Blog written by Guardline.
Being a homeowner is the American dream. Unfortunately, that dream can turn into a nightmare if you don’t stay on top of things. Owning a home comes with a lot of responsibility, from securing your entry points to properly preparing your house and property for the winter. But not to worry, with our home winterization checklist, you’ll be ready for any cold spell.
Keep reading to find out how to make sure that freezing weather doesn’t wreak havoc on your house. We’ll give you cold weather tips for your home to ensure you stay comfortable once the digits drop.
Why Preparing Your House for Winter is Important
Freezing weather can cause many problems, sometimes with expensive consequences. By going through your home winter preparedness checklist before the old season begins, you can save money and avoid the headache of having to deal with an emergency.
Winter not only means cold weather, it can mean significant rainfall in some areas and snow in others. The combination of water and freezing temperatures is a dangerous one, because water tends to get into every crevice and expands when it turns to ice. The force created by this reaction is strong enough to burst pipes and crack concrete.
Besides weather-related damage, you also have malfunctioning appliances to fear. Whether it’s your furnace or your water heater, you want to be sure everything is in good working order before winter arrives. If your heater dies during a cold snap, you may have to wait days or even weeks for a service appointment while resorting to blankets to keep you warm.
Another thing to worry about is wear and tear, especially with the weather stripping around doors and windows, insulation, and your roof. If your home is not adequately sealed, you’ll be losing heat to the exterior and inviting in cold air, water, or even critters looking for a warm winter hideout.
To avoid unwanted surprises and excessive energy bills, follow our home winterization checklist below when preparing for cold weather.
Whether you’re a first-time homeowner or a seasoned pro, getting your house ready for the cold season may seem like a daunting task. That’s when a home winterization checklist becomes handy! Here’s how to prepare for winter in a smart, systematic way.
Home Winterization Checklist
1. Heating System
HVAC specialists recommend to have your furnace inspected by a qualified technician at least every other year. If you’re doing the check-up yourself, here’s what should be on your home winterization checklist:
- Give your system a test run before it gets cold to detect problems early.
- Check your filters and replace them if necessary.
- Inspect and clean your heating vents to ensure proper airflow.
- If you have a propane or oil furnace, check your fuel supply and make sure it is ready to go.
- Test your carbon monoxide monitors and put in a new battery to ensure lasting protection.
- Check exhaust vents and clear them of any obstructions.
2. Air Conditioning System
Just because you won’t be using it for a while doesn’t mean you can just shut your A/C off and forget about it. Before you send it into winter break, make sure the exterior parts are ready to go into hibernation.
Air Conditioning Home Winterization Checklist:
- Hose down the condensing unit to clean dirt and debris off the fan blades and condensing coils.
- Once dry, cover the condensing unit with a breathable, waterproof cover to protect it from rust and freezing.
- If you have window air conditioners, remove them if possible. If they are permanently mounted, close the vents get a cover to reduce heat loss.
Before starting those cozy fires, have your wood fireplace professionally inspected and, if necessary, cleaned by a chimney sweep to make sure it is safe to use. If you decide to do it yourself, here are things to include in your fireplace home winterization checklist:
- Clear obstructions such as bird’s nests or debris buildup from the cap and flue.
- Ensure the flue damper opens and closes properly with a tight seal.
- Check the chimney draft to ensure the smoke rises up rather than wafting into your home.
- Inspect the mortar and brick around the hearth, inside the fireplace and on the chimney to make sure nothing is crumbling or missing.
- For gas fireplaces, check the glass doors for cracks or broken latches, test the igniter and ensure there are no clogged burner holes.
4. Water Pipes
Bursting pipes are a common winter woe. Burst pipes can lead to flooding, mold, and water damage. Winterize your water lines by including the following on your home winterization checklist:
- Shut off the water supply to exterior faucets and open them to drain any remaining water from the line.
- If you can’t turn off the water supply, leave your outside faucets dripping to avoid the water from freezing during arctic temperatures.
- Disconnect garden hoses.
- Insulate exposed pipes – pool noodles work great for this!
- If you own property that will sit empty for the winter months, make sure you shut off the water supply and drain the plumbing system before you make like a snowbird.
Electricity is expensive, and a well-insulated home means more money in your bank. Avoid heat loss and prevent cold drafts with these quick home winterization checklist items:
- Most modern water heaters don’t need extra insulation, but if yours feels hot to the touch, you may want to wrap it with an insulating blanket.
- Check the insulation in your attic to make sure it is adequate and hasn’t suffered any damage from intruding animals.
- Seal exterior outlets and switch plates with inexpensive foam sealing gaskets.
- If you have an unused fireplace, consider closing it off temporarily or permanently.
6. Doors and Windows
Gaps around doors and windows are a common contributor to increased heating bills. Minimize this problem by making sure you have good seals!
