Frederick Services

7 Tips To Ensure Your Home Is Ready For Winter

As the weather gets colder, there are a few different things that you can do to help ensure that you, your family and your home are warm and safe throughout the winter. The following seven steps are certain to ensure your home is in tip-top shape for this upcoming winter:

Step #1: Protect Your Plumbing Pipes

As water freezes, it will expand. If there is water inside of your plumbing pipes that freezes, it will expand. If this happens, then your pipes are going to crack and burst. Pipes can also tend to burst if pressure builds up if there is a chunk of ice around them. This is why it is suggested that you leave your faucets dripping when the weather is extremely cold. In either instance, if your pipes burst, major damage can ensue. Here are a few things you can do to help winterize your plumbing pipes to avoid damage:

  • Drain all water from any sprinkler systems and outdoor faucets to prevent the pipes from freezing.
  • Disconnect and drain outdoor garden hoses and cover outdoor faucets with foam insulation.
  • Protect any pipes that are in unheated areas of the home, such as the basement, attic and/or garage, with proper insulation.
  • It is very important that you are aware of where the shutoff valve for your water is in the event that your water needs to be turned off in an emergency. As a general rule, this valve is located in your basement or in the ground by the street.

Step #2: Check Your Heat

You want to ensure that your home is warm throughout the winter, but you need to do this before winter strikes. So, to inspect your heat and ensure it is working properly, turn on your furnace to make certain that the blower kicks on and that warm air is blowing out. In addition, here are a couple of others tips:

  • At the beginning of winter, change the HVAC filter. Make sure to change the filter every few months thereafter. When your filter is dirty or clogged, it is less efficient, which will lead to a colder home.
  • If you don’t already have one, consider having a programmable thermostat installed. You can program the thermostat to keep your home cooler when you aren’t at home and at night when you are sleeping, which will help save money. You can then program it to automatically warm the home back up right before you get home and before you wake up on really cold mornings.
  • You should also consider switching the direction that the blades on your ceiling fans turn. Ceiling fans are typically only used in the summer, but they can be very beneficial in the winter. When the blades are turned clockwise, they can help move that warm air at the ceiling throughout the room.

Step #3: Prevent Ice Dams

Ice dams can be very dangerous for your roof. They form when heat seeps through your roof and melts any snow that has accumulated there. When that snow melts, it flows to the edge of your roof and refreezes, generally at the roof eaves. While this creates beautiful icicles, it can also form a horrible ice dam underneath. The issue with ice dams is that any snow that later melts is unable to drain properly. Unfortunately, the melting snow has to go somewhere, and it usually finds a leak in the roof, resulting in water damage inside your home.

Luckily, there are a few things you can do to help prevent the formation of ice dams on your roof:

  • One of the main reasons that ice dams form is because of clogged gutters/downspouts. Therefore, before winter hits, make sure that you have taken the time to clean them out to ensure that water flows properly throughout winter.
  • Look for areas that would allow warm air to escape into the attic from your home and seal them off. Areas to pay particular attention to include exhaust fans, vent pipes, light fixtures, chimneys and attic hatches.
  • Make sure that soffit vents are clear of debris.

If you have had issues with ice dams in previous years, here are some additional precautions you may want to consider taking this year:

  • Install ice and snow slides on the roof to help prevent snow and ice from sticking.
  • Install a rubberized shield just beneath the shingles, roughly up to six feet from the eaves.
  • Hire a professional roofer for the installation of heat cable, which helps to melt ice and snow, along the roof eaves.
  • Install extra insulation in the attic.

Step #4: Inspect the Fireplace and Chimney

One of the best parts of winter is being able to sit in front of the fireplace and listen to the crackle of the wood. However, before you can do this, it is important that your fireplace and chimney are properly inspected and cleaned after having not been in use for so many months.

It is advisable to have a professional come out and perform a chimney sweep, which will remove any soot buildup and any other debris that could cause a fire. When the fireplace and chimney are not in use, the flue should be kept closed to ensure that no cold air is coming in through the chimney, which ensures you home remains warm. You could also consider install a chimney inflatable or glass fireplace doors to help block cold air from entering the home from the chimney.

Step #5: Seal Windows and Doors

During the winter, one of the main things in the house that makes it difficult to keep your home warm is gaps around doors and windows. Therefore, you need to go around and see if you feel any drafts around windows and doors. One way to do this is to light a candle and take it around with you. If the flame flickers, then there is a gap that needs to be sealed with caulking or weather stripping. Caulking is generally used around windows and weather stripping is used around doors.  The great news is that this is the easiest and least expensive way to save on your heating bill.

It is worth mentioning that you have older doors and windows, they could be uninsulated doors or single-pane windows, which means that they are inefficient. It may be a good idea to consider upgrading to insulated doors and double or triple-pane windows, as these will help increase the energy-efficiency of your entire home.

You have one other option – add storm doors and windows. If you decide to go this route, you could take the screens off and store them for when spring rolls around them so that you can have them installed and reap their benefits.

Step #6: Clean and Store Lawn Equipment

After you have used all of your summer lawn equipment, it is time to put it all up for the winter. However, before you do so, you need to clean and service all of it. Apart from checking the owner’s manual for each piece of equipment for specific requirements, here are some general guidelines:

  • Empty the fuel. Over time, gas degrades. In addition, ethanol in E10 gas has the ability to damage certain fuel components, including fuel lines, if it left sitting for too long. The best thing you can do is to try to use all of the fuel before the summer season is up. A meat baster can be used to remove any unused fuel, then the engine can be run until it stops. You can dispose of the fuel safely by contacting your local public works or waste management department for assistance.
  • Clean the equipment thoroughly to remove any yard debris and oil. Sharpen the blades, if the equipment has any.
  • Store the equipment in a garage, basement or covered storage shed where it will be safe from harsh weather elements.

Step #7: Stock Up on Cold Weather Fundamentals

It isn’t uncommon for a bad winter storm to hit. When they do, a power outage often comes with it. You want to ensure that you and your family are ready for the worst, which means you need to get an emergency kit together. Everyone will have their own version of an emergency kit, but here are a few basics that you need to have at your home:

  • Non-perishable food for three to five days and one gallon of water per person for each day.
  • A properly-working fire extinguisher.
  • Ice melt, sand, and a shovel, especially if you live in an area prone to snow and ice.
  • An alternative heat source, such as a fireplace, wood-burning stove, or generator.
  • Weather radio.
  • A communication/meeting plan for your family in the event you aren’t together when the storm hits.

If you need help preparing your home for winter, contact us at Frederick Services and we will be happy to help you.

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