This post will help you prepare your home for the winter by giving you tips on what you can do to protect your home and some easy steps on how you can do most of it yourself.
Winterizing your home can help lower the cost of your energy bills, increase the efficiency and lifespan of your home and its components, and make your property safer for you and your family. Your home is one of your biggest investments and by maintaining it regularly you can ensure that you get to enjoy it for years to come.
Below is a list of 9 steps homeowners should take to get their home and its components ready for the winter season:
1. Winterizing your A/C unit
Leaving your A/C unit unprotected during the winter can cause damage to the unit and create rust, so it’s important that you protect it from the cold temperatures and heavy snowfalls that come with the season. Here are 5 easy steps you can take to shelter you’re A/C unit from winter’s harsh conditions:
- Turn the unit off- This will keep the unit from coming on automatically if the temperature were to go up and prevents water from circulating through the unit, which could later freeze and cause damage.
- Clean the unit thoroughly- Using a hose, remove debris such as leaves, twigs, dirt, and anything else that may have come into contact with the unit.
- Insulate pipes- After you’ve cleaned the unit and let it dry cover all the exposed pipes with foam pipe covers (most hardware stores sell them), which will protect the pipes and prevent them from freezing if the temperature drastically drops.
- Cover the unit- Once you’ve protected the pipes from freezing with foam pipe covers you can cover the entire unit itself with waterproof plastic or vinyl sheeting and secure it tightly with bungee cords or rope, making sure the wind doesn’t blow it away. This will help prevent snow and water from getting in the unit.
- Keep an open eye- Throughout the winter season check on you’re A/C unit, especially after any big snow storms, keep it free of heavy snow and ice, and make sure that the protective shielding stays tightly secure.
2. Turn down the temperature of your water heater
If you let the water in your shower run on hot, as hot as it can get, and you put your hand in the stream, your hand is likely to get burned. That is because your hot water heater’s temperature is set to too high and could be costing you a substantial amount of energy and money each year.
Getting hot water when you need it is important, especially in the cold winter months, but you don’t need to have it so hot that it burns you. Lowering the temperature of your hot water heater to 48 degrees Celsius (or 120 degrees Fahrenheit) can bring down your water heating costs by 6%-10% a year. Try not to lower it too much more as you could risk your pipes freezing.
Here’s a step by step guide on how to lower the temperature of your hot water heater:
Electric Tank Water Heaters: Most electric water heaters have two thermostats, one at the top and one at the bottom, both must be set to the same temperature in order work effectively and efficiently, however smaller units may only have one.
- Step 1- Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of your hot water
- Step 2- Turn off the power to the heater by turning off the power in that area of your house via your circuit breaker
- Step 3- Locate the thermostats by un-screwing the access panels and removing insulation if there is any.
- Step 4- Adjust the temperature as you wish
- Step 5- Wait 3-4 hours and test the water to make sure there is a difference in temperature
- Step 1- Use a thermometer to measure the temperature of your hot water
- Step 2- Turn the dial to your desired temperature
- Step 3- Wait 3-4 hours and test the water to make sure there is a difference in temperature
Little, easy to fix leaks can reduce your homes energy efficiency by 5%-30% a year. You’ll want to check areas where two different building materials meet on the outside of your house:
- All exterior corners
- Outdoor water faucets
- Areas where siding and chimney meet
- Areas where foundation and bottom of exterior siding meet
- Electrical outlets
- Switch plates
- Door and window frames
- Electrical and gas service entrances
- Weather stripping around doors
- Fireplace dampers
- Attic hatches
- Wall or window mounted air conditioners
- Cable TV and phone lines
- Where dryer vents pass through walls
- Vents and fans
Close main doors and exterior storm doors and see if they seal tightly and inspect the caulking around all exterior doors and windows. A helpful and easy way to find air leaks is by burning an incense on a windy day. Close all the exterior doors, windows, and fireplace flues and make sure all your combustible appliances are off, things like your furnace or water heater. Turn on all your exhaust fans, bathroom fans, stove top vents, etc. and pass the incense around common leak sites. If the smoke moves, there’s a leak.
