When people think fall traditions, they usually think pumpkin carving or back-to-school shopping—insulating water pipes is further down the list. But for those living in colder climates, making sure your home is ready for sub-optimal temperatures should be a priority. Below, some steps you can take to ensure bitter weather doesn’t send a chill down your spine.
Have your furnace inspected.
You might have ignored recommendations to have someone give your gas or electric furnace an annual check-up. Why spend $50 to $100 just to be told everything is fine? Easy answer: because it’ll be significantly more if you have to call for an emergency repair when it’s freezing outside. Furnaces can collect dust, suffer outdoor air intake blockages, or have gas ignition issues that might go undetected until it’s too late.
Trim your trees.
Tree branches that loom over your house might not be a big deal during warm weather, but ice and snow can conspire to weigh them down, creating potentially damaging collisions with your property. (Or worse, your neighbor’s.) Trim trees so you don’t have any bark-related threats after a storm. (Find out about planting storm-safe trees here.)
Wrap your water pipes.
Ask someone in plumbing about a frozen, bursting water pipe and you’ll probably get a look of pity and horror. Pipes that are exposed to colder temperatures in unheated or cool areas of your home are susceptible to freezing and expansion, which creates a tremendous mess if they burst from the pressure. Wrap your pipes in insulation to help keep them warm and make sure everyone in your household knows where the water shut-off is in case of an emergency.
Older homes with ill-fitting doors are especially prone to cold air escaping into the home through frames, leading to an increase in energy expenses. To cut down on your bill (and chill), opt for a simple door draft block that insulates entryways from outside breezes.
Check your vents.
You don’t want furniture or other obstacles blocking warm air from circulating inside your home. More importantly, you don’t need anything obstructing the air intake vents, since that could end up “suffocating” your furnace and causing expensive repairs. Keep all vents free from anything that could impede air flow.
Look for loose exterior fittings.
If you have siding, shutters, or other additions to your home that are growing loose with age, make sure they’re tightened up before freezing and blistery weather moves in. Strong winds and ice can strip them right off the premises.
Shrink-wrap your windows.
If you can feel drafts coming from window frames but don’t have the budget to replace them, opt for a plastic winter insulation kit, available at most hardware stores. The plastic will prevent cold air from entering. (You can also try caulk or weather-stripping material—or all three—to address problem areas.)
Reverse your fans.
Ceiling fans that run counter-clockwise are great for summer weather, but reversing them to a clockwise rotation will help circulate the hot air near the ceiling back toward the room. Most fans should give you the option of switching.
Clean your gutters.
You should be doing this regardless of the season, but gutters clogged up with leaves and other debris in winter can be especially hazardous—blockages that slow water flow can allow for ice to form, creating dams and icicles that can damage your exterior.
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