10 quick ways to winterize your home

Fri Dec 10 2021

yellow two-story house with a hip shape roof and a snowy front yard

Many parts of the country have already seen their first snowfall of the year, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to winterize your home. You can still prep your home for cold weather, both inside and out, to reduce your chances of hefty repair bills or insurance claims.

Get started with these 10 easy ways to winterize your home to keep you cozy until spring.

1. Clean your gutters

Winter snow and rain can overwhelm your gutters, especially if they're full of leaves and debris. Cleaning your gutters helps ensure that water from rain and melting snow or ice flows away from your house. While you’re at it, make sure your downspout also pushes water far from your foundation to reduce your risk of water damage.

2. Reverse your ceiling fan

You may not think about ceiling fans as part of your winter preparations, but they can help with heating. Just reverse your fan so that it rotates clockwise and pushes warm air down. You can usually do this on a pull chain fan by pushing the reversal switch found on the body of the fan. Some fans have reversal switches on their remotes or wall switches.

3. Install new weatherstripping

Drafts can do a number on your heating bill. But weatherstripping on doors and windows can only eliminate drafts if it hasn’t worn down or fallen off. Take a look at your weatherstripping and replace it if you see missing chunks or light shining through when the door or window is closed.

4. Install electrical outlet gaskets

Another way to stop cold air from coming into your home (and your hard-earned dollars from going out) is to buy foam rubber outlet gaskets. Outlets typically sit in junction boxes that have holes for wires, and that allows a surprising amount of cold air to sneak in. Prevent air leaks by removing the cover plate, pressing the gasket in place, and replacing the plate.

5. Winterize home plumbing

Pipes can freeze during winter months – yes, even if you live in the South. Just look at Texas in February 2021 – a cold snap caused frozen pipes to burst throughout the state. Surprisingly, homes in warmer climates may have even more risk because builders are less likely to properly insulate pipes.

Long story short, every homeowner should take steps to winterize their home plumbing. This may include:

  • Insulating pipes. Cover pipes in exterior walls or uninsulated attics and basements with foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves. These are available at most hardware stores.
  • Leave taps on. If you face a particularly harsh cold snap, you may be able to prevent frozen pipes by leaving faucets on just enough to let out a trickle of water.
  • Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses. Leaving exterior hoses connected may allow ice to build up, which can lead to interior plumbing problems.
  • Cover outdoor faucets. Winter covers for your exterior faucets are an inexpensive way to winterize your home plumbing.

While you're at it, be sure to prepare your septic tank for winter, too.

6. Find your shut-off valve

Perhaps the easiest way to winterize your home plumbing is to make sure you and everyone living with you knows how to shut off your water supply. Find both the main shut-off valve as well as the shut-off valves on your other fixtures, such as your:

  • Water heater.
  • Dishwasher.
  • Sinks.
  • Toilets.

Granted, this won’t completely save you from water damage, but it can minimize problems if a pipe bursts.

7. Install a smart thermostat

Installing a smart thermostat that keeps your home at the right temperature no matter what’s going on can reduce your energy consumption and your energy bill. Program it to kick in when you’re about to get up in the morning so the home is warm and set it to turn temperatures down while you’re asleep or at work.

8. Get a heating system tune-up

Every aspect of your heating system needs an annual check up performed by a professional technician. Regular maintenance can reduce heating costs, improve air quality, and prevent breakdowns. Most importantly, a professional HVAC technician can identify issues that may lead to carbon monoxide leaks, a problem that leads to 430 deaths and 50,000 emergency room visits every year.

9. Change the batteries in smoke detectors

Space heaters, candles, fireplaces, and holiday decorations create serious fire risk during the winter months. You already test (or should test) smoke detectors once every month, so why not take the onset of the winter holidays as a cue to change the batteries?

10. Trim trees and branches

Trimming trees reduces the chance of a branch breaking and falling on your home, car, or fence. Before the onset of serious snow, late fall or early winter in many areas of the county, is a good time to trim back branches. That’s when many trees are dormant, and trees have bare branches so pruning is easier.

Depending on the circumstances and your policy, your homeowners insurance typically covers the cost of many of the potential claims in this list (even including some of those caused by a pipe burst). However, the last thing you want is to have a claim during the harsh winter months. Do what you can to prevent a claim from happening in the first place.