As the temperatures begin to drop, so does your risk of enduring Old Man Winter’s wrath. And you don’t have to live in a snowy state, like Colorado, to face frigid winter weather.
In fact, a large portion of the nation’s most populous cities are affected by unpredictable weather. This means when the abruptness of freezing temps send a shock wave through your bones, your home is also experiencing a similar sensation. Like your own well-being, if you don’t protect your home from the elements, the results could be costly. Luckily, we’ve provided proactive tips to decrease the effects of winter weather and increase the safety, efficiency and lifespan of your home.
Winter Weather Prep: Protect Your Pipes
Not preparing your pipes for colder temps could end up costly – about $5,000 in water damage, according to experts.
First, make sure to insulate your hot-water pipes typically located in your home’s basement or crawl space. Exposed pipes waste heat by cooling the water as it runs through them. Be sure to include pipes between the hot-water tank and wall. Also insulate cold-water pipes for the first 3 feet after they enter the house.
Hardware stores typically sell pre-slit, hollow-core, flexible foam pipe insulation which are easy to install. Prices and products tend to vary, but it usually costs $2 to $3 for a 6-foot piece of half-inch foam insulation. Make a note of your pipes’ diameters and lengths, and bring the measurements when you shop.
When cold snaps do occur, let your faucets drip to provide pipe relief. Drain any remaining water from your outdoor faucets and garden hoses. Arrange to have any in-ground sprinklers blown out. Once finished, roll up all garden hoses and store them in an interior space.
In the case that your pipes do freeze, causing water to stop flowing from faucets, don’t try to handle it yourself. Shut off your water valve and call a plumber immediately. If you’re within your first year of owning a D.R. Horton home, this could be covered within your home warranty.
Quick tip: While you’re insulating your pipes, make sure you know the location of your water shut-off valves. This way you can quickly turn off the water supply in case of any leaks.
Winter Weather Prep: Assess Electrical Appliances
When frigid temperatures hit, most people tend to crank up their heating appliances. Unfortunately, experts warn not checking appliances could mean an unwanted warmth created by setting your home on fire.
Before lighting your fireplace, make sure to clean out any soot or creosote from the firebox and flue system. Check to make sure there aren’t any cracks or voids that could cause a fire hazard. Check to make sure you don’t feel any drafts. If it’s cold despite the damper being closed, it could be warped, worn, or rusted. Consider installing a Chimney Balloon into the flue to air seal the area tightly.
Air conditioning units should be removed from windows or covered with insulated liners to prevent drafts. Consider replacing an older thermostat with a programmable unit to reduce heating costs. Install foam-insulating sheets behind outlets and switch plates
on exterior walls to reduce outside airflow.
Flush a hot water heater tank to remove sediment, and check the pressure relief valve to make sure it’s in proper working order. Appliances like water heaters and furnaces can cause the buildup of dangerous gases like carbon monoxide through a process called backdrafting. Sealing leaks can reduce this risk. Still, it’s best to check that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in working order.
Check heating ducts for leaks and poor conduction. These can waste 20 to 30 percent of the heated air they carry, which could mean a home that’s harder to heat and comes with higher utility bills. Focus on the places where ducts, vents and registers meet floors, walls and ceilings. Use mastic tape to seal the seams and connections, which can be found at most hardware stores for $12 or less.
Also, have a professional perform a routine check of the heating systems. This should happen prior to the arrival of cold weather, and include vacuuming the vents and other heating components.
Winter Weather Prep: Seal Your Structure
Gaps and seals left unattended could be causing 30 percent of your heated or cooled air to leak outdoors. These leaks can add up to $300 a year to heating and cooling costs.
With that said, before winter arrives, check your home for leaks or drafts. This includes windows, doors, vents and fans, and mail chutes. Caulk inside and out, where necessary, to keep heat from escaping.
If necessary, replace weather stripping for any noticed leaks to prevent heat loss. Available in almost any hardware store, weather stripping makes for a quick installation and an effective way to prevent air leaks.
Look for rot or decay on your wooden window frames. Repair or replace framing to maintain structural integrity. Inspect windows for cracks, broken glass, or gaps. Repair or replace, if needed.
If you have them, install storm windows and doors. Replace any deteriorating doorstops. If any pipes or ducts travel through an exterior wall, be sure to use caulking and weather-stripping around all entry points.
Follow these steps, and you should be able to block the majority of cold air from entering your home’s main entry points.
Winter Weather Prep: Guard your Gutters
High winds, ice, and moisture from winter storms can easily strip off roof tiles and gutters, exposing your home to serious damage.
Luckily, there are a few key factors to look for so you can avoid hitting the roof. Always check for missing, damaged or warped shingles and replace, as necessary before you get stuck with a leak. Look for deteriorated flashing at the chimney, walls, and skylights and around vent pipes. Seal joints where water could penetrate, using roofing cement and a caulking gun.
Most importantly, always clean out your gutters. These serve a primary purpose of draining water away from the roof of your house. If they’re clogged however, especially in colder months, they could cause an ice dam.
What’s an ice dam? It’s thousands of dollars in damage. More specifically, it occurs when ice melts off the roof during the day and then re-freezes as it drips into a clogged gutter. Blocked gutters can allow melting ice and snow to seep into your roof, or flood your home’s foundation, causing damage.
Check the gutters and downspouts for proper fastening, and re-secure if loose or sagging. The weight of snow and ice can pull gutters off the house. Make sure downspouts extend away from the house by at least 5 feet to prevent flooding of the foundation and
water damage from snowmelt. Clean leaves and debris from courtyard and pool storm drains to prevent blockages.
Buy a roof rake to keep snow from building up. An average roof can handle up to four feet of fresh snow before it’s stressed. However, as snow packs down from multiple storms, it could cause a roof collapse!
Winter Weather Prep: Stock up on Supplies
Strong winds, blizzards, ice, and snow can cause blackouts and power outages. These can wreak havoc on your home, as well as your neighborhood stores with floods of panicked people.
How do you avoid this mess? Easy. By stocking up on basic supplies prior to winter storms, you get to stay cozy in your home.
To ensure the weather doesn’t trap you inside your home, you need to have on hand a few important tools. This includes snow shovels, plural. More than one because they could break. Ice melting products, such as deicers are necessary. Just make sure they are pet-safe.
Keep an extra supply of fuel including firewood, a full propane tank, and a back-up generator. Invest in a transistor radio with new batteries, and extra batteries as well. Since you may not be able to do laundry for a bit, keep a stash of clean blankets, pillows and warm clothing.
Following a storm, there may be power outages that could last for several days. Stock canned foods, dry mixes and other staples that do not require refrigeration, cooking, water or special preparation. Be sure to include a manual can opener and eating utensils.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides a great go-to checklist of recommended supplies to keep on hand.
Just remember to stock up now. A lot of these items become scarce prior to a well-publicized storm actually hitting.
Winter Weather Prep: Tackling these Tasks
Sure, organizing your home just in case there is a winter storm can seem daunting. Especially if you are like most of America’s homeowners who already have a laundry list of daily to-do’s to tend to.
To save frustration, look at these tasks as separate items to chip away one at a time. Try to break it up into individual projects you can tackle over the next three-to-four weekends. For example, start off by adding the items of an emergency kit to your list of needed grocery items. The following weekend, put aside an extra 30 minutes to an hour checking your windows and doors. Spend the next weekend inspecting your pipes, and so on and so on. We also recommend soliciting a few family members to help with these tasks.
In the end, you’ll end up with a nice chunk of change, and a peace of mind that comes with a fully-protected property. Do you have any additional tips or tricks for winter prepping your home? Feel free to leave it in the comment section below!