Blog:   The Home Snooper

Winterizing Inside and Outside your House

Prepare your home for winter.

Winter is here! Before it gets any colder, let's make sure that all the important home preparations are done.

Winterizing Inside the Home

freezing man in gloves

Daylight Saving Time has come to an end. We have set our clocks back one hour, it gets darker outside at an earlier time, and the outdoor temperatures are chillier. All sure signs that winter is on its way!

There are many DIY projects that are relatively easy and inexpensive that you can do to winterize your house. Here are a few tips that will help you and your family stay warmer during these cold winter months, while saving you money on your utility bills in the process.

Furnace - Since you had an HVAC professional inspect your furnace last spring you know it is in good working order. Now all you have to do is a little pre-winter maintenance yourself. Remove any clutter that has accumulated around the furnace over the summer. Vacuum all of the dirt and cobwebs from both the furnace itself and all of the surrounding area. Clean, or if need be, replace the furnace filter. Then make a note on your calendar for next spring to schedule your annual Furnace Inspection and to purchase more furnace filters - when both these things are much cheaper!

Water Heater - Drain the water. Do this yearly, particularly if you live in an area that has hard water. This simple task will remove sediment that has collected inside of the appliance and will help it to last much longer. Install a water heater jacket to keep heat from escaping and allowing it to run much more efficiently. And lower the temperature setting. Water that is too hot can scald children, will dry out the skin in adults, and cost more money on your utility bill.

Programmable Thermostat - If you have a programmable thermostat, flip the switch to Heat. If not, then you should really consider installing one. It will allow you to keep your house cool while everyone is away, and then warm the temperature up to a comfortable level shortly before anyone arrives home. It is recommended for ideal efficiency to set the thermostat to 58 degrees when it's only Fido and Fluffy at home, and 68 degrees when people are in the house. (You can always offer your guests a blanket!)

Ceiling Fan - Also set your ceiling fans to Winter mode. For the colder winter months the blades need to be set on low and flip the little switch on the side so it blows the air instead of down onto you. This will gently mix the warmer air from the ceiling area down into the room and keep your home warmer.

Windows - Windows are a huge culprit when it comes to energy loss. Installing energy-efficient windows is a definite solution to this problem, but can be expensive. Here are a few simple and inexpensive tips to help make your current windows more efficient...

  • Winterize any window air conditioners: If a unit is being removed, then carefully take it out of the window, eliminate any standing water, and clean thoroughly. Properly store it away so it will be ready to use again next summer. If the air conditioner is a permanent fixture or is too big to move, then unplug the electrical cords, clean it thoroughly, and securely cover the outside portion with an air conditioner jacket or plastic tablecloth or trashbags, etc.
  • Storm windows should be put in place: If your house does not have storm windows, you can purchase kits with plastic and double-sided tape that will work. Stick the plastic to the window frame, then use a hair dryer to shrink it to fit around the pane. Bubble wrap is another option. Use an razor knife or scissors to cut the bubble wrap to size, spray a thin layer of water on the window pane, and apply the bubble side of the plastic to the window.
  • Stop any window drafts: When in your house, stand in front of the windows to see if you feel a breeze coming inside. You can also use a feather or a stick of incense or a candle for this test. Use a caulk gun both indoors and out to fill any gaps around the window frame. If the gaps are big (and you do not care about appearance) you can fill the spaces with old rags, socks, torn up t-shirts, etc.

Doors - Doors are also an area where a great deal of energy loss occurs. Here are some ideas to make exterior doors more efficient...

  • Minimize door drafts:Do the breeze test around all exterior doors to see if there is a draft. Weather stripping can easily be applied to the inside of the door frame for a tighter fit.
  • Plug threshold leaks: Put door snakes underneath each exterior door, including the one that goes to the garage. These can be purchased at a store or made as a fun and easy craft project. Beach towels can be used in lieu of draft snakes if need be.
  • Check sliding or patio doors: Seal up those the sliding glass doors. They can also be covered in plastic. Or you can purchase an insulated curtain. Keep the curtain open during the day to allow the warm sunshine into the house. Close it when the sun goes down for better insulation and less heat loss.

Other sneaky leaky places - Don't forget these hidden leaks...

  • Outlets: Foam insulation kits are available for electrical outlets and light switches. Turn off the electricity, remove the faceplate from all outlets and switches on exterior walls, and install the pre-cut foam pieces.
  • Pipes: Here are a few ideas to plug the huge holes around pipes that enter a home from the outdoors. You can use expanding spray foam that comes in a can. You can wrap the pipes and fill the gap with fiberglass insulation. Or you can simply stuff the opening with old rags. Filling these gaps will also help to keep out unwanted critters.
  • Fireplace: Have your chimney swept every spring when it is much cheaper. During the winter months, close the damper to prevent cold air from entering through the chimney. But be sure to open the damper any time the fireplace is in use!

By performing a few simple DIY tasks each fall you can save money on your utility bill AND extend the life of your appliances!

Winterizing Outside the Home

woman with snowball

Just like with any other cleaning project, you want to start from the top and work your way down when you are winterizing the exterior of your home. Here are a few relatively easy and inexpensive tips to help you prepare for the season.

First, get out a sturdy ladder and inspect the roof. If you are afraid of heights like I am, then enlist the help of a trusted friend. Rid the roof of any kid's toys such as kites, Frisbees, and model airplanes that have accumulated over the summer. Cut back any low hanging tree branches that could wreak havoc during an ice storm. Check around flashings and for any loose shingles to prevent water from leaking into the house.

While still on the roof examine and clean the gutters. Remove all of the leaves, twigs, bird's nests, etc. so water is able to flow freely and will not freeze or form icicles. Check that all of the downspouts are intact and draining away from the house. You want winter's rain and snow to be able to make its way to the ground and away from your foundation!

Now it is time to start cleaning up the yard and getting it ready for winter. Rake the leaves, prune the trees and bushes, and mow the grass one last time. Add all of these trimmings to a compost pile so it can be later used as mulch. Once these tasks are completed you can winterize the lawn mower, the leaf blower, and the weed whacker so they will be ready to use next spring.

Next, drain all of the water out of the garden hoses. Put a cover over the air conditioner. Also cover the barbecue grill and patio furniture if they are to be stored outdoors for the winter, or simply stow these items along with the lawn equipment in the garage or shed. Be sure to put these items in the back so you will have easy access for winter's equipment such as the snow blower, shovels and sleds.

You certainly want to try to prevent any frozen pipes during the winter, which can cause an untimely and costly mess. Cover all water spigots so they will not freeze; turn off the water to them if possible. Put foam insulation or heat tape on any pipes located in areas such as the garage, crawl space or breezeway. And pay extra attention to make sure there are no water leaks. Just a small drip can cause a huge problem in the middle of winter!

Winter will be a lot more enjoyable if you know that the inside and outside of your house is ready BEFORE the weatherman predicts that upcoming snowstorm!

Disclaimer: You are responsible for any suggestions you choose to follow, or not follow. This advice is offered for consideration with no guarantee of safety or effectiveness. Use this information at your own risk.