Winterizing the Exterior
- Clean the roof completely to remove the year’s accumulation of dirt, debris and leaves.Inspect the roof during the cleaning to identify areas where shingles are missing, damaged or otherwise in need of repair. Check flashing and all roof penetrations to see if there are breaks or cracks in the rubber seals and replace if necessary.
- Clean out the gutters surrounding the roof. Use your hands, a leaf blower or water hose to clear away all debris. Be sure downspouts are clear and in good repair. Loose gutters and downspouts can be very destructive when weighted with heavy ice and snow.
- Rake away leaves and rotting vegetation from your house foundation
- Brick homes can have cracks in the mortar which allow drafts, pests and water inside. Check the exterior of your home for any areas that need repair.
- Drain garden hoses and insulate exposed water pipes as applicable
- Winterizing sprinkler systems by blowing out or draining all lines will prevent frozen pipes and surprises in the spring .
- Cover central air units with heavy protective material to block snow and ice. Clean the outside of the unit, removing dirt and leaves, and allow it to dry before covering.
- Drain, oil, and cover the evaporative cooler if present.
- Squirt expanding foam insulation or caulk into gaps and holes in your exterior house wall, such as around pipes or wires.
- Check window wells surrounding basement windows. Remove debris and ensure the window is safe from potential damage. Install special plastic window shields as necessary
- Look for air gaps around window and door frames. Fill voids with a little low-expansion spray foam insulation designed for windows and doors. Doors, especially, tend to leak air from around the frame and trim.
- Replace or install worn weather stripping on entry doors and around windows.
- If applicable replace summer window screens and screen doors with storm windows and storm doors.
- Install door sweeps on the exterior of doors that lead outside and swing out.
- Large windows, in particular, lose a tremendous amount of heat, especially older windows. Plastic sheet kits placed over the inside of the window, if performed with care, will significantly lower your heating bill and are much more cost effective than replacement
- Remove window air conditioner units or cover permanently installed units.
- Trim tree branches hanging over your house, electrical wires or outbuildings. Remove dead and damaged trees and branches.
Winterizing the Interior
- Open any register vents or air returns inside your house. Vents may be wall mounted, in the floor or in the ceiling. Repair or replace damaged or loose vents.
- Feel the wall around electrical outlets, pipes or wires leading to the outside. Seal and insulate as appropriate. Expanding foam insulation for windows and doors provides the benefits of both.
- Reverse your ceiling fans to help circulate warm air that gathers near the ceiling. When the fan blades rotate clockwise, they push the warm air down to “reheat” the lower areas.
- Close closet doors since there’s no need to heat the space. Unless it has exposed water pipes
- Install a cover (like plastic sheeting or bubble wrap) over any folding attic stairs.
Servicing Furnaces and Ductwork
- Check the house thermostat to ensure it works properly. Replace old thermostats with newer, programmable models that allow you to set a lower temperature while you are away or asleep and raise the temperature only when you need it. According to the Department of Energy, lowering the temperature about 10 degrees for eight hours a day may save you up to 10 percent a year.
- Change your furnace filter. Always follow the recommended filter change schedule according to the furnace and filter type. This may vary from monthly to perhaps every six months.
- Check the furnace pilot light to see if it is lit. Turn on the furnace and blower to ensure the furnace ignites and completes a full cycle, from warming up to blowing heat and shutting off the blower again. Hire a professional to evaluate the furnace and determine if it operates safely and efficiently.
- Shine a light into your ducts to look for evidence of mold, pests or accumulations of dirt and debris. The EPA states that there isn’t yet enough evidence to suggest regular cleanings are necessary. Instead, clean ducts when moldy or excessively dirty. Consult a professional for more information and cleaning assistance.
- Inspect the heating ductwork. Look for holes and loose connections, tightening, taping or replacing pieces as necessary. Problem areas often occur where ducts meet the floor, ceiling or go through the wall.
- Insulate ductwork that runs under your house or through unheated areas. Special blanket insulation makes insulating around the ducts easy, simple work. According to Energy Star, the typical house loses about 20 percent of the air flowing through the ducts due to holes, leaks and loose connections. Factoring in heat loss through uninsulated ducts, the amount is likely even higher.
Inspecting Fireplaces, Wood Stoves and Chimneys
- Inspect the chimney if you have a fireplace or wood stove. Look for obstructions such as bird nests or leaves blocking the flue. Place screen and a chimney cap over the top of the chimney to prevent future problems.
- Clean the chimney to remove any creosote buildup. Scrape the ashes and creosote out of the fireplace or wood stove when finished.
- Check the fireplace or wood stove to ensure it operates properly. Hire a professional to assess the equipment if preferred.
- Test the interior portion of the wood stove flue, between the stove and the wall where it exits. Make sure the connections are secure and the pipe is sound.
- Insure your wood supply, if applicable, is separated from the house by at least 20 or 30 feet and covered with a plastic tarp or other moisture barrier. Open trash or recycling containers, woodpiles and similar collections invite rodents and pests to invade your home and enjoy the heat.
- Install / test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Change the batteries if in question. Test each one to ensure it operates properly. For many reasons heating appliances may begin to emit unsafe levels of carbon monoxide, and due to alternate heating sources or faulty holiday wiring, fires are a sad but regular common occurrence.
- Keep fire extinguishers on hand, preferably in the kitchen and additionally one on each floor, and make sure everyone in your house knows how to use them and is willing to use them. Review the steps to effectively using the extinguisher correctly.
- Have rock salt or more environmentally safe products handy to melt ice on walkways.
- A supply of sand to improve traction on icy drives and walkways is practical.
- Refresh the procedure to shut off water valves (in case a pipe bursts), gas valves and electrical breakers in case of emergencies. Remember it gets dark early in winter months.
- Bring snow shovels and other snow removal equipment out of the back of the storage shed and into easily accessible areas and insure they are operational.
- Power failures and rapid severe weather changes are always possible. Do you have a plan in place in case of a loss in power or road closures block access to family members?
A Winter Weather Survival Kit
- Flashlights, candles and an alternate heat source if possible.
- A battery-powered radio, especially a NOAA radio or two-way device.
- Two or three blankets.
- Bottled water.
- Seven days worth of non-perishable food for each person and a can opener (non-electric) if needed.
- Extra supply of any personal medications.
- Charge cell phones before bad weather hits.
- Dress in warm layers, including thermal, to conserve body heat
- Adequate clothing and blankets to keep you warm. Extra layers, slippers and robes will increase comfort during very cold periods.
- Bring pets/companion animals inside during harsh winter weather. Most pets enjoy some cold weather and snow. With a proper bedding area most will do fine. However, during extreme cold (below 28 deg ) animals and pets should have access to protective shelter and usable water.
- If using an electric clothes dryer, capture heat and moisture usually lost outside.
- During colder snaps, cook at home, bake bread, drink warm beverages. All will help to add to the warm cozy feeling of home.