11 Things You Should Do To Prep Your Home For Winter

 photo by Steven & Courtney Johnson & Horwitz - licensed under  CC BY 2.0

photo by Steven & Courtney Johnson & Horwitz - licensed under CC BY 2.0

Winter is coming and the cold weather is already creeping in.  It is important for every home owner to take the time to prep their home for the upcoming months to ensure energy savings and to prevent possible future repairs.  Here is a list of the top 10 things to do before you light up that yule log.


1. Check Your Furnace

If your home is heated by a furnace you will want to make sure it is running efficiently.  Check the fan belt that runs to the blower, clear out the dust, and change the filters if needed.  Consider upgrading to a programmable thermostat if you have a manual one and set the temperature between19 and 20 Celsius to save energy.  Program it to be a cooler temperature when you are away and warmer when you are at home.  This will keep your home regulated and keeps heating costs more consistent.  If you dont feel confident in doing the work yourself, have your furnace inspected by a technician to make sure it is running efficiently and to measure carbon-monoxide leakage.


2. Check Your Roof

Check your roof for damaged, loose, or missing shingles that may cause a leak during a winters storm. Replacing one or two shingles is easy and inexpensive compared to more severe roof damage that can be caused by ignoring the problem.  Check and repair breaks in the flashing seals around vent stacks and chimneys too.


3. Seal Leaks

Doors and windows arent the only areas in your home you should be sealing.  Holes where venting, pipes, and electrical work run are also areas where you could be losing a lot of heat.  You should look for gaps around entry points from outside in the kitchen and bathrooms and fill them with insulating foam sealant.  Add weather stripping to windows and doors.  If you have single pane windows, consider upgrading to double glazed windows with an Energy Star rating to increase performance. Silicone caulk is best for exterior use because it wont shrink and its impervious to the elements.


4. Insulation

 photo by dunktanktechnician - licensed under  CC BY 2.0

photo by dunktanktechnician - licensed under CC BY 2.0

Good attic insulation keeps heat in the interior of your home and prevents temperature fluctuations that can damage or warp roof structure.  Check that your insulation is filled to the proper depth of about 30cm. Also consider adding foam insulation to your pipes to prevent them from freezing. Most hardware stores sell foam insulation tubing to wrap around pipes in order to increase efficiency by keeping the water hot en route to your taps. 


5. Clean your gutters

If your gutters are blocked the water can back up and damage roofing, siding and wood trim, plus cause leaks and ice dams.  Also look for missing or damaged gutters and fascia boards and repair them.  Also consider adding extensions to downspouts so that water runs at least 3 to 4 feet away from the foundation. 


6.  Turn off exterior faucets

Un-drained water in pipes can freeze which will cause pipes to burst as the ice expands.  Disconnect all garden hoses and drain the water that remains in the faucets.  If you dont have frost-proof faucets (homes more than 10-15 years old typically do not) turn off the shut-off valve inside your home.  Drain your lawn-irrigation system as well to avoid freezing and leaks. You may have to call your sprinkler service to do this.


7.   Mulch your leaves on your lawn

Instead of raking your leaves, if you mulch your leaves with your lawn mower (you can buy a mulching blade for $15-$25) they will decompose and nourish your lawn over winter.  


8. Water Heater

 photo by Behrat - licensed under  CC BY 3.0

photo by Behrat - licensed under CC BY 3.0

Most conventional water heaters require a lot of energy to keep hot water in the tank.  Tankless water heaters could be a good alternative upgrade for the upcoming winter.  They are energy efficient, lower in cost, and a greener approach to home energy use. Tankless water heaters are usually installed in areas where you use hot water (the bathroom and kitchen) and work by supplying hot water to a specific area on a need based cycle, rather than keeping a tank of hot water at the ready all the time. 

9.  Test your Sump Pump

Slowly pour several gallons of water into the sump pit to see whether the pump turns on.   You should do this every few months, especially after a long dry season or before a rainy one.  Most sump pumps last about ten years. 


10.  Chimney Sweep

Make sure your fireplace, or any heating appliance burning gas, oil, wood or coal, chimney and vents are clean and in good repair.  You want to prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide from creeping into your home.  A thorough cleaning of the chimney will remove any build up, such as bird nests or leaves, and scrape the ashes and creosote out of the fireplace or stove when done.  Also, if you dont already have a screen over your chimney you should install one.  If this sounds like too much dirty work, you can always hire a chimney sweep!


11. Stock up on Essentials

Be prepared and stock up on cold-weather essentials including candles and flashlights in the case of a power outage. Consider purchasing a generator that can power your essentials in an outage and dont wait for the first winter storm to hit to buy your salt or ice melt.  Make sure your snowblower is working or you have a shovel at hand for that inevitable snowfall.


Remember, when you take care of your property you will save money on your energy bills, prevent the need for costly repairs, and increase property value.  If you take the right steps to ensure your home is weather proofed this winter, then you will save time and money in the future.