Fall is here, and for many parts of the country that means it’s time to winterize your home. Prepping your home for cold weather both inside and out can reduce your chances of hefty repair bills or insurance claims.
Get started with these 11 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 home to reduce your risk of foundation damage.
2. Reverse your ceiling fan
You may not think about ceiling fans during 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. Seal attic air leaks
One important task on your fall home maintenance checklist is sealing doors and windows, but you don’t want to stop there. Air leaks in your attic can have a significant impact on how well your house retains heat. According to HouseLogic, up to 30% of a home's heating and cooling is lost because of air leaks.
When looking for leaks, pay attention to gaps of all sizes, from those that are bigger than 1/4-inch, which require more than just caulking, to sealing small cracks around your chimney and flues.
And, while you’re weatherstripping doors and windows, don’t forget to weatherstrip the attic access door. House Logic suggests caulking between the hatch frame and the rough opening or installing foam weatherstripping around the hatch opening.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. Find your shut-off valve
Perhaps the easiest way to winterize your home plumbing is to make sure you and everyone living with you know 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:
Granted, this won’t completely save you from water damage, but it can minimize problems if a pipe bursts.
8. Install a smart thermostat
Did you know that the average single-family home can save approximately 8% on its heating and cooling costs just by installing a programmable thermostat? A thermostat that can be programmed allows you to reduce energy consumption and save money because you can:
Pre-set times for turning the heater on and off. No more forgetting in the morning and then running the heat all day.
Set heating zones around the house. Now you can heat only the areas you use most, rather than keeping that guest bedroom warm all winter long with no visitors.
While you’re at it, set the thermostat to 68° Fahrenheit for your most energy-efficient home. If you get cold at 68°, plan on wearing socks and a sweater in the house. This helps keep you warm and in the cozy winter spirit. It also allows your home to not suck up too much energy while trying to heat it. This will do your part to help the environment too.
9. 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 420 deaths and 100,000 emergency room visits every year.
10. Change the batteries in smoke detectors
Space heaters, candles, fireplaces, and holiday decorations create serious fire risks 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?
11. 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 homeowner's insurance typically covers the cost of many of the potential claims in this list. 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.