With cold weather approaching, there are several things you can be done in your home to be sure you and your family stay warm and safe all winter.
The steps below can ensure your home is ready for whatever Mother Nature sends our way.
Protect Your Pipes
It is a known fact that water expands as it freezes. This means that the water inside water pipes can also freeze. Frozen water can cause pipes to crack and burst. It is also possible for pipes to freeze when pressure builds up behind a chunk of ice. That is why it is a good idea to leave faucets dripping during frigid temperatures. Regardless of how it happens, a burst pipe can cause a lot of damage. There are a few steps that you can be taken to winterize your pipes and avoid water damage in a home.
• Draining water from outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems will keep pipes from freezing.
• Disconnect, drain and store outdoor hoses.
• Covering outdoor faucets with foam insulators protect them from freezing.
• Protect any water pipes that run through unheated areas of your home with insulation, such as the basement, attic, or garage.
It is essential to know where your water shutoff valve is so that
you can turn off the water in case of an emergency.
Check the Heat
The time to be sure your heat source is working to keep you warm this winter is before the weather gets too cold. Check your heat source by turning on the heat and the blower to be sure they are operating correctly.• Change your furnace filter at the start of the season and then every two to four months. Filters get dirtier, sooner, if your home is dusty or if you have pets that are furry or feathered. Dirty or clogged filters are less efficient and mean that your home will not be heating and warming correctly.
• If possible, install a programmable thermostat if you don’t already have one. If you program it to be cooler at night and when you’re not at home you will save money. Additionally, you can schedule it to be warmer for when you return or get up on cold winter mornings.
Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans.
Everyone thinks of using fans in the summer, but they also help you stay warm in the winter.
In the winter, set the blades to turn clockwise to circulate warm air from the ceiling down into the room.
Prevent Ice Dams
Ice dams occur when heat escapes through the roof and melts snow that is lying there. As the snowmelt flows to the roof’s edge and refreezes, it will pool towards the eaves. As nice and decorative as those icicles look, they can signal an ice dam underneath. The problem with an ice dam is that snow that melts later can’t properly drain, which means it has to go somewhere. Unfortunately, that might be through a leak in your roof, causing water damage in your home.
With a few simple steps before the temperature starts to drop can go a long way toward preventing all of this:
• Clogged gutters and downspouts are the number one cause of ice dams. Be sure that you clean them out to keep water flowing during the winter.
• Seal places that may allow warm air to leak from your home to your attic, such as around vent pipes, exhaust fans, chimneys, attic hatches, and light fixtures.
• Be sure soffit vents, which are along the eaves of the house and allow air to flow into the attics, are clear.
Take these steps to minimize your risk of ice dams this winter.
• Installing snow and ice slides will help prevent ice and snow from “bonding” to your roof.
• Install a rubberized ice and water shield under roof shingles, going three to six feet back from the eaves.
• Hire a roofer to install heat cable along the eaves to melt ice.
• Add additional insulation to your attic floor.
Clean and Store Lawn Equipment
Gas-powered equipment such as mowers, trimmers, tillers, and chippers should all be serviced before being put away for the winter. These equipment maintenance tips will help you get started, but be sure to check the owner’s manual for any specific requirements for your machines.
• Empty any remaining fuel in the equipment. Gas can degrade and can damage fuel lines and other components when not being unused. Use up most of the fuel during the last mowing of the season.
• Clean the machine of oil and yard debris and sharpen the blades.
• Store them for winter, if possible, in a basement, garage, or covered storage shed where they’re safe from the weather.
Inspect Your Fireplace and Chimney
Nothing beats the glow of a fire to warm up a winter evening… except for the misfortune of a chimney fire. To reduce the risk of a fire, be sure your fireplace and chimney are clean and critter-free.
A professional chimney sweep can clean soot and other debris that could catch fire. To keep your home’s warm air from escaping out the chimney when you’re not using it by keeping the flue closed all the way. You shouldn’t be able to feel any cold air coming down the chimney.
Adding glass fireplace doors or a chimney inflatable that blocks cold air from coming down the chimney and keeps in warm air.
Seal Windows and Doors
Gaps around windows and doors can make it hard to keep your house warm in winter. Be sure to caulk around windows and install weather stripping around doors if needed. This minor and inexpensive job can help you save on heating costs.
If your windows and doors are older, they might be inefficient single-pane windows or uninsulated doors. Also consider upgrading to double- or even triple-pane windows and insulated doors and garage doors to boost the energy efficiency of your home.
Stock Up on Cold-weather Essentials
When a winter storm arrives, it can cause power outages. Be sure you and your family prepare for anything Mother Nature throws at you this winter. Take the time to develop a home emergency kit. Include the following cold-weather specific items on hand as well:
• A fully charged fire extinguisher.
• An alternative heat source such as a generator, wood-burning stove, or fireplace.
• Sand, ice melt, and a shovel if where you live is prone to ice and snow (avoid using kitty litter, as it doesn’t provide excellent traction and can make a mess).
• You should also develop a plan for communicating or meeting up with family in case you aren’t together when a winter storm hits.
Don’t forget your car! Whether you live in a cold-weather climate or plan to visit one, you will want to for winter-weather emergencies.
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