Well, I think we can all agree that our lovely Fall has come to a halt, and our Winter may be getting ready to pounce. And with this change comes a to-do list to prepare for the cold. I thought it might be helpful to have a general list of things to remember to do when thinking of your home over the winter months. Keep in mind, this list is for occupied homes. If you are looking at winterizing a vacant home, it would be best to contact a plumber who could go through the steps required to ensure no pipes will break or freeze.
– Stop Drafts. Walk around your home looking for any areas that are not well sealed. This should include doors and windows, as well as walls, foundations, ceilings, etc. Any gaps should be filled with caulk, expandable foam, or insulation. If needed, replace weather stripping around doors and caulk around windows.
– Have your Furnace Inspected. Your furnace really should be inspected every year to ensure it’s operation, as well as to avoid a dangerous situation (such as a carbon monoxide leak). Your HVAC professional can also tell you how often you should be changing your filter. The cleaner your filter is, the less energy it takes to run your furnace. A furnace with a clogged filter works much harder, thereby costing more to operate.
– Prepare your Fireplace. At a minimum, make sure your damper is closed when the fireplace is not in use, and make sure you have a protective screen on the top of the chimney (to avoid animals and objects from falling into the chimney). If your chimney has not been used, or if you have any question as to the functionality of it, you should call a chimney sweep to ensure it will work correctly.
– Check Roof, Gutters and Downspouts. Replace any missing shingles on roof, and make sure the gutters and downspouts are clean and free of leaves/debris to ensure proper drainage and prevent ice buildup.
– Prepare Yourself for Potential Emergency. Locate you water main shutoff and breaker panel, stock up on batteries and flashlights, replace batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. If you have a programmable thermostat, make sure your heat never goes below 55 degrees.
– Exterior Hoses. Make sure all hoses are removed from hose bibs and hoses are drained. Leaving hoses connected to the home could, and probably will, result in broken pipes. If your home is older and does not have the frost free hose bib, you will need to turn off the water supply to the hose bib and drain the line.
– Add Insulation. Explore the option of adding insulation to your attic. It may cost a little money, but will help tremendously if your home is not well insulated.
– Adjust Ceiling Fans. Make sure to switch the direction of your ceiling fans in the winter. When you look up at the fan, it should be turning clockwise in the winter. This will push the warm air down.
These are just a few things that may be helpful in preparing you and your home for the winter months, and certainly not an exhaustive list.
I have personally learned the hard way on the chimney check – I was startled one afternoon a few years ago to hear something banging and crashing around in my chimney. After some detective work, we discovered it was a woodpecker that had fallen down my chimney, and was unable to get back up. Being one part of a family of animal lovers, we were determined to get the bird out alive and well. To make a long story short, about 8 hours later, we finally coaxed the woodpecker into the fireplace, where we could hold get a hold of him and set him free outside…only to watch him fly to my neighbor’s chimney and disappear. All in all, let’s just say it is my personal recommendation that you put a screen on the top of your chimney.