Is your hose unhooked from the outside of your house? Is your ceiling fan blowing upward? Are your gutters cleaned? If you want to make sure your home is ready for winter and avoid annoying, dangerous and costly problems due to cold weather, check this list to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything important.
Winter Maintenance Inside the House
Protect Your Pipes
Insulate any pipes on outside walls and in uninsulated spaces, such as crawlspaces and attics. Insulate them with foam insulation at a minimum. Ideally, you should wrap them with electrical heating tape first, then insulate them. Pipe insulation is cheap and easily available at home improvement stores. Fixing frozen pipes and the leaks they cause is not cheap.
Fix Leaky Windows and Doors
Caulk around windows and doors and use weatherstripping. Install foam outlet insulators to prevent cold air from entering your home through electrical outlets.
Check Attic Insulation
Because heat rises, the biggest heat loss typically occurs through the attic. If your home feels cold and drafty or heating bills are high, check to make sure that you have enough insulation.
Reverse Your Ceiling Fan Direction
To help circulate warm air away from the ceiling and down to the living spaces flip the switch on your ceiling fan to reverse the direction the fan blades spin. When looking up at your fan, the blades should spin in a clockwise direction. In the summer, you want the fan to blow air straight down, so the blades need to turn in a counterclockwise direction. The warmer it is, the higher the speed should be.
Check your Fireplace
Small animals build nests and creosote builds up in your fireplace over time. Have an annual inspection before building your first fire of the season. Also check to make sure the damper is closed when not in use so precious hot air is not lost up the chimney.
Change Your Thermostat
If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, add it to your to-do list. Programmable thermostats let you customize your schedule to save money on heating and cooling bills. It will pay for itself in energy savings in the first year of use.
Activate Your Humidifier
If you have a humidifier attached to your furnace, make sure it is turned on for winter. Check the drain line to make sure it is clear and the filter to make sure it is clean. Check to make sure that the humidistat is calling for humidity when the furnace is running. Open the water supply to the humidifier and turn the power on to the furnace. When the furnace begins running, the humidistat should call for humidity, the solenoid valve should open, and water should come out of the water inlet tube and drain into the humidifier drain. If it doesn’t, you may need service.
Change Batteries in Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
This is a good time of year to change the batteries in your smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector to ensure they work properly when needed.
Test Your Sump Pump
Look for signs of moisture. Open the lid and pour a five-gallon bucket of water into the sump pit. I should activate. If nothing happens and the pump doesn’t turn on, you may need service.
If your sump pump runs often, you may want to consider purchasing a battery backup sump pump to avoid disaster.
Outside Home Maintenance
Turn off the water supply to exterior faucets, drain the water from the hose and disconnect it from the outdoor faucet. You may also want to consider an insulated cover for the outdoor faucet for extra protection.
Clean the Gutters
Leaves and debris that accumulates in your gutter can cause clogs and ice dams which can damage your roof and shingles, cause leaks in your ceiling and can also be dangerous for people passing under your eaves.
Drain Your Sprinkler System
Make sure you do this before the first hard freeze. Be sure all of the water is out so underground pipes won’t freeze and break.
Bring in Outdoor Furniture/Planters
Freezing temperatures, snow, and ice can damage outdoor furniture, clay pots, grills, etc. If you have room, store them in the garage, basement, or garden shed. Otherwise, cover them to reduce damage from the elements. If you have a gas grill with a propane tank, close the tank valve and disconnect the tank first. It must be stored outside.
Stock up on Snow & Ice Gear
Ice melt, shovels, gloves, etc. all sell out with the first big snow. Make sure you have yours BEFORE the first snowstorm or you may be left high and dry with slippery sidewalks and deep snow. If you have a snow blower, inspect it before the first snowfall to ensure it’s working properly.
Don’t Forget Your Vehicle
If you change your tires to winter tread, change them now. Carry sand or kitty litter for traction in case you get stuck on ice or snow-packed roads. Create an emergency kit in your car in case you get stuck or stranded in cold weather. Include gloves, boots, blanket or sleeping bag, shovel, ice scraper, flashlight and extra batteries, sand or kitty litter for traction, a tow chain or rope, jumper cables, cell phone adapter to plug into car, snacks like granola bars or energy bars and bottled water.