Money-Saving Tips to Get Your Home Winter-Ready
Shorter days and plunging temperatures mean that winter is coming. The tendency is to curl up and relax, warm and cosy by the fire. But is your home ready to take on the harsh elements of nature so you can do exactly what you have in mind?
As the coldness looms and you prepare to pump the heat, it's important to protect your home from potential damage and address heat and energy leaks. These seven simple tasks will help you stay warm, safe and energy-conscious this winter.
- Tune up your heating system.
Hire a technician to inspect your furnace or heat pump. For just about $80 to $100, you can have the peace of mind that the system is clean and in good repair, and that it can achieve its manufacturer-rated efficiency. The inspection also measures carbon-monoxide leakage.
- Seal the windows.
It will keep heat in and energy bills low with one (or both) of these two simple tasks. First, caulk the cracks. Sold in temporary or permanent form, caulking is inexpensive and easy to apply. Second, cover your windows in a thin plastic film (available at any hardware store) and tape it down with waterproof double-sided tape, heating the edges with a hair dryer and pressing the protective layer into place. When it gets warmer outside, simply peel the film off, open the window, and let the sun shine in.
- Prevent ice dams.
If your home had lots of icicles last winter -- or worse, ice dams, which can cause melted water to back up and flow into your house -- take steps to prevent potential damage this year.
- Clear out the gutters.
Clogged gutters block the drainage of rain and melting snow, resulting in household leaks and damage to landscape and foundation. As fall sheds its last leaves, grab a ladder, a garbage bag, and some rubber gloves and then dig in. Remove everything, from twigs to leaves to caked-on dirt. Check that the downpipes are clear of obstruction and then ensure the entire system is un-clogged and leak-free by running water through it.
- Hit the roof.
Or at least scan it closely with binoculars. Look for damaged, loose or missing shingles that may leak during winter’s storms or from melting snow. If your roof is flat and surfaced with asphalt and pebbles, rake or blow off fall leaves and pine needles, which hold moisture. Don’t sweep aside the pebbles because that will expose the asphalt to damaging sunlight.
- Prepare for winter storms.
Don't let a blizzard take you by storm―always have a fully-stocked emergency kit at hand. Include batteries, a flashlight, candles, matches and a lighter; warm clothes and blankets; a battery-powered radio; non-perishable food items and water (two litres per adult per day); a first-aid kit and specialty products like medicine, baby formula and pet food (if necessary). Get enough supplies that will last at least three days' worth for everyone in your household.
- Divert water.
Add extensions to downspouts so that water runs at least 3 to 4 feet away from the foundation.
- Don’t forget about heating maintenance.
Have a professional check your heating system and ensure it's in good working order before you turn it on. Schedule checks for your furnace, venting system and chimney. Don't forget to replace the batteries on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, in case any of your heating systems are overworking.
- Turn off exterior faucets.
Undrained water in pipes can freeze, which will cause pipes to burst as the ice expands. Start by disconnecting all garden hoses and draining the water that remains in faucets. If you don’t have frost-proof faucets (homes more than ten to 15 years old typically do not), turn off the shut-off valve inside your home.
- Pad your pipes.
A small frozen pipe can cause big household damage if it bursts, so pad your pipes to prevent floods. Grab some tubular pipe insulation sleeves from your local hardware store and set to task covering exposed pipes in unheated areas, such as a basement, attic, crawl space or cabinet. The pipe sleeves are easy to apply and can be cut to fit. Cover all exposed parts, including bends and joints. Finally, seal the seams with duct tape. With that simple task, you're not only preventing considerable water damage, but also conserving energy.
- Clean out your garage.
Like your traditional spring cleaning, consider scheduling a traditional 'fall cleaning' of your garage. Organize the remains of your summer projects and clean and store gardening tools. Like a seasonal turning of your closet, push what you won't be needing―the lawn-mower, hedge trimmer, rakes and summer toys―to the back and bring any winter necessities―shovels, snow blowers, skis and sleds―to the front. Set out salt and gravel containers, and you'll thank yourself the first time the ice hits.
- Reverse your ceiling fans.
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. Energy Star says the fan will produce an updraft and push down into the room heated air from the ceiling (remember, hot air rises). This is especially helpful in rooms with high ceilings -- and it might even allow you to turn down your thermostat by a degree or two for greater energy savings.