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How to Winterize Your Home

It is easy to forget or ignore the importance of preparing your home for the colder season.  The holidays bring time with friends around the fireplace or cozying up under a blanket with the family while watching Christmas movies. However, as the days get shorter and the nights get colder, you will want to be prepared to avoid uncomfortable surprises or expensive repairs.  Winterize your home with a few tasks that will guarantee that you stay secure at home and enjoy a peaceful winter season, making the most of your house’s efficiency.

  1. Check windows and doors for air leaks

Lower temperatures mean higher thermostat settings.  To keep cold air out and utility bills in check, you should check all of your windows and doors for air leaks.  If your issues are minor, a few DIY options to fix leaky doors and windows include caulking around gaps, adding or updating the weatherstripping, and using foam sealant.  However, if you have major gaps or just want peace of mind that leaks are sealed properly, call a professional.


  1. Run ceiling fans in reverse 

Now is the perfect time to start thinking about reversing the direction of your ceiling fans.  Remember heat rises.  Reversing the direction of your ceiling fans helps circulate warm air near the ceiling back into your living space. This can cut your heating costs by as much as 10%.  During the colder season your ceiling fan should run clockwise at a low speed.  This will gently draw the room air up towards the ceiling and force the warm air down and out towards the wall avoiding giving you the wind chill effect.


  1. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

It’s easy to forget about smoke and carbon monoxide detectors unless a cooking disaster sets off the alarm.  As we approach this time of year, it’s important to test these alarms and detectors, as well as replace those that are 10 or more years old.  We also suggest replacing all the batteries for these devices at one time.  This is a quick and easy task most homeowners can do themselves. Simply press and hold down the “test” button for a few seconds on each of your detectors. If working properly, these detectors will emit a loud ping or siren.   If the sound is weak or not there at all, you should replace the batteries and test the detector once more to ensure it’s working properly.  If there is still no sound after replacing the batteries, replace the entire device.


  1. Schedule a HVAC tune-up

Don’t wait to schedule a tune-up until you need your heat.  If you have any issues, you’ll want to know before the temperature drops and you find yourself shivering in your house.  When you turn on your heat for the first time during the colder seasons, listen for strange noises, such as booming, clicking, and squealing.  Also pay attention to any odd odors.  If you notice anything unusual, call an HVAC professional right away.  You should change your HVAC filters monthly.  You can also vacuum dust and debris from and around the HVAC unit and vent to help it operate like new.  Even if you change your filter regularly, it’s a good idea to schedule an HVAC tune-up.  A professional can inspect the system and ensure it is working properly and efficiently before the colder weather sets in.


  1. Clean the chimney

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, now is a great time to give it a thorough cleaning and inspection.  Maintaining a clean fireplace is the simplest and best way to remove creosote, a byproduct of wood combustion that contains tar and toxins.  Eliminating this from the chimney liner and the smoke box reduces the risk of a fire.

You can most likely handle this task on your own if you have been keeping up with cleaning your chimney on a yearly basis.  Just make sure you feel capable and comfortable using an extension ladder to get to the roof and scrub the chimney.  If you haven’t cleaned the chimney in a long time, it is recommended that you call an expert to do a thorough cleaning and inspection.


  1. Winterize your sprinkler system and faucets

It’s a good idea to winterize your outdoor irrigation system to prevent damage from freezing water. This process clears leftover water from the pipes in your irrigation system.  Due to the need for high pressure to clear water out of the lines, winterizing sprinkler systems is not a typical DIY project.  However, if you’re handy and you have the right equipment (including an air compressor) it is possible to tackle this project on your own.

You should also cover your exterior faucets with an insulated faucet sock or faucet cover.  Although these covers don't create any heat of their own, they do trap a small amount of heat radiating from the house, and this is usually enough to prevent the faucet from freezing and bursting.


  1. Disconnect and empty your garden hoses

If you still have garden hoses connected to any outdoor faucet, remove it from the spigot.  A frozen hose can cause the water inside the wall to freeze and burst.  Disconnect your hose and let it drain from an angle. Once the hose is empty, coil it up and pack it away for the season.

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