Use the following tips as your home maintenance checklist for winterizing your home:
Inspect Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning
- Have the heating system serviced by a professional. Change filters.
- Stock up on furnace filters and replace the filter in your furnace for maximum efficiency and improved indoor air quality.
- Clean your whole house humidifier and replace the evaporator pad.
- Bleed valves on hot-water radiators to increase heating efficiency by releasing air that may be trapped inside.
- Check the batteries on smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and test to make sure they are in working order.
- If you have an older thermostat, consider replacing it with a programmable unit to save on heating costs.
- For enhanced efficiency and comfort, switch your ceiling fans to the reverse or clockwise position which will blow the warm air down into the room.
- Flush water heater tank to remove sediment and check the pressure relief valve to make sure it’s in proper working order.
- Examine exposed ducts in the attic, basement, and crawl spaces. Use a sealant to plug up any leaks.
Get the Fireplace Ready
- Cap or screen the top of the chimney to keep out rodents and birds.
- Clean the fireplace of ashes.
- Inspect the firebox and flue system and if the chimney hasn't been cleaned for a while, call a chimney sweep to remove soot and creosote.
- Buy firewood or chop wood. Store it in a dry place away from the exterior of your home.
- Inspect the fireplace damper for proper opening and closing. If there are drafts or it’s cold despite the damper being closed, the damper may be warped, worn, or rusted. Consider installing a Chimney Balloon into the flue to keep out the cold (but remember to remove it before lighting a fire).
Check the Exterior, Doors, and Windows
- Inspect exterior for crevice cracks and exposed entry points around pipes; seal them.
- Use weather stripping around doors to prevent cold air from entering the home and caulk windows.
- Check all the weather stripping around windows and doorframes for leaks to prevent heat loss and replace if necessary.
- Examine wooden window frames for signs of rot or decay. Repair or replace framing to maintain structural integrity.
- Switch out summer screens doors with storm doors. If you have storm windows, install them.
- Seal drafty doors and windows. Caulk inside and out, where necessary, to keep heat from escaping.
- Check for drafts around windows and doors. Inspect windows for cracks, broken glass, or gaps. Repair or replace, if needed.
Examine Roof, Gutters, and Downspouts
- If your weather temperature will fall below 32 degrees in the winter, adding extra insulation to the attic will prevent warm air from creeping to your roof and causing ice dams.
- Check for deteriorated flashing to ensure water cannot enter the home. Seal joints where water could penetrate, using roofing cement and a caulking gun.
- Replace worn or missing roof shingles or tiles.
- Clean out the gutters and use a hose to spray water down the downspouts to clear away debris.
- Consider installing leaf guards on the gutters or extensions on the downspouts to direct water away from the home.
- Sharpen ice choppers and buy bags of ice-melt or sand.
- Check the roof and around vents, skylights, and chimneys for leaks. Repair as necessary.
- Clean the gutters and drain pipes of leaves and other debris. Be sure they drain away from the house. In cold-climate areas, drain outside faucets.
- Check the gutters and downspouts for proper fastening and re-secure if loose or sagging.
- Clean leaves and debris from courtyard and pool storm drains to prevent blockages.
- Ensure all vents and openings are covered to prevent insects, birds, and rodents from getting inside to nest in a warm place.
Prevent Plumbing Freezes
- Locate your water main in the event you need to shut it off in an emergency.
- Drain all garden hoses and store away.
- Insulate exposed plumbing pipes.
- Drain air conditioner pipes and, if your AC has a water shut-off valve, turn it off.
- If you go on vacation, leave the heat on, set to at least 55 degrees.
Prepare an Emergency Kit
- Buy indoor candles and matches or lighter for use during a power outtage.
- Purchase self-powered flashlights and self-powered radios. Many of the latest models have the "Weatherband/Emergency Band" and will also charge cell phones.
- Buy a surge protector to protect your computer and sensitive electronic equipment.
- Store extra bottled water and non-perishable food supplies (including pet food, if you have a pet), blankets, and a first-aid kit in a dry and easy-to-access location.
- Prepare an evacuation plan in the event of an emergency.
Although you can't always predict what Jack Frost will send your way each winter, taking a few precautions can mean less time cleaning up weather-induced messes and worries over costly utility bills and more time building snowmen in the back yard.