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4 Ways to Get Your Home Ready for Winter

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4 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Winter

Winter is my least favorite time of year. I’m not overly fond of being cold, and I loathe driving in snow and ice. Plus, when you live in a climate that experiences heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures, winter means doing some serious planning — you have to prepare your home and your family for inclement weather. After years of winter prep, I’ve pretty much boiled it down to four steps.

It starts with inspecting your heating systems.

Service Your Systems

When the temperature drops, the last thing you want to happen is to be caught without heat. At the beginning of the season, make an appointment to have your furnace and ductwork examined by a professional. This will not only ensure that it’s in good working order, it will also help you catch any problems before there’s a breakdown. Furthermore, annual servicing will prolong the furnace’s life and keep it running more efficiently.

Don’t forget to change your filters! Dirty filters put a strain on the system, wasting energy and costing you more money. By keeping filters fresh, you’ll see more efficiency and better air quality.

If you have — and use — a fireplace, it’s imperative you maintain it. Chimney fires occur most frequently during the winter months, and can be incredibly serious. Using a flashlight, look inside the chimney for build-up, obstructions, and obvious cracks. Establish that your damper opens and closes freely, and seals tightly. Then, thoroughly clean the ashes from the fireplace. Next, go outside and check the chimney for broken bricks and crumbling mortar, and repair as needed. Finally, be sure to have your chimney professionally cleaned every other year.

Since many people use alternate heating sources during the winter –sometimes without taking the necessary safety precautions — house fires can pose an additional risk. For added safety, replace the batteries in both your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Keep multiple fire extinguishers on hand, and train all occupants of the house on how to use them.

Prep Your Pipes

Winter weather can wreak havoc on plumbing pipes. If they freeze and burst, you can expect both flooding and water damage — and that’s no fun at all.

Start outside the house with your spigots. If you don’t have frost-proof spigots installed, you’re going to need to find the water shutoff for all outside lines and turn it off. Since a frozen garden hose can burst an interior pipe by expanding and increasing pressure throughout the whole system, you’ll want to disconnect, drain, and store all hoses before the first freeze. Next, open and drain spigots, and install a faucet insulator. If you have a sprinkler system, hire a professional to blow out the lines with an air compressor — this will ensure they don't burst.

Inside, you’ll want to focus on plumbing pipes in unheated areas, such as attics, crawl spaces, and garages. If you live in a moderately cold climate, you can use inexpensive polystyrene insulation, which has a slit in the middle and will slip right over the pipe. If you live in a severe climate, use thermostatically controlled heat tape to wrap problem pipes. Once you insulate, your hot water heater will get a much needed break as the heat in the pipes will stay much longer.

Be Energy Efficient (and Cozy)

No matter how efficient your furnace is, drafts and leaks are capable of making it work much harder. Seeing that even the tiniest gap around a window frame can let in a surprising amount of cold air, you’re going to want to do a thorough sweep of your home, hunting for cracks, gaps, and leaks. Using a candle flame or digital thermometer, check every window, door, skylight, and vents. Pay close attention to the siding and foundation. Pull back attic insulation to seal cutouts in drywall for electrical fixtures, pipes, fans and outlets. Use caulk for small cracks and foam sealer for bigger gaps.

Even after weatherstripping and caulking, older windows can still be drafty. Luckily, proper curtains and shades can help prevent heat loss — they are remarkably insulating! Close your curtains (or lower the shades) at night and when you’re away to conserve heat in the home. It’s also helpful to install door sweeps to stop drafts from entering your home under exterior doors.

If your heat ducts are leaky, you’re going to have a hard time keeping the house warm — not to mention a much higher higher utility. You can improve their effectiveness by wrapping exposed ducts in unheated areas of the house (attic, crawl space, unfinished basement, garage) with precut insulation, which will wrap right around them. Next, direct your attention to the places where ducts, vents, and registers meet floors, walls, and ceilings. If you detect any leaks or gaps, seal them with mastic, rather than duct tape.

If your thermostat isn’t programmable, replace it. Not only will it be affordable and easy to install, it will save you a lot of money. Set your thermostat to 68 degrees when you’re occupying the house, and 60 degrees when you will be away for more than eight hours. Simply by turning your thermostat down 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours, you can save 5 to 15 percent per year on your heating bill. Give your furnace a little boost by setting your ceiling fan blades to move clockwise — this will lift cool air to the ceiling and push heated air down where you can enjoy it.

Finally, if at all possible, install a smart meter. Thanks to their numerous money saving benefits, the number of smart meter installations in the country is growing rapidly. Smart meters work by digitally sending meter readings to your energy supplier. This allows for more accurate billing (no more estimates), and a better understanding of your energy usage. Using the meter display, you can see the impact your energy habits have on your bill, and make smarter decisions to save both money and energy.

Prepare for Winter Storms

And now we come to the worst part of winter — the terrifying (and sometimes debilitating) snow and ice storms. While most snow storms are just inconveniences, they can occasionally cause some serious problems. That’s why it’s always a good idea to be prepared for being snowed in.

Stock your pantry with at least three days worth of supplies for every member of the household — although I feel a week’s worth is better. You’ll need non-perishable food, bottled water (two litres per adult per day), baby supplies, pet food, and a manual can opener. Put together an emergency kit, and keep it all in one place where it can be easily accessed — for instance in a storage locker in the garage. You emergency kit should include:

  • Rock salt and sand
  • Snow shovels
  • Dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace or wood-burning stove
  • Extra blankets
  • Battery powered radio
  • First aid kit
  • Candles
  • Matches/lighter
  • Flashlight
  • Batteries

You should also keep extra medicine on hand, both over the counter and prescription.

