Are you a new home owner? Is this your first winter in the northern part of the country? Your house takes on a whole new meaning when it’s what is standing between you and below zero temps, howling winds and piles of snow.
In this post, I want to give you some tips for winterizing your home and heading off potential trouble right when you want it least. These aren’t in any particular order, and almost all of them are easy to accomplish, but NOT doing them can lead to a world of hurt.
Tune up your furnace. Have someone come out and service it and make sure that it’s functioning well. One thing you’ll notice is that furnaces malfunction at the very worst of times – probably because a lot more is being asked of them when it’s very cold and you want this to be the time when your furnace rises to the challenge.
If you have a high efficiency gas furnace, you will have 2 PVC pipes that exhaust out the side of your home. It is really important that these two pipes are free of any obstructions. And if snow gets high enough, you’ll want to make sure that the snow isn’t blocking them either.
Make sure you change the filter, and change it monthly when the weather gets cold and it’s running. Contrary to common belief – you want a thinner filter! We had been spending all kinds of money on “good filters” only to be told by our furnace tech that it actually inhibits airflow and that is BAD for the furnace – you want dirt filtered out but AIR going in for best results.
Boilers that service radiators need attention too! Once a year before it gets cold have someone take a look.
Clean and inspect your chimney. If you have a wood burning stove or fireplace, before you light a fire make sure that the chimney is CLEANED. Soot builds up in the chimney and it is flammable – everyone wants to be able to put their feet up in front of the fire, but no one wants a chimney fire.
Check the batteries and AGE of your CO/smoke detectors. Winter is when carbon monoxide poisonings are most likely to happen. Make sure your batteries are functioning – we like to change them at the fall time change.
Your detectors should have a date on them, but if not know that they should be replaced every 10 years just due to the fact that dust builds up and makes them less dependable. And if it’s time to replace them – think about going with the photoelectric instead of ionization type of detector. I’ve seen demos of the difference and it can be 15 minutes more escape time gained with a photoelectric alarm.
Turn off exterior water. Before it gets truly cold, shut off water to hoses. And if you have pipes that run along exterior walls INSIDE the house – think about putting some insulation around them. Pipes can & do freeze in winter, and when this happens the water doesn’t stay inside the pipe, it flows freely throughout your walls and causes a LOT of damage. This 10 minute task will bring you a lot of peace of mind.
Clean your gutters. When all of that snow and ice melts – it needs a place to go. You want your gutters to be able to guide it AWAY from your house. Having them clean is the way to go.
Cover the TOP of your AC unit. if you have central air, don’t put a full cover over the compressor (it will attract animals looking for shelter and hold moisture in), but if you set a piece of plywood on top and put a couple of bricks on it, it keeps things from getting into the unit.
Change the rotation of your ceiling fans. Fans can switch direction, heat rises and you stay down by the floor, so if you have tall ceilings, change the setting so that the fan rotates CLOCKWISE and the warm air will be pushed downward toward where people are.
Stock up on GRIT. In MN, that’s what they call it. It’s a mix of sand that you can scatter on your sidewalks and driveway to keep yourself from wiping out. I have a friend who broke her ribs trying to walk to her car because of ice. I highly recommend trying to AVOID this with liberal use of GRIT.
Air Seal. This one… is not really DIY, but I dream of doing it to my house because I fear ice dams which are caused when heat gets into attics and melts snow which then freezes on the edge of the roof. This can cause a lot of problems that I don’t want to have. And it takes a suprisingly small amount of heated air to create this issue, so if you can have someone crawl around up in your attic and seal up any hole from wiring, pipes or chimneys that allows warm air up there, you can potentially save yourself a roof and ceiling if winter conditions cause ice dams.