How to Prepare Your Home for Winter

As winter draws closer and brings colder weather with it, many homeowners start thinking about home maintenance, which is a great way to protect one of your greatest investments. Most of these steps can be done by homeowners or for a low cost that will ultimately save you time, help you lower utility bills and keep your home safe this winter season.

Check your home’s heating and air conditioning system

Before the coldest days are upon us, have your heating and air system inspected by a reputable HVAC contractor. For around $80 to $100, a technician will inspect your furnace to be sure the system is clean and in good repair. The inspection also measures carbon-monoxide leakage.

Pro tip: find an HVAC problem early during more moderate temperatures and before you are the 100th person in line for repairs when bad weather strikes. Find a heating and air-conditioning contractor that belongs to the Air Conditioning Contractors of America and employs technicians certified by the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) program.

Reverse your ceiling fans

This is an easy trick to keep your heated air closer to you! If your ceiling fan has a reverse switch, use it to run the fan's blades in a clockwise direction after you turn on your heat. Heat rises, so by reversing the direction the fan will produce an updraft and push down the heated air from the ceiling into the room. This is especially useful for rooms with high ceilings and might even enable you to turn down the thermostat a degree or two, saving on those energy costs!

Clean your gutters

The beautiful foliage of fall is now coming off the trees and it’s time to clean those gutters. If your gutters are backed up with detritus, they overflow and water can back up against the house and damage roofing, siding and wood trim, in addition to causing leaks and ice dams.  

While you are cleaning out your gutters, make sure you look for missing or damaged gutters and fascia boards and and make repairs along the way.

Caulk and seal exterior wood around windows and doors

The wood trim around your exterior doors and windows is typically just a thin pine board that deteriorates quickly if not protected. In order to make sure your trim doesn’t rot, keeping it painted and caulked is the best thing you can do! This is a job that most can do themselves and one you will want to do because once the wood is rotted and requires replacement, you will be faced with the cost and the pain to make the repair look good, something even professional struggle with.

Take the time to go around your home and make sure none of the caulk is cracking and your paint is not chipping and flaking away. If it is, scrape away the bad paint or caulk and apply fresh!  Silicone caulk is best for exterior use because it won’t shrink and it is more impervious to the elements. In addition, add weatherstripping as needed around doors.

Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

Most house fires happen during the winter.  Before cranking up the heater and building fires in fireplaces, it is important to check all smoke detectors to make sure they are functional and they have good batteries. Also, it is important to do the same with your carbon monoxide detectors. If your home is not equipped with a carbon monoxide detector, consider getting some. Many companies sell dual smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, which will run you between $25 to $40.

Clean your chimney

Before you start building those cozy winter fires, make sure your fireplace (or any heating appliance burning gas, oil, wood or coal), chimney and vents are clean and in good repair.  This will not only prevent chimney fires, but will also prevent carbon monoxide from creeping into your home.

A good chimney sweep company will make sure the fireplace is safe to use and can also identify maintenance problems. Make sure when you search for a sweep that they are certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America. You can expect to pay between $100 to $300 for a cleaning.

Restock winter essentials

Now is the time to order firewood, as well as other cold-weather essentials such as salt or ice melt.  While you’re at it, stock up on caulking, batteries for smoke detectors and particle filters HVAC system.  Don’t wait until the first storm is upon you to stock up on all your winter needs!

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