The temperatures are dropping and although we most likely will not see snow this season, it’s smart to prepare our homes for the frigid temps. Let’s explore some of the most sustainable ways you can winterize your home and improve its efficiency so you can feel a little more merry and bright and a little less Srooge.
Here are our top ten, inexpensive winter-proofing ideas:
- Protect your pipes
- Ready your roof
- Clean your gutters
- Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows
- Inspect your fireplace
- Check your insulation
- Change the direction of your ceiling fans
- Prep Your Furnace
- Protect your plants
- Stock up on supplies
1. Protect Your Pipes
Protecting your pipes helps to keep water heating costs low and reduces the risk of your pipes freezing or bursting when temps drop.
Insulating your water heaters and pipes can raise the water temperature of your water between 2 – 4°F. You can use tubular pipe wrap, rolled pipe wrap, pipe sleeves or pipe insulation fittings.
Other ways to protect your pipes in the winter include:
- Detach outdoor garden hoses from outdoor faucets
- Let sinks drip (just slightly) on nights when temperatures drop below freezing
2. Ready Your Roof
There’s never a good time for a roof leak or failure of any kind, but winter might just be the worst time for cold weather states.
It’s best to clean your roof before winter hits to prevent ice buildup that can lead to bigger roof damage. So grab a ladder, some gloves and a roof cleaner and get to work removing debris and washing shingles.
If you have a steep roof or see any signs of mold or mildew, you may want to call in a professional company to avoid the risk of roof failure this winter.
3. Clean Your Gutters
It is important to clean your gutters on a regular basis, as clogged gutters can lead to water damage on your roof.
If you live in an area that sees a lot of rain, snow and/or ice in the winter, your gutters are going to be working overtime to keep that water away from your home. Failing to clean your gutters before winter can lead to:
- Clogged gutters
- Sagging or detached gutters
- Mold build-up
- Ice dams
- Water stains
- Roof leaks
After you’ve cleaned out your gutters, consider installing gutter guards to keep debris out and keep the water draining.
4. Caulk and Weatherstrip Doors and Windows
Doors and windows are like peas and carrots when it comes to energy waste. Especially if you haven’t upgraded to energy-efficient windows or glass.
Add extra protection against that cold winter air by caulking around window and door frames. You can also add weatherstripping, door sweeps or install storm doors. Expanding foam or acrylic-latex caulk are usually the most sustainable caulking options.
5. Inspect Your Fireplace
Have your fireplace inspected and cleaned before the first fire of the season.
Your chimney can be another culprit of energy waste. Be sure to inspect it for any holes or cracks and check that it’s properly secured with roof flashing.
Animal nests and soot buildup can be hazardous to your home and the environment, so be sure to call a chimney professional before lighting a fire. Even electrical fireplaces require regular maintenance and cleaning.
6. Check Your Insulation
Check your insulation.
The Department of Energy says that a properly insulated attic can lower your energy bills by up to 50%. That’s because, without insulation, all the warm air that’s rising in your home is escaping right through the roof.
These are the places where you should check for insulation:
- Attic: Between and over floor joists; around the access door
- Exterior walls: Between living spaces and unheated garages, shed roofs or storage areas; foundation walls above ground level; foundation walls in heated basements
- Floors: Around vented crawl spaces, garages and where they meet the wall
- Windows and doors: Caulk and seal around all openings
7. Change the Direction of Your Ceiling Fans
Did you know that you could change the direction of your ceiling fan to blow warm air instead of cool air?
Most people only use their ceiling fans during the summer months and leave them to collect dust during the winter. But if you flip that little switch, you can circulate warm air into your room.
The counter-clockwise rotation circulates cool air, while a clockwise rotation creates an updraft, which pushes the warm air that has risen back down into the room.
8. Prep Your Furnace
Prepare your furnace for the cold weather by following these tips:
- Clean or replace the furnace filter
- Vacuum the furnace interior
- Check the blower belt and oil the blower motor if necessary
- Make sure the blower doors are working properly
- Ensure vents are clean and not obstructed
- Check exhaust flue (if applicable)
You should have an HVAC technician inspect and perform the necessary maintenance of your furnace and other systems at least once a year.
9. Protect Your Plants
We know some of you plant moms and dads are on top of this, but if you live in an area that drops below freezing, it’s time to bring those potted plants inside.
For plants that stay outside, you can lay down hay or mulch in the soil to insulate the plants and keep them covered with a blanket or soil bag.
10. Stock Up
Stock up on supplies that make sense for your climate. For example, if snow is a possibility, make sure you have shovels, ice scrapers and ice melt.
There are other emergency preparedness items you should always have on hand, including:
- Weather radio
- Emergency car kit
- Water supply
- Canned food
- Pet food
- First aid kit
Winterizing your home is the best way to protect it from the elements and keep your energy costs low. But it’s important to note that sometimes saving money on utility bills means investing some money upfront — like having a professional home energy audit or routine maintenance from an HVAC company.