpensive ($2-$10), and they can be found online or at home improvement stores. It is important to make sure that any exposed pipes in an unheated basement or garage are also insulated. Exposed pipes should be wrapped with foam plumbing insulation, ideally before the weather drops. Six feet of polyethylene insulation costs only a dollar or so, and installation is easy as long as you can reach the pipes!
If you have a crawl space with foundation vents, this is also a good time to make sure that the vent flaps are closed tightly in order to prevent cold air from entering the crawl space and possibly freezing pipes.
#2 – Take Steps to Prevent Ice Dams
Although icicles may be picturesque, they are a clear sign that you’ve got an ice dam. Ice dams are a buildup of ice on your gutter or roof that prevent melting snow and ice from draining off the roof. Water that backs up behind the dam can leak into a home and cause extensive damage to walls, ceilings, insulation and floors. Ice dams can be steamed off, but in the dead of winter, that will be very expensive (if you can find someone to do it), and you risk long-term damage by doing nothing.
Attic insulation is the best way to prevent ice dams since ice dams, icicles, and ice buildup on the gutters are symptoms of not enough insulation in the attic. It is important to have at least 14 inches of attic insulation.
A snow rake, which is an aluminum scraper mounted to a telescoping pole, can also be used to pull the snow off the roof. Care should be taken not to break shingles which are more brittle in the cold weather, and never use a show rake while standing on a ladder.
Another option to prevent ice dam damage is to install heat cables. These high-resistance wires mounted on the roof in a zig-zag pattern should be plugged into an outdoor GFCI receptacle. Heat cables are ideal for use in spots where ice dams regularly occur and can’t be stopped any other way. Be sure to also run the cable inside the gutter and downspout so they don’t get clogged with ice.
#3 – Clean Your Gutters
Ideally, leaves and debris should be removed from gutters in the Fall. However, if you have not done so already, make sure that your gutters are clean and that water run-off is being channeled away from the foundation.
#4 - Seal Up Drafts and Prevent Air Leaks
Cracks and gaps can be easily and inexpensively sealed with a simple tube of caulk. Not sure where to caulk? Look for visible cracks around:
- Fireplace or dryer vents
- Any place a hole to the outside is visible
Draft-guards or rolled towels can be placed at door thresholds to stop under-door drafts, and weather stripping can be added around door frames to keep the cold air out.
#5 - Program Your Thermostat
Program your thermostat to coincide with your schedules. You will save on both utility costs and ‘wear and tear’ on your HVAC system. Programming a thermostat is generally straight-forward, and several newer thermostats on the market provide Wi-Fi connections to allow remote monitoring and operation.
If you will be away for several days, remember to set your thermostat to 55 degrees Fahrenheit so that there is continuous heating. Ask a friend or family member to check on the house to catch any problems early, and be sure to allow faucets to drip. Moving water may prevent pipes from freezing or at least it will prevent water pressure from building up.
#6 - Get a Furnace Tune-Up
Forgetting or neglecting to service your furnace can easily cut five years off the life of your system (a full third of the typical unit’s life span). A gas furnace should be serviced and inspected at least once a year, but preferably in both the spring and fall. Furnace filters should be replaced regularly (at least every three months), or as often as monthly if you have allergies, pets, or smoke cigarettes at home.
#7 - Remove Screens from Windows
In the winter, snow or ice can become trapped between the screen and window, and this trapped snow can cause damage to the sill and window frame. The weight of the snow can also bend the screen. Eliminate this potential problem by removing all window screens and storing them for the winter.
Windows without screens also let in more light which can warm a room significantly on the warmest and brightest winter days.
#8 - Switch Ceiling Fan Direction
The switch at the base of the fan should be adjusted in the winter so the blades turn clockwise redistributing warm air more efficiently. Just remember to that the direction should be counterclockwise in the summer, and clockwise in the winter!
Following these steps will not only reduce your home’s energy bills and prevent expensive repairs later, but it will provide peace of mind throughout the holiday season and into the new year!