If temperatures drop below 25 Fahrenheit, turn on all faucets to the point where they’re barely dripping. Also, set your thermostat set as high at night as you normally have it during the day. While both of these actions may cause your bills to be a bit higher, they will keep your pipes from freezing.

In the event of a power outage, place rolled towels at the bottoms of doors that have gaps, cover single paned windows with blankets, and close doors to unused rooms. If an extended power outage is expected, store frozen food outside and refrigerated food in the garage as both will be colder than your unpowered fridge.

Winter is definitely a pain, but it doesn’t have to result in high power bills, burst pipes, or dangerous fires. By properly preparing your home for the chilly months, you can save money and avoid disaster. So grab a cup of hot chocolate and start making some plans!

Liz Greene is a dog loving, beard envying, pop culture geek from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch up with her latest misadventures on Instant Lo or follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene.


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4 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Winter


  1. We don’t prefer extremes. Neither hot nor cold. To deal with such circumstances, we should equip our home effectively. Don’t be dare to try a measure of your own, it might backfire. You should consult with eminent professionals. They can suggest you how to take care of certain appliances and plumbing pipes. They also give you few energy consumption tips. As a result, your energy bill gets reduced somewhat by 10-20%. The post also covers everything from A to Z. It signifies the author’s passion and skill in this area.

  2. Completely agree with you Liz! But to be better prepared for the storms, home owners must also get their roof checked to ensure that there are no damages, which might get aggravated when the hail storm will fall on them.

  3. I really like your tip about wrapping exposed ducts in cooler areas of your house like the crawl space or garage using precut insulation. My husband and I would love to have a more energy efficient home. With winter fast approaching, we want to make sure our furnace is working properly. We may need to have a professional come out and make sure everything is fine. I don’t want our heat to go out in the middle of winter.

  4. My husband and I are thinking about relocating, but it will take us to an area that has severe weather during the winter. It didn’t even cross my mind that we should purchase a generator; I had no idea that the power could go out during the winter. It is important that our family stays warm during potential storms. Thanks for the insight!

  5. Condensation can occur on the inside surface of a roof or ceiling at any time when the temperature of the surface is at or below the dew-point of the air in contact with it. Golden Fleece insulation raises the temperature on the insulated surface above the dew-point temperature.

  6. Additionally, I also make sure to insulate my garage wall well because my husband and I do a lot of wood working projects in there. Without proper insulation the garage heater bills are off the roof

  7. Insulating can cut the cost of heating and cooling by over 40%. Insulating the ceiling of a house has the potential to save 20-30% on heating and cooling bills. Heating and air conditioning units don’t have to run as hard or as long to achieve the desired  temperature in the building.

  8. Thanks for sharing this amazing and informative blog. Making your car ready for the winters is truly important especially getting the winter tires. This is the first thing that I do as soon as the winter begins.

  9. This is some really good information about how to get your home ready for winter. I liked what you said about how you should get some rock salt or sand for melting ice. It might be smart to get insulation for your home.

  10. Nice article on how to get ready for winter. Water heaters indeed are crucial during this time of the season. I recently stumbled across verellen home comfortand bought a new tankless water heater recommended from there. It is working perfectly!

  11. Winter is one season we need to prepare. Yes, we are delighted what winter brings. However, it’s a dilemma with most house owners. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about preparing your home for winter.

  12. Adjust your water heater. The recommended temperature for most water heaters is 120°. If your water heater is set too hot, it will not only waste energy, but can be a safety hazard.

  13. Great tips. However, instead of a shovel, I’d recommend a snow blower. It doesn’t have to be pricey; we have affordable models that will simplify your work instead of shoveling.

  14. Really a good article for the peoples those are new to snow area and inexperienced. With the help of this article they can ready itself for the winter season. I will also suggest your article points to my Younger brother who recently shifts in a snow area.

  15. Really a good article for the peoples those are new to snow area and inexperienced. With the help of this article they can ready itself for the winter season. I will also suggest your article points to my Younger brother who recently shifts in a snow area.

  16. Hi!
    Thank you for sharing this. Winters can definitely become really tough and these tips might actually help us survive through the hard weather. One question though, how would you suggest to clean the fireplace properly?

  17. A helpful resource to choose the right info for my work. This was simply a great post. I loved all the photographs. Yes, Sears #DistinitionDad may be spot on. Our local stairs have only recently closed and unfortunately we are no longer on the edge. Once we did that though, my husband always used to play kid in the candy shop when we got there.

  18. I’ll be moving into a new apartment next month, and the landlord had informed me that it was a newly built flat so it doesn’t have a heating system installed yet. I can’t really stand low temperatures and wasn’t even able to move around during chilly mornings, so I’d have to contact a good contractor soon. It’s great that you emphasized on the tiny details to make sure that the heating system that will be installed will work well, such as checking for cracks, gaps, and leaks. I will apply all your ways once I have mine installed.

  19. Heating maintenance!! Make sure you either check over your home’s heating system yourself or hire an HVAC contractor to do it for you. A big mistake I won’t make again lol

  20. If you want to be ready for winter, first you should check your heating and air conditioning system. Before the weather turns cold, take this time to change your filters, at the very least. I recommend having the system inspected by a reputable HVAC contractor. Better yet, look into an annual maintenance agreement. Have the contractor check your system and make sure your heat is going to work when you need it. It’s much better to find an HVAC problem in the moderate temperatures of the fall than it is to find your furnace doesn’t work on a frigid winter day.

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