Fall is truly one of the best seasons. The weather is great, the Halloween and Thanksgiving decorations can come out of the closet and everything tasty gets a hint of pumpkin in it. But, as a certain popular HBO show likes to point out, it also means that winter is coming! Even if you live in a relatively warmer climate like Texas, it is important to prepare your home for the colder months – both inside and out. You wouldn’t want to be surprised by a freak blizzard out on the road, so why would you want to be caught in the same thing in your home? The last thing you want is to be losing heat and losing money on your investment. Here are ten ways that you can begin to prepare your home for winter:
1) Test Your Alarms
If you have been putting off changing the batteries on those smoke detectors, now is the time to change that. Make sure every detector in your home works, and use a little bit of smoke from a burnt match instead of pressing the button to really test them. Also, if your home doesn’t have a carbon monoxide detector – get one. Carbon monoxide is invisible and deadly, and every home should have at least one detector to warn you of its presence.
2) Wrap The Pipes
This is more important for the really cold climates, but a burst pipe caused by a winter freeze is an absolute nightmare if you’ve never dealt with one before. First, make sure that the water to your hose bibs is shut off inside your house and the pipes are drained. Next, find any places where your water pipes are exposed to colder temperatures such as in crawlspaces, basements or garages and wrap the pipes with pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation. You can find these at any hardware store. Now your pipe freezing days are in the past.
3) Reverse Your Fan
A small thing you can do to better warm your house is to reverse the direction of your ceiling fans. Look up and make sure the blades are turning clockwise. This way warm air will be pushed down into your home, making you more comfortable.
4) Check the Chimney
If you’re going to use your chimney this winter, you want to inspect it first. Chimney sweepers will often include a basic inspection with a sweep for free, and it is in your best interest to do so. You never know what could have fallen down there. Another way to protect yourself is to buy a protective cap with a screen for your chimney. It’s cheap and it will save you a lot of trouble from debris and animals. Finally, to keep cold air out, be sure to keep your chimney’s damper closed when the fireplace is not in use.
5) Replace Your Windows
If you have single-pane windows, they aren’t going to cut it in the winter. If you can afford it, replace them with stronger storm windows to better protect yourself and provide better insulation. If new windows are out of the question, a window insulator kit is cheap (about $4 a window). It comes with plastic sheeting that can be affixed to the inside of a window to better keep out the cold. It’s not pretty, but it’s very effective.
6) Fix Your Ducts
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 60% of a home’s central heating can be lost before that air reaches the vents if ductwork is not properly insulated. Find the pipes in your attic or crawlspace and repair any “pinches” which may be losing you heat. If you see any cracks, use metal-backed tape. Ducts should also be vacuumed to rid them of any unwanted pet hair or dust.
7) Check The Furnace
This sounds obvious, but you don’t realize how many people don’t realize their furnace isn’t working until it’s too late. Check your furnace before the temperatures drop. A strong smell is natural when firing up the furnace in the autumn. Open windows to dissipate it. But if the smell lasts a long time, shut down the furnace and call a professional. Make sure to change the furnace filters every month throughout the winter.
8) Up Your Insulation
Not many people know that regardless of the climate conditions you live in, you need a minimum of 12 inches of insulation in your attic. Even if you have insulation, it’s time to double up – the energy savings are well worth it. Be sure to avoid the kind of insulation that has paper backing, because it acts as a vapor barrier that can cause moisture problems later on.
9) Block All Leaks
This is a good idea every season, but especially in winter you should go around both the inside and outside of your home and plug up any obvious leaks. Caulk is the best way to tighten up those drafty spots.
10) Clean Your Gutters
If winter’s rain and melting snow can’t drain, you’re going to have problems. Check your gutters every week and clear any debris using your hands or a tool. The rule of thumb is that water should be able to easily drain at least 10 feet away from your house. Make sure it does just that.