Home Winterization Checklist for Doors and Windows:
- Check exterior caulking and fill in any gaps with a quality silicone caulk.
- Inspect the weather stripping around your doors and replace any worn or damaged pieces.
- Clean window tracks of debris that might prevent a tight seal.
- Check the trim around your doors and windows and replace any rotten boards. If needed, apply a coat of paint to protect the wood from the elements.
If your windows and doors are protected by outdoor motion sensors, check the battery before it gets cold so you don’t have to replace it when it’s freezing outside.
A roof leak is without a doubt among the worst winter weather catastrophes. Getting your roof repaired can take weeks, and the damage to your home can be extensive. Not only that, but snow accumulation can lead to collapse and rot for weak roofs. Below are some home winterization checklist items to protect your roof:
- Scanning your roof to look for damaged, loose or missing shingles and making repairs as necessary.
- Inspecting the flashing around chimneys and other projections for potential leaks.
- Cleaning the gutters and downspouts from leaves and debris to avoid clogs that would lead to water backing up.
8. Yard and Driveway
Don’t forget the property around your house when you’re doing your winter preparations! Cleaning out your yard and driveway before the cold season hits can help prevent home damage, and allow for easy home access during snow storms. Give your yard and driveway some TLC to prepare them for the harsh conditions of the cold season with the below home winterization checklist.
- Shut off the water to your sprinkler system, drain the pipes and open the test cocks.
- Patch and seal masonry and hard surfaces, such as concrete cracks, to avoid water from getting in and freezing.
- Check that your water downspouts divert water at least 3-4 feet away from the foundation.
- Trim old tree branches in danger of giving in under the weight of snow.
- Cover your patio furniture to keep them looking their best for longer.
- Store expensive yard care equipment in a garage, basement or shed.
By following the above home winterization checklist, you’ll be in good shape for winter. However, there are a few additional tricks to help you get through the season as comfortably as possible.
What temperature should I keep my house in the winter?
A toasty home comes at a cost. The higher you set your thermostat, the higher your heating bill will be. Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to put up with goosebumps and shivers all winter long. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting the thermostat to 68°F while you're awake to save energy, which is perfect for wearing cozy sweaters around the house.
To save even more, lower the temperature while you're asleep or away from home. Getting a smart thermostat will let you set a schedule and can even automate temperature adjustments based on the location of a linked smartphone. Just make sure you’re not setting the rest of your family up to freeze at home while you and your phone are out and about!
Review the home winterization checklist, above, for tips on preventing drafts and prepping your fireplace for cold weather!
9 Tips To Stay Warm This Winter Without Turning Up The Heat
Increasing the temperature isn’t the only way to stay warm. There are several other ways to help you, and your family, stay cozy without increasing your energy footprint.
1. Reverse Your Ceiling Fan
- Many ceiling fans have a switch to change the direction the blades are turning. Standard fans should turn clockwise in winter and counter-clockwise in the summer for optimal efficiency.
2. Bundle Up
- Dressing in layers is a good way to stay warm and allows you to quickly adjust to different levels of activity.
3. Wear House Slippers
- Grandma was right: You need warm feet! Wearing slippers or thick, non-slip socks around the house will keep you more comfortable all over.
4. Heat Up Your Bed Rather Than Your House
- A cool house may help you sleep, but no one likes getting into a cold bed on a chilly day. Solve this dilemma by pre-heating your bed with an electric blanket, a microwaveable heat pad or a hot water bottle.
5. Let The Sunshine In
- Let the sun have a hand in heating your home. Open your blinds and curtains during the day to allow those rays to warm up your living space the natural way.
6. Drink Hot Tea or Cocoa
- Heat your body from the inside to combat cold on the outside. It works – and who doesn’t enjoy a tasty treat?
7. Increase The Humidity In Your Home
- A higher humidity level may not actually increase the temperature, but it makes a room feel warmer. Get a humidifier for your home, or boil hot water on the stove with some potpourri for an aromatic alternative.
8. Cuddle Up With A Cozy Blanket
- Use the cold weather as an excuse to lounge on the couch, wrapped in fuzzy afghan or weighted blanket for warmth and comfort. Chances are you deserve some time to relax.
9. Stay Active
- Movement will help keep you from turning into a penguin. So whenever you get chilly, get up and go. Dance around the house, do some yoga in the living room, or start dusting – whatever makes your blood flow.
Unless you live a place where seasons don’t exist, proper winter prep is an important part of homeownership that you shouldn’t neglect. Taking good care of your investment will help retain its value and prevents the need for costly repairs. So print out this home winterization checklist and start checking your home inside and out to make sure you’re ready for the cold weather season!
Contributing Writer: Marion Rhodes