4. Insulate your pipes
By insulating your pipes you can end up paying less for your hot water and also help prevent your pipes from freezing, causing you major headaches and costing you lots of money. If your pipes are warm to the touch then it’s a good idea for you to insulate them.
You can purchase pipe foam from most hardware stores, just cut it to size and attach it in place with duct tape. This simple task can also decrease the amount of time you have to wait for the water to get warm too, which can save you time and conserve water. Who doesn’t like to save time and money?
5. Trim nearby trees
Trim down any branches hanging near your roof, windows, or driveway as snow and ice will weigh them down and could possibly cause them to break, potentially causing lots of damage to your home or hurting someone. You can easily trim down the branches yourself if you own a chain saw or a tree pruner, otherwise you can always hire a professional company to do the work for you.
6. Install storm doors and windows
Seal drafts and reduce airflow by installing storm doors and windows. You can increase energy efficiency in your home by up to 45% and help prevent the loss of heat. Installing interior storm windows can also decrease the amount of noise coming in to your home.
7. Clean your chimney
Check to make sure your chimney doesn’t have any debris inside by doing a chimney sweep. This will check the structure of your flue and remove any obstructions or combustibles on your chimney walls, preventing fires from happening.
Removing regular chimney soot can be simple, but if there’s a heavy buildup of creosote you’ll want to call in a professional to do the job.Take a flashlight and fire poker and shine the light up your chimney flue, use the fire poker to scratch the surface. If the soot looks matte black and has a thickness of 1/8 of an inch deep or less and you’re comfortable working on top of your roof then you can do it yourself. If the soot buildup is deeper and has a shiny, tarlike appearance you’ll want to consider getting a professional to clean it for you.
Below are steps you can take to clean your own chimney yourself, once deemed fit:
- Step 1- Get the right tool for the job; if your flue liner is made of clay you will need to use a metal bristle brush, if your flue liner is made of metal than you’ll want to use a plastic bristle brush
- Step 2- Tape some poly sheeting or a tarp to the opening of your fireplace keeping it sealed tight with duct tape to help keep the inside of your house clean from soot falling down
- Step 3- Starting from the roof, insert the brush inside your chimney flue, making up and down movements to remove any soot or debris, in small sections
- Step 4- Take your flashlight and inspect the section, once it’s cleaned extend the brush and keep going until you’ve fully cleaned the flue
- Step 5- Remove a small section of the poly sheeting or tarp and use the brush to clean the inside of the smoke chamber
- Step 6- Clean the entire firebox out, using a vacuum to suck up all the soot
- Step 7- Remove the poly sheeting or tarp and you’re done
8. Clean your gutters
Cleaning your gutters of debris and buildup can prevent ice from forming, blocking water from draining. Water will eventually start pooling and can seep inside your home causing water damage and costing you lots of time and money. Cleaning your gutters is pretty easy, as long as you’re not afraid of heights:
- Step 1- Wear a long-sleeved shirt and rubber gloves
- Step 2- Use a sturdy, extendable ladder and place it firmly against your home
- Step 3- Using a plastic scoop (or your hands), remove any debris you can see
- Step 4- Flush out the rest by using a hose, while paying attention for any leaks
House fires and carbon monoxide leaks tend to happen more during the winter as homeowners run their furnaces and boilers overtime to keep warm. Ensure that both your fire and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly and have fully charged batteries. Most detectors come with testers so take the time and regularly test yours and change the batteries when needed by popping off the top of the detector.
As with any home project, safety should be your number one concern. For people who are comfortable, these fixes should be simple enough for them to tackle. But if you're not comfortable on ladders, are afraid of heights, or uncomfortable using specific tools, don't take any unnecessary risk. Look in your local classifieds (online or print) or ask neighbours to recommend a professional to tackle some of these jobs for you.
Stay safe and warm this winter!
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