Turn your calendars to December everybody! If you think you‘ve seen the worst that winter has to offer this past cold, blustery, snowy November, just wait till you see what the “real” winter months have in store for you and your home!
Predictions are for a winter similar to what we had last year. Are you ready? (Many of you were caught by surprise when the snow came hard and heavy in mid-November). If not, you still have time to get ready. December weather fluctuates quite a bit and, unless you live in Alaska, there should be plenty of days to take precautions against cold weather damage that can occur with subfreezing temperatures.
The first thing to do is put your storm windows in. Ever try to put them in when its 20 degrees outside? Not good…for the furnace or your heating bills. Along those same lines, if you have a window air conditioner, either take it out or put a fitted air conditioner cover over it.
Your flowers and grass will not need to be watered anytime soon (5-6 months), so purge your sprinkler system to avoid having the pipes freeze and burst. You‘ll have a heckuva time trying to find the source of your sprinkler system problems next spring.
Have a service professional check your furnace. If you know what you‘re doing, you can do it yourself. If you‘re not absolutely, positively, 100% sure, call someone who is. When things go wrong with the furnace when it‘s freezing outside, things can get freezing inside pretty quickly. If you have a propane or oil furnace, make sure to have your fuel storage tank topped off and ready to go.
Planning on using your fireplace this winter? Check to make sure the chimney is clear of any nests or other obstacles. Open the fireplace damper, hold some lighted newspaper inside, and watch to see that smoke rises up and out of the chimney.
Cold weather can wreak havoc on your plumbing. Water in pipes can freeze and burst, causing quite a bit of damage to your home and your wallet!
To prevent burst pipes, insulate any water or drain piping that is exposed to the cold weather. You can find them in uninsulated spaces such a crawlspace, attic, outside walls, etc. You can wrap them with insulating tape or styrofoam.
Turn off the water supply to your exterior faucets and drain them by opening the spigot. Disconnect your garden hoses and drain them if you store them outside. It is a good idea to put pipe wrapping and insulating tape on the exterior faucets. You can never be too safe when trying to prevent burst pipes!
How is our home insulation? Your wall insulation? Your attic insulation? Having adequate insulation in these areas is critical to the comfort of your family and the safety of your living space. Many homes built before 1980 do not have any insulation at all—simply because it was not required by law before then. Other homes have insulation that was poor to begin with or has deteriorated or settled over time. Cold spots in your walls are a sure sign that your home is not properly insulated. You can have an insulation or energy professional come to your home and check your walls for you. Sometimes they will use a thermal gun to identify cold areas in your walls.
Having adequate attic insulation is important for not only keeping cold air out of your home, but also for preventing dangerous icicles and ice dams from forming on your roof and gutters.
Air sealing can close any gaps that insulation does not cover. Heat can escape from areas inside your walls that are around pipes, wall fixtures, and other places. You can go to your hardware store for air sealing materials, or you can call a professional who will likely do a more thorough and durable job than you can do yourself. Infiltration of cold air from air leaks around doors and windows can usually be stopped with simple weather-stripping.
These are a few of the most important things you can do to protect your home and family this winter. Of course, they‘ll also help to significantly lower your energy bills. Don‘t get caught with your insulation down—winterize ASAP and avoid the hassle and costs that come from a cold home and serious damage to your property.