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Winterizing Your Home

Winterizing your home is one of the best ways to stay comfortable and save energy costs. To get ready, you can do a few to-dos on the weekends in late summer and early fall.

Check the furnace. Typically, a heating system has a heat/cold source, distribution system, and thermostat, so there is plenty of room for error. Make sure that your system is properly inspected before cold weather begins when service providers aren’t as busy. Since a good number of homes use gas-based heating, it makes sense to check for gas leaks with a professional.

Your system may also require duct cleaning. Make sure year-round that you change furnace filters according to maintenance directions.

Check detectors. Since you’ll be indoors more during cooler weather, it makes sense to also check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. According to the EPA.gov website, smoke detectors with a UL rating have a useful life of 10 years so don’t just push the button to see if it’s working. Stick a real flame source, such as a candle or a match, to see if the detector can pick up on the smoke being emitted.

Check attic insulation. Energy leaks put a hole in your wallet, so do your best to identify and seal all leaks in your ceiling/attic and cracks in or around your windows and doors. A quick way to check if you have enough insulation is to go into your attic and look at your rafters-if you can see ceiling joists you can add some more insulation. Though this will be an expensive process, your heating costs will plummet right away.

Check plumbing pipes. Wrapping piping in insulation is also a great way to avoid a “pound of cure,” like the old saying goes. This process will prevent pipes from bursting if you have a freeze. Be especially aware of pipes in areas that aren’t heated as your garage, crawlspaces or garden spigots.

There are two main types of protection you can place on your pipes- the first is covering your pipes with regular insulation with either pre-molded foam rubber sleeves or fiberglass insulation. The second way is more necessary if you live in a much colder part of the country. Wrap your pipes in electric heating tape-essentially you’re putting an electrical cord around your pipes that emits heat. This process is more expensive as you will undoubtedly need to wrap the pipe in foam rubber sleeves as well to guarantee the safety of your pipes.

Check doors and windows. This is something you can do during inclement weather when you’re stuck indoors. Check every window and exit door for peeling caulk, cracks, loose or torn weather-stripping, and gaps possibly due to moisture encroachment. Even if the windows look good, you should check for invisible air leaks using a candle or lighter. 

Check gutters. The benefits of keeping your gutters maintained before and during the thick of winter are many. It keeps them in alignment more easily. A clean drainage system keeps water from seeping into your foundation, which can cause underground pipes to freeze. Excess water that can’t escape from your drainage system will find other places to go, i.e. leaking into your house causing water stains on ceilings, mold and any other possible damage.

Check the roof. If you can see decay from the ground without climbing on top of the roof, it’s time to have your roof inspected by a reputable roofing contractor. You may have damage from a recent storm. Otherwise, look at your roof slowly through a pair of binoculars and search for missing, broken, or buckling shingles; loose chimney and eave flashing; and signs of mold.